Tag Archives: toronto cycling

It’s My Road Too: Equality, Complete Streets and the Province

As the Provincial Government grapples with a new cycling strategy, anyone engaged in the debate understands that there are no simple solutions or quick fixes. An old infrastructure designed for cars, clogged roadways with users competing for space, and a limited amount of funding make meaningful change at all levels seem next to impossible.   Where do we begin?  A one meter passing rule.  That’s a good start, but not a long term solution.   Riding paths that circle the City, although valuable do not get you safely to the store to buy bread, work or go to the local café.  The implementation of bike lanes seems to be like trench warfare. Gains and losses are determined street by street, ward by ward, city by city. Exhausting, slow and for the most part disjointed.

However there is hope! It emerges from the forward thinking of our Chief Coroners’ Office.  It is not based on specifics, but on how decision makers are to look at things. A new culture perhaps.  Its called “Complete Streets”.  Words, that to date, are not mentioned in any provincial policy statement, legislation, or standard. An approach that is growing in US. One that has been advocated for the last few years by active transportation advocates like TCAT and Cycle Toronto.

One that now has some wheels. In 2012 the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario released the Cycling Death Review.  During the course of the review, various stakeholders including the Coroner’s Office, medical professionals, law enforcement, Toronto Transit Commission, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), Ontario Medical Association, City of Toronto, and various cycling and road associations participated.

Following the review the Dr. Dan Cass, Deputy Chief Coroner made his number one recommendation to be “Complete Streets”.  The words were clear. “To the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing a complete streets approach should be adopted to guide the redevelopment of existing communities and the creation of new communities throughout Ontario.” 

Shortly after that, the Coroners office released the Pedestrian Death Review.  Again, the very first recommendation was “Complete Streets”.  “The complete streets approach should be adopted to guide the development of new communities and the redevelopment of existing communities in Ontario.  Complete streets should be designed to be safe, convenient and comfortable for every user, regardless of transportation mode, physical ability, or age.”

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Supreme Court Ruling: Drivers to slow down in areas with Children

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that motorists ought to be held liable for injuries when they fail to slow down and drive carefully in areas where there is a possibility there may be children, including playgrounds, schools and built up residential areas. 

In the case, Anapolis County District School Board v. Marshall, a 4 years old suffered “catastrophic” injuries when struck by a school bus.  The Supreme Court upheld the trial judges direction to the jury that recited the law, as it applied to children, is as follows:

In a school or playground area or in a built up residential district, a motorist should drive more slowly and carefully and keep a lookout for the possibility of children running out into the street. Here you must decide whether the circumstances were such as to put the defendant motorist on notice that he was approaching an area where children were likely to be, and therefore should exercise greater care in the operation of his motor vehicle.

In dissenting reasons for Judgement, Justice Cromwell found that the Jury charge was in fact confusing and that the heightened standard of care when driving near children needed to be stressed even more by the trial judge.  

The ruling is consistent with the recent Ontario Coroners’ Review on Pedestrian Deaths that calls for reduced speed limits in areas with children.  Simply going the speed limit may not be enough.  The actions of a child are clearly different than adults. When drivers are entering areas where there is a possibility of children running out, they ought to slow down and keep a keen eye out.  The ruling adds to a long list of authorities that require extra care must be taken when children are involved.

Cyclists avoiding Parked Cars get some Help when Hurt

A recent decision in Ontario will help injured cyclists obtain insurance benefits when they crash due to parked cars.

Marilena DiMarco was riding her bicycle in a town that had closed its main street for a festival. She was forced onto a sidewalk, which was partially blocked by a parked van. DiMarco tried to avoid the van, lost her balance and fell, hitting the van with her hand in the process. She was seeking auto insurance benefits to help her in her recovery.  The auto insurer was denying entitlement because the crash was not connected to an automobile

In the decision DiMarco and Chubb Insurance Company, arbitrator Deborah Pressman accepted that the incident arose directly from the “use or operation” of an automobile as defined in the Insurance Act and Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). This allowed Ms. Di Marco to claim benefits for her injuries.
Arbitrator Pressman stated “This automobile set in motion a chain of events directly resulting in Ms. DiMarco’s fall from the bicycle. There was no intervening act that caused Ms. DiMarco to fall. There were no other impediments around the automobile or near Ms. DiMarco.”
“Therefore, there was a direct and proximate cause between the ‘use or operation’ of the automobile and Ms. DiMarco’s injuries.”

