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Nosed me in the fist, assed me in the boot, then hit my car door with his torso
May 29, 2008 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Another one bites the dust, and Canada's largest city reaches its yearly average cyclist fatality tally, less than half-way through 2008. While Toronto is a moderately bike friendly place, its 2001 plan to join up 1074km of city bikeways within 10 years seems to have fallen flat (as have the city coroner's cycling safety recommendations). Could this be the first opportunity for the newborn Toronto Cyclists' Union to make a mark? Will a Canadian city ever join the world's best? Ah well, let's just go for a ride. In Quebec.

Urban cycling quote of the week, from a Sargent of the Toronto P.D.: "If she didn’t look [before opening her car door into traffic], would that be negligence? It’d be very hard to label that as negligent."
posted by anthill (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hmm. Cycling must be increasing with the cost of gas.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:52 PM on May 29, 2008


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posted by everichon at 6:56 PM on May 29, 2008


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posted by sebastienbailard at 6:58 PM on May 29, 2008


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posted by GuyZero at 7:11 PM on May 29, 2008


My thought exactly, sonic. More cyclists on the street, particularly novices, trying to save on gas = more fatalities. A damn shame.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 7:19 PM on May 29, 2008


Considering the Canadian national average for gas is over $5 USD per gallon and climbing, I can't blame them for hitting the pedals. The bicycle is the car of the future.
posted by mullingitover at 7:32 PM on May 29, 2008


My feet are the bicycle of the future. Uh, considering how fucking crazy all the people on the road (vehicles and cyclists included) are, that is. I'd rather go in front of a firing squad, at least I'd expect the outcome in advance.
posted by SassHat at 7:57 PM on May 29, 2008


Maybe when the gas prices here hit what they're at in Europe, the assholes will jump on bikes themselves. That would be refreshing. They can ring that little bell to their heart's content.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:02 PM on May 29, 2008


We had one in Boise a while back, run down from behind by a Hummer-driving woman who had taken a ton of prescription drugs and was weaving all over the road. I'm not even sure charges were ever pressed.

Still, it's better to be here than in many places. In the main city, conditions are pretty friendly - it's only the suburbs that are really a disaster for cycling. I know I'd like to ride to work but my commute takes me over a narrow 50 mph road with no shoulders, steep banks on both sides, and heavy traffic. Mind you, this is in an affluent suburb.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:09 PM on May 29, 2008


Montreal bike injuries down by 40%. The cops are taking the credit, but it probably has a lot more to do with the large increase of bike paths in the past two years.
posted by furtive at 8:54 PM on May 29, 2008


It really sucks and being a Toronto cyclist, I can certainly relate with my own share of near-death experiences at the hands of careless or cranky drivers.

Toronto and all its surrounding areas are really optimized for the car with the streets being wide and easy to navigate - in many areas, especially out east, bike lanes are non-existent, although many roads have a multipurpose diamond line delegated to buses and bicycles during parts of the day on weekdays.

I would never feel comfortable with a bike on the main avenues because I would just be holding up traffic (I myself, when driving, have been held up by cyclists in the third lane), so I am forced to use the sidewalks which I'm sure is a violation of some bylaw somewhere as it still is quite unsafe for pedestrians
posted by shoebox at 9:18 PM on May 29, 2008


It seems crazy to me, over the past 60 years or so, as national highway systems have been built, similar infrastructure has not been built for bikes, horses, walkers, pack lamas, etc. Some are working on it like Rails-to-Trails which is brilliant (and catching on in Europe, one of the few American exports to do so recently), but it should be possible to travel around entire countries (including urban areas) without going on-road with cars.
posted by stbalbach at 9:22 PM on May 29, 2008


I'd like to ride to work but my commute takes me over a narrow 50 mph road with no shoulders, steep banks on both sides, and heavy traffic. Mind you, this is in an affluent suburb.

On a related note, here in the Seattle area, there seems to be a correlation between affluent suburbs and inadequate sidewalks. It's a good thing I have a bike because trying to walk anywhere in this area is a pain.

I once had a ped tell me his destination a few blocks away, and ask if it was possible to get there on foot. I told him it was, but later realised I was wrong. (he'd have to walk on the narrow shoulder of a road with steep banks on both sides, and heavy traffic.)

