Cycling Advocacy Group Calls for Action on Coroner's Report

8 September 1998

The Toronto cycling advisory group Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC) is calling for action on a report just released by Regional Coroner Dr. William Lucas that deals with cycling death and injury. The document, entitled "A Report on Cycling Fatalities in Toronto 1986-1996: Recommendations for Reducing Cycling Injuries and Death," was released today.

ARC was the only independent citizens' group formally involved in the two-year process of research and analysis. ARC called for a coroner's investigation in 1996, following the deaths of cyclists Erin Krauser and Martha Kennedy on the streets of Toronto in July of that year. Members of the volunteer-driven group sat with representatives of Toronto Police, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation, the City of Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission and the trucking industry, as well as injury prevention professionals, to examine available data.

"We are happy with the process. It brought together a unique collection of statistics, information and expertise on cycling death and injury," says ARC spokesperson Ben Smith Lea. "But all the statistics in the world won't save any lives. Ten more cyclists have died since this inquiry was called, including three in recent weeks. We're calling for action on the recommendations, because we've wasted two years of good work if we don't use it to prevent deaths and injuries."

In particular, ARC has singled out three areas that it believes will save lives.

1. Ontario Highway Traffic Act revisions (Recommendation 12). The OHTA is dangerously vague when it comes to the rules governing the Interaction between bicycles and cars on the road. The coroner's report calls for specific changes to the Act. ARC endorses these specific changes, in particular the call for a new, overriding rule of the road - that cyclists should have right of way over cars, and pedestrians should have right of way over bikes. Thus the onus of responsibility would fall first to the driver of the motor vehicle in determining fault in car/bike collisions.

2. Rethinking of road design and other infrastructure changes (Recommendation 13 & 14). The report calls for improved infrastructure and road design, including the Creation of a comprehensive network of on-street bicycle lanes and off-street trails. There has been little development of bicycle lanes outside the boundaries of the former City of Toronto. ARC endorses the recommendations that deal with this aspect of traffic planning because at present the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is at risk due to a systemic "cars-first" approach to urban planning. ARC calls for Toronto politicians and planners to take immediate action on these recommendations.

3. Side guard rails on large vehicles (Recommendation 15). The coroner recommends that Transport Canada consider making "side guards" Mandatory for large trucks, trailers and buses operating in urban areas. ARC urges the ministry to implement "side guards" regulations as soon as possible. Side guards were found to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities when they were introduced in Britain and other European countries. In Toronto, large buses and trucks are involved in a disproportionate number of bicycle fatalities relative to their presence on the roads - including the two deaths that prompted the coroner's investigation.

About ARC Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists is a cycling advisory group that was founded in 1996 with the initial aims of lobbying for a coroner's inquest and forming a legal defence fund for cyclists. Since that time ARC's mandate has expanded to include:

1. Lobbying and education on issues of cyclists' rights

2. Legal defence, support and advice for survivors of car-bike collisions, and for cyclists unfairly charged with traffic offences

3. Direct actions such as holding memorials for cyclists killed by motor vehicles.