Avoiding (Legal) Potholes on Your E-Bike

It’s that time of year again. The time when hard-core cyclists say to themselves, “Do I really have to share the bike lane with those scooter-like things?” Like them or not, e-bikes are back on the roads after their annual winter migration to storage. If last year was any indication, the number of e-bikes on the road this spring can be expected to increase yet again.

While the year-round cycling purist may look over the dropped handlebars of his retro fixed-gear bicycle at the e-biker with disdain, e-bikes look like they are here to stay. E-bikes represent a viable commuting option for “suits” who can’t show up to work sweaty and who, unlike me, don’t have the luxury of keeping a wardrobe at the office. They are also a more feasible option for people with physical limitations or who just need a bit of help on steep hills.

To encourage the use of e-bikes, the government allows riders to operate them without a driver’s licence and without the need to purchase insurance. For people who want a cheap, green, and non-sweaty mode of travel there aren’t any apparent drawbacks to using an e-bike – unless your e-bike is not really an e-bike. How do you know if what you are riding is in fact an e-bike? The government certainly hasn’t made it easy. Finding the complete definition means you have to look at the provincial Highway Traffic Act and the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations. That’s a pretty heavy onus to place on someone who just wants to ride a bike with a bit of a power boost.

More importantly, why should you care whether your e-bike fits the definition? As long as you’re riding a machine that suits your needs, who cares if it’s technically an “e-bike” or not, right? Wrong. If your machine turns out not to be an e-bike, you could be operating a motor vehicle without insurance. And the consequences of operating a motor vehicle without insurance are significant.

The first obvious consequence of riding a motor vehicle insurance is a ticket under the Highway Traffic Act or the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act. This could lead to substantial penalties. But a ticket and its accompanying penalty pales in comparison to what could happen if you are involved in a collision while operating an uninsured motor vehicle. Most significantly, you lose the right to sue. You might think that you aren’t looking to get rich off a lawsuit. But, suing for injuries in Ontario is not about getting rich. If you are severely injured, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care expenses that are not covered by OHIP. You might also be unable to continue working, or only be able to work in a part-time or reduced capacity – for the rest of your career. If you lose the right to sue, you alone will bear the responsibility for these losses. Even if the driver of the other vehicle is 100% at fault.

That’s why it is so important to know what an e-bike is. Here are the key points you need to know to ensure that what you are riding is really an e-bike:

•It cannot be capable of going faster than 32 km an hour on level ground;
•It must have operable pedals affixed to it;
•You must be able to operate it “solely by muscular power”;
•The power output of the motor must be 500W or less; and
•It must have a label stating (in both official languages) that the vehicle is a power-assisted bicycle.
Take a look around the streets of Toronto and you will see many bikes that match this description, with the exception of the pedals. Because so many e-bike users never actually use pedals to operate the e-bike, they remove the pedals and store them under their seats. If you are considering doing this, don’t. The moment you remove your pedals, they are inoperable. That means that you are no longer riding an e-bike. You’re just operating a motor vehicle without insurance.

There are good arguments for removing the pedal requirement from the definition of an e-bike altogether. If the goal is to encourage people to use small, green vehicles, why should it matter if they have pedals? It’s not as if you are ever required to actually use the pedals on your e-bike. But regardless of the validity of arguments for changing the definition, the fact is that the law as it stands requires pedals. So, until the legislation is changed, keep those pedals on your e-bike. That way, I can avoid painful discussions with prospective clients who have lost their right to obtain badly-needed compensation for health care expenses and lost income. And riders of e-bikes and pedal-powered bikes can turn their attention back to the endless debate about whether e-bikes belong in bike lanes with the fixies.

Three Feet Rule in Ontario. Do we need it ?

Recently Cheri DiNovo an MPP for Parkdale has brought forward a private members bill requiring motorists to give three feet of space to cyclists.  A similar law has been passed in 16 States south of the border.  What will be seen is how Minister Kathleen Wynne and the government reacts to the proposed law. 

Is this a good law for Ontario?

Yes it is.  If every driver obeyed this basic concept of giving space to cyclists, there would be a sharp reduction in the number of cyclists killed and injured on our roads. Statistics indicate that the majority of cyclist’s injuries and deaths are caused at the time a vehicle passes.  There are very few who could possibly argue that if the law was obeyed, the number of accidents would be reduced.

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