Um, sorry about that, anonymous ped guy.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:20 PM on May 29, 2008


stbalbach: A lot of the Trans Canada Trail consists of bike paths that used to be railroad lines.
posted by furtive at 10:22 PM on May 29, 2008


Me again, same quote:

I'd like to ride to work but my commute takes me over a narrow 50 mph road with no shoulders, steep banks on both sides, and heavy traffic

How well do you know the area? I thought I knew my area reasonably well, but found a secret acessway not marked on any map that instantly turned my commute from deathwish into cakewalk (the pre-Iraq type). It was an emergency-vehicle accessway, with ped&cycle access, but it seems that the thinking is that if it's not a route that you can drive down, then it's not fit to be on a map :-)
I found it after noticing it from a distance and using google aerial photos to find a route to it.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:27 PM on May 29, 2008


Rails-to-Trails seems like a good idea right now, but we're going to need those rail lines again as we run out of oil.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:01 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd quite like to see more accidents of this nature prosecuted as either civil or criminal negligence, or else motorists just won't get the message that checking their mirrors & blind spots before opening doors or changing lanes isn't a luxury or a courtesy, but is mandatory for preserving the lives & wellbeing of others.

I got off lightly, but I've been nursing a set of badly bruised ribs all week because an asshole of a taxi driver decided to pull into my lane from a standing start, about 5 metres in front of me zooming downhill at 25-30km/h. Braking hard, I flew over the handlebars onto the road, while the driver cruised to a stop at the red light about 20m away & took off again as soon as the lights changed.

The fact that it was due to carelessness and was probably an honest accident does not detract from the fact that it was grossly negligent, and had things been slightly different, I might have ended up under a truck, or with my spine shattered by a telegraph pole. This is why - even though it might seem harsh - carelessness & indifference to the safety of others should be properly prosecuted.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:38 PM on May 29, 2008


-harlequin-: How well do you know the area? I thought I knew my area reasonably well, but found a secret acessway not marked on any map that instantly turned my commute from deathwish into cakewalk (the pre-Iraq type). It was an emergency-vehicle accessway, with ped&cycle access, but it seems that the thinking is that if it's not a route that you can drive down, then it's not fit to be on a map :-)

I tried. Coming from the east, which would be by far the most convenient, is blockaded by a state park which only has one entrance. What would be a nice back entrance for bikes and pedestrians (which aren't charged to enter the park anyway) is blockaded by a 100 ft. dirt road heavily fenced off with about a billion private property / no trespassing signs (it's not owned by the park.) There doesn't seem to be any other route from that direction - only that back entrance is anywhere near approaching the area. It involves a long road that penetrates into an otherwise unroaded area consisting of many tiny 'toy' ranches for rich rancher wannabes.

I'll be able to come in by the north next year, but that route is very indirect and well over ten miles long, and involves riding on a very highly trafficked road (which is at least nice and wide with excellent shoulders.) To be fair even with the short road I'd probably only ride some of the time anyway, because it's still 7+ miles.

I did manage to locate a short and peaceful route to the town's bike path, which is 18 miles long with no cars. Yay.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:39 PM on May 29, 2008


That quote from the Sergeant is shameful, but not surprising. Most Toronto cops really, truly just don't get cycling. Every PC should be required to spend a year as a bike cop. Wouldn't hurt to keep them out of the cruisers anyway.

I should say, though, that there are a lot of good things about Toronto from a cyclist's perspective: there's a great community, and from an infrastructure point of view, that stuff is there, it just needs to be encouraged, multiplied, and (in the case of things like bike routes) connected. I've biked Toronto for years, and find the downtown to be not much of a problem; the worst thing is probably the number of cars and delivery trucks parked in the bike lanes on College at just about any given time.

But for a supposed "green city," the seemingly random placement of bike infrastructure is really embarrassing. I'm glad to see the Bike Union get off the ground; between them, TCAT, and the fact that suburban Councillors can no longer hold up bike lanes in other wards at Council, maybe some of the rhetoric can finally start to find form.

Critical Mass tonight!
posted by regicide is good for you at 1:34 AM on May 30, 2008


The methodology of urban transportation in Wester countries is completely fucked, and there is no justification, when looking at accident rates, for it not being overhauled.
posted by nthdegx at 3:29 AM on May 30, 2008


Bike threads never go well here, which is a shame.

The quote from the copper slays me, though.
posted by fixedgear at 4:46 AM on May 30, 2008


Most Toronto cops really, truly just don't get cycling. Every PC should be required to spend a year as a bike cop.

