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Ontario Coroner: 100 Per Cent of Cycling Deaths Were Preventable

Study includes recommendations to improve cycling conditions in the province.

Yesterday, Ontario’s chief coroner released a long-awaited report about cycling deaths in the province [PDF]. It is filled with statistics and facts, but one stands out: of the 129 deaths studied in the report, 100% were preventable.

Before undertaking the study, the team hypothesized that the 129 cycling fatalities in Ontario between 2006 and 2010 could have been prevented and found that “this hypothesis held true in each and every death we reviewed,” according to the report’s introduction. Uncontrollable forces like weather conditions and visibility rarely played a role, with visibility conditions listed as good in 87% of cases, weather conditions being clear in 83% of cases, and 53% of incidents happening in daylight.

In more than two thirds of the cases, the cyclist was partly responsible for the accident—by disregarding traffic signs, entering the curb lane too quickly after being on the sidewalk, or travelling against traffic. Most commonly, when drivers contributed to accidents it was by speeding and not paying attention. In almost half the cases involving a motor vehicle, both the driver’s and the cyclist’s (in)actions contributed to the accident.

So what can be done to prevent these needless deaths? In its report, the coroner’s office offers 14 recommendations in four areas: infrastructure, education, legislation, and enforcement.

Some highlights from that list of recommendations:

  • Take a “complete streets” approach to planning, which calls for enhanced safety for all road users through initiatives like separated bike lanes and reduced speed limit zones.
  • The creation of an Ontario cycling plan to streamline planning, legislation, and funding.
  • Including hang tags with information about bicycle safety with new bikes.
  • Integrating cycling and road safety information into the public school curriculum and including cycling related scenarios on driving tests.
  • Promoting helmet use through initiatives like offering tax exemption on helmets and launching awareness campaigns.
  • Potentially legislating helmet use for all riders, after an extensive study on user impacts of such a law.
  • Requiring side guards on trucks.
  • Instituting a 3 foot/1 metre passing rule for vehicles passing cyclists.

Some resistance has already been expressed to some of the recommendations, like mandatory helmet usage. But the report’s authors stressed that controversial proposals were included based solely on the data from the deaths they reviewed, saying in the report “We have avoided making any recommendations, however positive and well-intentioned, if they are not supported by our data.”

With almost a quarter of Canadians suffering from obesity, the report adds, it is important that we as a society promote cycling as part of a healthy lifestyle. Mitigating the safety concerns many have about cycling is one key way to get more people riding.

Coroner’s Report on Cycling

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