Cycling safety is a perennial topic of debate in the City of Toronto, particularly in the wake of serious accidents. In late May the issue once again came into focus after a five-year-old boy was struck and killed by a car while biking on a downtown pathway.
Cyclists are inherently at risk in large cities that, like Toronto, prioritize the efficient movement of cars and trucks through downtown. Cycling injury lawyers are hired again and again by accident victims who were struck by cars during their commute or while enjoying a weekend ride.
In a city as large and congested as Toronto, is it possible to keep vulnerable road users safe? Most cyclists, road safety advocates, and cycling injury lawyers will tell you that improving cycling infrastructure is a vital first step.
The boy who was struck and killed lost control of his bike and fell off the Martin Goodman Trail, which runs along Toronto’s waterfront. These sorts of trails are generally safe, but when they converge with major roads they can lead to serious safety risks. The Goodman Trail at times runs alongside Lakeshore Boulevard, an important thoroughfare through Toronto’s downtown south core. No physical barrier between the two existed where the boy fell onto the road.
“In some cases, quite good infrastructure has been installed for cyclists,” University of Toronto geography and planning professor Matti Siemiatycki told the CBC. “But then in other areas, it’s just uneven. It stops and starts, there are parts that are separated lanes and parts that are not separated.”
Though cycling injury lawyers and other stakeholders often call for investments in road safety, infrastructure projects are expensive, inconvenient, and polarizing among tax-payers. In other words, they’re a hard sell for local politicians.
Conversely, the cost of treating cycling injuries is continuing to rise, according to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). A recent United States report showed that in 2013 more than $24.4-billion was spent on treating bicycle injury victims.
“The picture’s sort of the same in Canada,” CAA spokesman Ian Jack told Radio Canada International.
“We do know … that about 7,500 Canadians are seriously injured in bicycle accident every year in this country, and, for a country of our size, that’s a large number,” Jack said.
The CAA – an institution traditionally aligned with motorists’ safety and interests – is now asking the Canadian government to dedicate some of the billions of dollars it plans to spend on infrastructure to cycling infrastructure improvements.
“That’s the key,” Siemiatycki told the CBC, “to think of this as part of a system that encourages active transportation of all different types, and makes that feel safe and welcoming and comfortable, and a viable option for all ages and abilities.”
If you’ve been injured in a serious cycling accident, you may be entitled to compensation.