Truth.

With Toronto, there's one thing that makes it even tougher on cyclists: Every driver on the road is a person who chose not to use the ample transit options available. Which is to say, it's a person who drives for the sake of driving. That kind of person is rarely sympathetic towards cyclists. Or pedestrians. Or fellow drivers.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:45 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Critical Mass tonight!

Yeh, saw them. Continued to boycott. Antagonising neutral people does not make friends or otherwise benefit the cause of cycling.

/repentant ex-masser.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:55 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]



Rails-to-Trails seems like a good idea right now, but we're going to need those rail lines again as we run out of oil.


If I had my way, instead of widening highways and interstates (like my state is doing now), I'd start running rail lines down the center or sides of them. It might take some finagling grade and curve-wise but it seems more reasonable than just sticking an extra lane on the road.

The rails-to-trails lines have been good to me though. 25% of my bike commute is on city streets, the rest is mostly converted rail line (and is actually still marked as such on maps).
posted by drezdn at 7:16 AM on May 30, 2008


"If she didn’t look [before opening her car door into traffic], would that be negligence? It’d be very hard to label that as negligent."

I'm an occasional bike rider in Toronto (I used to be able to commute by bike, but my current job is 30 km away from where I live), and this sort of attitude pisses me off. As the editorial in Eye pointed out yesterday, no-one would be wondering whether it was criminal negligence if she'd run into another car after making a left-hand turn or pulling out of her parking spot without looking.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:23 AM on May 30, 2008


Sys Rq, if you live out in Scarborough or the edges of Etobicoke, transit sucks. A lot. I find everyone on the road, both bicyclists and drivers are straight up maniacs.
posted by chunking express at 7:44 AM on May 30, 2008


More cyclists on the street, particularly novices, trying to save on gas = more fatalities.

As one of those "novices" (cycle commuting since February), I dare say the "novices" are far more cautious than experienced riders. Maybe it's different in Texas, but I still expect the worst of all the cars around me. And this being Texas, no amount of public awareness campaigns or prosecutions of car drivers doing what car drivers do is going to get through to even something approaching a minority. So I assme all car drivers are wreckless, clueless, or both.

I also consider that, even if a driver is trying to be aware, a bicyclist is virtually invisible because car drivers simply don't expect to encounter a cyclist. Case in point. So this novice navigates like a very vulnerable, invisible cyclist.

I personally find the bigger hazards come from cyclists who try to assert their rights to the road- cyclists who take up a whole traffic lane because they can; after all, BICYCLES ARE VEHICLES TOO DAMMIT! Oh come off it. If you can let a car by, be courteous and let the car by. If the road is such that cars can't safely pass, then and only then assume the lane. The rest of the time, you're just putting yourself at risk unnecessarily.
posted by Doohickie at 7:48 AM on May 30, 2008


I bike commuted for about three years in the late eighties and early nineties. I won't ride on the street anymore. No way. The rare times I have decided to bike just around town I have been hit twice - once while I was STOPPED at a light. I have known four people killed in the last three years. Four people. It's insane in Seattle now. People just don't give a shit about bicyclists.
posted by tkchrist at 9:26 AM on May 30, 2008


Sys Rq: not everyone who drives in Toronto is driving for the sake of driving. I remember shortly after I started working towards immigration, despite living in Hamilton there were a number of times that I had to his Toronto City Hall. Given that I didn't know Toronto transit, not having lived there, I opted for a direct route to the parking structure at City Hall. Granted, I wasn't far off the highway, but I was definitely on city streets. Sadly, it probably makes me about as good as someone who's driving for the sake of driving; without knowing the streets, I'll be doing more non-traffic visual scanning. And I'm sure I'm not the only person on Toronto streets who lives a bit away and doesn't commonly visit.

However, I'm always careful, and even in parking lots I check out my window before opening the door to make sure I don't hit someone walking between cars. Not checking out your window before opening the door when you're doing street parking is most definitely negligent IMO, and we need a *lot* more enforcement of it.

Personally, something that I'd like to see is that in the event of any bike/car collision which isn't 100% the fault of the biker should result in a 1 year suspension of the driver's license. Sadly, it will mean that some hits become hit and runs, but if the drawbacks of hit and runs add a few more years, or possibly a month or two of jail time, that might be enough to cut down on it.

