The popularity of cycling in Ontario is rising, for recreation, commuting and competitive sport. Many individuals embrace cycling for its health benefits and to enjoy the outdoors. Many more would like to cycle more often but site the fear of getting injured in a motor vehicle accident as the reason for not cycling; the security risk is one of the largest deterrence to increasing cycling. Yet, safety is everyone’s concern and not just that of the cyclist. Crashing into a cyclist can cause serious and permanent injuries and/or death of cyclist, trauma for the family and be emotional damaging to the motorist as well.
In spring 2015, the Government of Ontario announced that they would be investing $25 million in cycling infrastructure as part of their 20-year #CycleON program. According to various research performed for the Ontario Government, the more cycling infrastructure that is built in Ontario, the safer cycling is for individuals and the more likely citizens are to bike. Increasing the volume of cyclists in Ontario has many potential long-term benefits. Cycling is carbon neutral, promotes a healthy lifestyle, could reduce direct health-care expenditures and it reduces traffic congestion, which is beneficial to the government and to Ontario citizens as a whole.
The Ontario Government has specific initiatives in #CycleON, Ontario’s Cycling Strategy, to:
Some of the initiatives are already underway, some will start soon and others are longer-term. Many of the actions will continue over multiple years. These strategies are outlined further here.
The Ontario government is encouraging “active transportation” in the forefront of their plan, which is human-powered transportation that includes cycling, walking, in-line skating, wheelchairs and more to encourage an increase in physical activity.
Road designs with “complete streets” are also being planned, to be connected with public transit and other transportation modes to major destinations and activity centres. These streets are intended to be accessible for users of all ages and abilities.
An infrastructure program is underway that includes building more cycling paths and identifying cycling routes in municipalities in a province-wide network. In municipalities, this program will allow greater accessibility for cyclists, especially with bicycle sharing systems like Bixi. Improving the infrastructure for cycling would help to reduce the risk of motorist-bicycle accidents because the safer the road, the less risk involved.
The majority of proposed efforts are to add in paved shoulders and barriers on bridges for some of the smaller highways near Kingston and over the 1000 Island Parkway (part of the Waterfront Trail), on Manitoulin Island, Espanola (part of the Georgian Bay Cycling Route), and between Sault Ste. Marie and Espanola (part of the Lake Huron North Channel Cycling Route). $10 million is also being dedicated to the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program, which was launched in spring 2015.
Legislation to make highways and streets safer for cyclists is already underway, noted in a June 3, 2015 article about new Ontario driving laws in the National Post. Driver responsibility is encouraged in amendments that address “dooring,” which is when a driver of a parked vehicle opens a door without looking and hits a cyclist. Drivers are now responsible to give cyclists a one-metre area for passing. A ticket for dooring can be as high as $1,000. Ontario now has one of the highest dooring fines in North America, which should keep the streets safer. The Government of Ontario has also added dooring and other cycling information to the Driver’s Handbook. One of the recommendations in the handbook is for a driver to use his or her right hand to open the door to provide a better street view.
Increasing cyclist responsibility through legislative and regulatory means is also underway. A cyclist without bike lights and reflectors could now face a $500 fine. Originally it was illegal for cyclists to ride on paved shoulders on the road, however it is now encouraged. Promoting the use of helmets by cyclists of all ages is also being discussed for safety precautions.
The installation of bicycle-specific traffic signals is planned and more lane markings and signage are going to be implemented, which will make it safer for bikers on roads with motor vehicles. The city of Toronto has a number of contra flow bicycle lanes already, which act as valuable neighbourhood connections for cyclists who wish to avoid having to cycle on busy arterial roadways.
Programs are being established to increase cycling awareness and shift behaviours, including promoting cycling to school and to work. Encouraging more residents to use active transportation for trips of 5 kilometres or less is one of the key goals. Outreach, education, research and leadership are strategies being used for promotional purposes, including incorporating student learning about cycling through the existing elementary and secondary curriculum. Greater awareness and education will ensure that cyclists and drivers are more prepared for safe travel on the road together.
Measures to increase cycling tourism include identifying a province-wide network of cycling routes and investing more than $3.5 million in trails that can be used for cycling, walking and other activities as part of Ontario’s celebration of the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. An increase in cycling tourism in Ontario is also anticipated through funding for the Celebrate Ontario program (which supports festivals and events) and funding for regional tourism organizations. More cycling tourism will create more economic opportunities, especially for beautiful but remote areas.
While Ontario’s new cycling strategy is anticipated to increase safety for all cyclists in Ontario, the risk of motorist-bicycle accidents continues to exist. If you or a loved one are injured in an accident, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer once immediate medical help has been obtained. Located in Ottawa, the accident lawyers at Howard Yegendorf & Associates handle bicycle accident cases routinely. We can review your case, assess the situation, inform you of your rights and we may be able to represent you legally. We will only take a case if we have confidence that you will be properly compensated for your accident loss. We provide a free consultation and can help you to make decisions that are in your best interest. Contact our Ottawa bicycle accident lawyers at 613-237-5000 or 1-866-303-5118.