'Cycling fatalities preventable': Ontario coroner 0
Cycling may be a healthy, environmentally friendly, low-cost way of getting around and exercising, but a new review states it's also deadly.
The Ontario chief coroner, Andrew McCallum, released his review of 129 cyclist deaths from 2006 to 2010. He found all the deaths could have been prevented.
As part of the review, McCallum and the review team made 14 recommendations to make cycling safer, and to reduce the number of preventable deaths.
The recommendations state public awareness as being a contributing factor to cycling accidents: "A comprehensive public education program should be developed to promote safer sharing of the road by all users."
The Environment Network in Collingwood has been promoting safe cycling with a "Share the Road" program, designed to make all road users aware there are other types of vehicles on the road.
"There's a lot of confusion about rules of the road," said Environment Network executive director Michele Rich. "Cyclists can stay safe by obeying the rules of the road and riding defensively, as though they were good drivers."
Some common mistakes Rich sees cyclists doing are riding against traffic and cycling on the sidewalks.
"A lot of accidents happen at intersections when a cyclist shoots out of the sidewalk and the driver isn't expecting them to be there," said Rich.
In addition to public awareness, McCallum recommends changing infrastructure to increase safety for all users. He suggests new communities and redevelopment should consider cycling networks - including connected cycling lanes, separated bike lanes, or bike paths - and designating safety zones in residential areas with reduced maximum speeds and increased fines.
Though Collingwood has an intricate bike path system, Rich says more can be done in downtown to increase safety.
"A huge danger is angled parking like we have in downtown," said Rich. "When angled parking was designed our vehicles were much different."
Sue Underhill, organizer of Bike to Work Week, agrees.
"Cycling in the downtown is a bit scary. You're going behind the angled parking," she said. "That's a bit of a barrier for biking to work."
Underhill is collecting feedback from the cyclists who participated in Bike to Work on areas where Collingwood can improve.
"I'm hoping every new road has a bike lane," said Underhill. "That's the way the town itself can promote and encourage safe cycling."
The coroner recommends the Ministry of Transportation make side guards mandatory on all trucks to prevent cyclists from being caught under the wheel. He also suggests a one-metre, three-foot passing rule for all vehicles.
Underhill has had some scary situations with large trucks and tractor-trailers passing her while she bikes in from Creemore.
"Long trucks don't always know when they're cutting back," she said. "They go around you, they're trying to safe, but they cut back in too soon."
The most controversial recommendations made by McCallum is the mandatory use of helmets for all ages. He stated only 35 cyclists of the 129 reviewed were wearing a helmet. Currently cyclists age 18 and younger must wear a helmet, yet only 44% of cyclists under 18 in the review were wearing one.
Rich says helmets should be a choice once a cyclist is of an age to make an educated decision. She and her family choose to wear one.
"You're playing with too much chance to go without a helmet," she says. "There's too much potential for injuries."
Underhill rides both in the country and in-town. She says the argument of ruining your hair is a small price to pay for a potential head injury.
"You can get hit anywhere."