If you ride a bike in Toronto, you’re most likely to be injured negotiating a slippery streetcar track. For cyclists in Vancouver, however, it’s a run-in with a car that’ll probably put you in the hospital.
“[In Toronto], roughly one-third [of the accidents] involve streetcar tracks.” In many cases, cyclists hit the tracks while avoiding double-parked cars or cars moving out of parking spaces, he said.
The other big Toronto cluster was “dooring” – cyclists hit by a car door opening as they pass a parked car.
In Vancouver, by contrast, the highest proportion of bike injuries resulted from collisions with cars. And on the West Coast, it is also much more common for cyclists to be hurt after running into pedestrians or other cyclists.
For [Arno Schortinghuis, president of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition], one key to reducing injuries is to get more cyclists on the road. “Better cycling infrastructure gets more people riding bikes,” he said, “[and] there is an associated corollary, that the more people who are riding bikes, the safer it is for all cyclists.” That’s because when motorists expect to see more cyclists on the road, they tend to be more cautious and accommodating, he said.
Mr. Schortinghuis… said separated bike lanes or off-road paths are by far the best way to attract more cyclists, because they are assured of being safe.
Having spent much of my last year in Vancouver riding, I can attest to the danger of cars, pedestrians and other cyclists. In my most serious accident, I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting a pedestrian who stepped into my path and went over the handlebars. He didn’t even see me crash, and just kept on walking; by the time I was able to get up off the street and over to the sidewalk, he was half a block away, listening to his iPod and too oblivious to notice me. I ended up in the hospital that evening, having an ultrasound for potential internal bleeding. I still have a road rash scar on my elbow and my shoulder continues to suffer periodic pain from a soft tissue injury.
I was also doored once and nearly hit on several occasions by cars making turns at intersections, when the drivers either did not see me or thought they could get through before I got there.
I’ve never quite understood the logical connection between saying “when motorists expect to see more cyclists on the road, they tend to be more cautious and accommodating,” and then asking for “off-road paths.” Don’t off road paths tend to make cyclists less visible to motorists? What about the negative environmental and financial costs of building new infrastructure, rather than using existing roads for cheap, environmentally friendly transportation? Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to re-engineer existing roads to make them more friendly to cyclists and less convenient for motorists? Also, “off-road paths” tend to be multi-user: I often see cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, skateboarders and scooters on the Goose on my way to UVic, and because we use the space in different ways, I often feel uncomfortable riding so near to other users. For instance, pedestrians tend to move in unpredictable ways, weaving around as they walk. Cyclists tend to move quickly, so need more time and space to react to the unexpected. Walking should encourage a different type of interaction with your environment than cycling does, but multi-user paths tend to make that kind of use unsafe.