Number one cause of accidental death is car crashes, and most people who drive seem to be as serious as if they're playing a video game and it sickens me. Heck, most people wouldn't try texting/calling while playing a video game.
posted by nobeagle at 9:26 AM on May 30, 2008


Doohickie:

I don't remember the last time I saw a cyclist take the lane because they could, or just to assert rights. Normally (or around here anyway) it's something that experienced cyclists will do in situations when it makes them safer than the available alternatives - when it's the lesser evil, so to speak. Not all accident scenarios are equal - some situations look and feel riskier than they are, and others are riskier than they initially appear, and cyclists with a good feel for which is what do some things that seem pretty strange to other road users. On the subject, check out this page if you haven't already.
(And speaking for myself, safety is the only thing that would motivate me to take the lane)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:26 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


The rest of the time, you're just putting yourself at risk unnecessarily.

Well. That depends. How fast is traffic and how wide is the lane? And are there lots of intersections and parked cars. On congested slower moving city streets it's MUCH safer for a bike occupy the lane like a car.

If you have ever slammed across the hood of car coming out of a parking garage or flown over the opening driver-side door of parked car you find out that out.
posted by tkchrist at 9:31 AM on May 30, 2008


(And speaking for myself, safety is the only thing that would motivate me to take the lane)

Actually, thinking about it, courtesy to other road users is another reason - there is an intersection on my commute where if I take the lane while stopped at a light, cars turning right on the red (legal here) can then safely past me on the right, whereas if I stay out of the lane, right turning traffic has to stop. (Which also encourages those with poor judgement to try to make the turn anyway, dangerously, but it's mainly a courtesy)

I figured that if anyone ever takes that route that I've opened for right-turns, to instead drive straight when the lights go green, trying to squeeze past me on the right when I can't move left because the legitimate through-traffic is overtaking me on the left, then offering the courtesy is a danger to me and I'll stop... but no-one has ever done that. (yet) I'm actually quite impressed - normally, no matter how stupid the maneuver, some idiot is prepared to try doing it :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:38 AM on May 30, 2008


Doohickie, you're invisible because you're hiding on the side of the road. I rock that lane, like an Amish horse and buggy, anytime I am keeping up with traffic, can be easily passed, or wouldn't want someone trying to squeeze past me. I stay off roads where I'd be holding up traffic significantly by being in the lane and don't have enough room to feel safe being passed. You also don't get doored in the middle of the lane.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:55 AM on May 30, 2008


kchrist: Well. That depends. How fast is traffic and how wide is the lane? And are there lots of intersections and parked cars. On congested slower moving city streets it's MUCH safer for a bike occupy the lane like a car.

I tend to agree with this. Your odds of being doored if you brush by parked cars are fantastic. On the other hand, if you're in a traffic lane that is only moving at 30 mph, how is that dangerous? You're probably moving half the speed of traffic, and you couldn't possibly be more visible to vehicles behind you. They'd pretty much have to deliberately ram you to hit you, and most drivers won't.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:01 AM on May 30, 2008


I tend to agree with this. Your odds of being doored if you brush by parked cars are fantastic.

When I used to commute you see this happen almost every month.

One time I saw the most awesome spectacle of luck combined with super-veteran bike rider skills. There was one busy intersection just entering downtown where a bike lane has just ended. So in the morning at rush hour you got a pod of three or four riders lining up waiting for the light and for once they get to kind of dominate the lane. And it ALWAYS inspired competition among the bikes. The light would go green and we wold all race off line to beat each other to the next light and so on. The cars would HAVE to be held behind us. So one time a guy who was a pretty serious rider decides to break from the pack and skirt the right side of the lane to pass us - he's laughing, we're laughing. And he did. Whooshed right by us, like "see ya suckers!"

Then a car hood juts up the lip of a hill of a drive way on the right, too late for him to miss. He slams on his brakes, the car slams on it's brakes, and he hits the car but at the same time he essentially hits his "ejector seat" and somersaults over the hood of the car, skids off the wheel well on his butt and slides like a skipping stone into a full standing landing, like an Olympic gymnast dismounting the rings, about five feet on the other side of the car. TA-DA! His bike is flipping through the air and lands in front of him.

All the other bikers applaud as they ride by and he bows.
posted by tkchrist at 10:28 AM on May 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Taking-the-lane is one of those things where the reasons for doing it could be good ones, but indiscernible to others. For example, if there's a bike lane, I'm usually in it as I haven't been doored yet. However, when I'm riding in the bike lane, I'm looking pretty far ahead for obstructions, and if there's an opening in the lane, I'll take it early (maybe even a block ahead).

