Monday, January 4, 2010

On-Road Cycling Hazardous to cyclists?

click on table to enlarge - you should see 4 columns

In 2008 there were 292 collisions involving cyclists. My wife almost became one of the fatalities when she was doored two years ago on Bank Street in the Glebe. I have some interest in cycling safety.

The above table is from a city report to transportation committee this Wed. Jan 6th. Please notice that it covers a three year time period and only records the most hazardous zones, ie where there are repeat cycling collisions that result in injury or damages over $1000 (it covers 84 of an estimated 876 cycling collisions in the three year period).

I have heard said that 70% of cycling collisions occur at intersections. Of course this means that 30% of the injuries & some deaths could be reduced or eliminated with off-road paths or segregated cycling facilties.

Note that in the Ottawa stats, first table, that 3 of 4 fatal collisions occured mid-blocks; one (Ottawa River Commuter Expressway at River Street in the near west end) occured at an intersection. This seems to indicate Ottawa is not following the generalized stat.

The second part of the table shows the frequent mid-block collision sites; and the third part shows the most hazardous intersections. Forty-five percent of the most hazardous sites are mid-block; 55% are intersections.

This may have some relationship to Ottawa having only 2% of its streets with designated bike lanes and less than single kilomtre of segregated bike lanes. Recall that the above table only covers 9.6% of the cycling collisions, ie those that tend to cluster at the same locations.

The city staff report goes on to advise council that segregated lanes are not possible at most intersections. [Pardon my skepticism.] The report then goes on about hiring consultants to look at the hazardous spots, etc.

One suggestion I'd make that would be bloody cheap and easy is to eliminate the city's current advice to motorists to 'turn left anytime you can rush it' at signalized intersections. In their almighty rush to turn left across mutliple lanes, motorists cannot or will not see oncoming cyclists. Solution: left turn at multilane intersections only on a left-turn signal, when decent law-abiding cyclists won't be 'in the way' or causing $1000 of damage to precious automobiles.

The second solution is even better: build some proper bike routes. Start with BikeWest, there's space available and construction aplenty planned along the route.


  1. Let's take a look at these 3 fatal so-called "mid-block" collision sites.

    The first, at Abbeyhill Drive, is on a short 100 m stretch of road between Eagleson and the entrance to Hazeldean Mall (opposite Surrey Lane). The fatality itself was at night, no lights on the cyclist and according to witnesses on the articulated bus that was involved in the collision, the cyclist appears to have gone from travelling the wrong way on Abbeyhill and then cut across the path of the bus.

    Next is Carling between Boyce and Scrivens. That's just a little east of the Coliseum cinema near Bayshore. The block is all of 75 m long with at least two accesses in it. Without particulars on the collision (I can't track it down) it's not possible to say if this was a rear-ending or an "intersection-like" collision of one of them emerging from or entering an access. The possibility of sidewalk cycling also can't be ruled out without knowing more.

    The last on the list of three is coming off the Cummings Bridge on Rideau Street. This one was a very sad incident and quite a surprising one too. George Hines, a man in his 70s who always cycled, was cycling in the bicycle lane when he was struck first by another *cyclist* and then by a car (presumably he fell or weaved into the path of the car after the cyclist struck him). He initially survived the collision but died a week later.

    It's all very well to take statistics and spin a story out of them to fit your particular bent, but looking at the two of the three so-called mid-block fatalities for which I've been able to track down the particulars tells quite a different story (try as I might, I cannot find anything on the Carling fatality unfortunately). Both of those are freak accidents that have little if anything to do with road design or aggressive or otherwise ill-behaved motorists.

    Amongst the mid-block collision locations, a pattern does seem to emerge that they mainly occur on stretches of road characterized by fairly high speeds and high volumes of motor vehicle traffic. Some of the others (e.g. Bank from Cooper to Lisgar and from Grove to Ossington) occur where there are more cyclists about.

    One of the intersections caught my attention: Island Park Drive and the NCC Scenic Driverway. On the southeast side of this intersection there is one of those infamous "multi-use pathways" that sort of joins the two crosswalks. I can't help but think that the 3 collisions recorded there involved cyclists maneouvering through crosswalks going to or from this path.

  2. I am sure you are also familiar with the concept of subjective safety.... there may be many people not cycling on Ottawa roads just because they feel unsafe, which wouldn't be captured in collision statistics

  3. The thing that strikes me is that many of those locations already have bike lanes. Not to mention one of the fatal accidents in 2009 occurred in a bike lane.

    Grade separated bike lanes are a good goal, but maybe we should look at painting the bike lanes a different colour as they do in the London, UK, or NYC.

    We have to do something because bike lanes as they exist in Ottawa seem to do little to prevent motorists from hitting cyclists in them.

  4. in addition to the david hembrow site mentioned above View from the Cycling Path(which is excellent blog highlighting what to do right in bike paths) there is another called Crap Walking and Cycling in waltham forest (a neighborhood in the UK) which manages to highlight all the dumb cycling facilities that get built. Too many of them look similar to Ottawa.