Thinking about this on a larger level, one of the reasons cyclists and drivers may not understand each other is because their concerns while riding are so different. A driver may not even see a pot hole a cyclist might have to avoid (or ever notice the waves in concrete).
posted by drezdn at 10:38 AM on May 30, 2008


I'd rather broadside a car than another cyclist. You don't rotate over you handlebars before hitting something when you hit the car, so you can't build up enough rotation to land face-first and knock out teeth. Experience.
posted by notsnot at 10:45 AM on May 30, 2008


tkchrist: heh, awesome.

My favourite crash (really just a near miss), was when a driver of a left-turning car (A) who wasn't paying attention and was about to drive into me in an intersection, instead had to slam on the brakes to avoid getting t-boned by a car (B) because B assumed A had a clue and would therefore yield correctly to oncoming traffic (me), leaving B able to enter the intersection.

I would have loved to explain that to the cops if they had collided :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:47 AM on May 30, 2008


All I know is that the next person who rings their bell at me while riding on the sidewalk is getting it fed to them.
posted by jon_kill at 11:27 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


jon, whatever you do, don't go to Toyko.
posted by anthill at 1:05 PM on May 30, 2008


Another choice quote from the same Toronto PD, after a bicycling child was run over at a pedestrian crosswalk today: "The child was within the crosswalk and obeyed the lights. He did everything he was supposed to, but didn't wait long enough to give cars time to react to his signals."

At least in this case, the driver's getting charged.
posted by anthill at 1:31 PM on May 30, 2008


It's true that bike threads are always a trainwreck here, so I'll be brief. I biked to work in downtown Toronto for four years and it was usually okay but occasionally damn scary. Even where there are bike lanes (I frequently used the College one) drivers just used them as auxiliary parking. I almost got doored twice in one day and experienced the rite of passage of all Toronto cyclists, getting stuck and thrown from the streetcar tracks. (Mine happened at 3am in front of the Mod Club. A little embarrassing.)

On the other hand I feel much much safer cycling in Montreal. My journeys rarely take me on bike paths but I feel people are generally more respectful and aware of cyclists here. Also, while Montreal drivers are notoriously crazy, they're not angry crazy or aggressive crazy like they are in Toronto. In Montreal I don't find myself being bullied or screamed at by a mean SUV drivers on cellphones like I was on a daily basis in Toronto.

Americans may have a harder time understanding cycling posts like this because here it is normal and respectable to cycle for transport, and from what I've read here, I understand that in most cities in the US cyclists are seen as an obstacle to cars. However it would serve you all well to start a trend because then we won't have to hear the complaints about gas prices and worry so much about climate change and obesity problems.

I saw a piece on a US newspaper site recently where a guy made the news just for deciding to cycle to his job for one month. His trip was 9 miles. And it made the news. I mean, that is pretty sad.
posted by loiseau at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2008


-harlequin-- I tend to agree with everything you've said here. I guess most of my bicycling I would characterize as suburban or rural. For all my holy-than-thou-ishness, I have to admit that I rarely pedal in truly urban areas, because, frankly, they frighten the hell out of me. Your link is a good one, I'll be reading that more closely.

As for the article loiseau posted, it isn't just that he's biking to work. It's that he's giving up on gas-powered transportation for one month, and also that he is donating the savings to a charity.
posted by Doohickie at 2:28 PM on May 30, 2008


Bike threads never go well here, which is a shame.

Um, yeah. This is a real madhouse.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:36 PM on May 30, 2008


Regarding the hope that rising fuel prices will get people out of their cars:

I live on the outskirts of Manchester UK, where petrol is now at around 1.12 pounds/ liter, which translates to about 9 bucks a gallon. On an average weekday if I cycle to the campus of the University, about 5 miles away, at 9 in the morning, I will see around 10 other bikes maximum (not counting parked ones). I've never tried counting the cars, but let's just assume everywhere, all the time, always. In other words, I don't know how expensive fuel will have to get, but it's way more than 9 bucks a gallon.
posted by crazylegs at 4:10 AM on May 31, 2008


On the other hand, my wife was playing with Microsoft Money and did a report of expenses, and car fuel was only 2.1% of our total payouts for the month.

Crisis? What crisis?
posted by Doohickie at 7:33 AM on May 31, 2008


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