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      TORONTO CORONER'S REPORT ON CYCLING FATALITIES
      1986 to 1996


      On September 9, 1998 the Toronto Regional Coroner released a report on all 38 cycling fatalities involving motor vehicles occurring in the City of Toronto from 1986 to 1996. In the evening, the Coroner was interviewed on CBC Radio. The interview was broadcast nationally across Canada.

      Although the report expresses a number of useful views, it must be treated with caution. Cause and effect relationships were not clearly established, so many of the recommendations have no scientific basis. Also, a comparison of the report with the draft version indicates political doctoring, presumably to satisfy the ends of the interest groups on an advisory committee which the Coroner set up. The Coroner also accepted submissions from the public.

      SYNOPSIS OF REPORT

        Note; editorial comments have been added in brackets [......]

      Purpose: to draw conclusions and make recommendations aimed at enhancing cyclists' safety in the City

      Findings:

    • 9 fatalities did not involve a car
        [it is curious that such a high figure was neither studied nor explained 
        - the figure appears to inconsistent with the report's unsubstantiated claim that 
        off-street facilities are safer for cyclists]

    • 13,475 reported car/bike collisions
        [38 fatalities represents 00.03 percent of all car/bike collisions. 
        Not mentioned in the report is the approx 900 road user deaths 
        during the study period.] 
    • 30 of the 38 fatalities were 16 years of age or older - of driving age
        [and knew the rules of the road]

    • large vehicles were overrepresented in fatal collisions with cyclists

      Collision Analysis

    • 12 right angle
    • 11 side swipe
    • 4 rear end
    • 3 head on
    • 8 turning

      and

    • 15 on roads with speed limit of 60km/h
    • 18 on roads with speed limit of 50km/h
    • 4 on roads with speed limit of 40km/h
    • 1 in a parking lot

      8 occurred in the dark

        [This is a high percentage given the low cycling activity which occurs
           during the hours of darkness. Why wasn't it explored?]

      The report notes that no conclusions can be drawn from the data because of small sample size

      Introduction to Recommendations

      Because of the diverse backgrounds of committee participants, opinions on recommendations were variable. Some recommendations received limited support. They were included to provoke discussion.

      Recommendations

      - Improve collision data reporting, collection and analysis

      - Collision prevention [is to be achieved] through:

        cyclist education,
        law enforcement against both motorists and cyclists [at the moment, virtually all traffic law enforcement is aimed at motorists], and
        identification of problem sites and improvement in their road design.

      - Promotion of helmet use [noting that legislation in other countries has failed to produce any statistically significant reduction in fatalities and head injuries]

      - Increased cycling content in publications and driver programs required

      - Establish a highway traffic law review process

      - Development of bicycle routes and bicycle lanes to enhance bicycle safety

        
        [This recommendation is blatantly political since it was not mentioned 
        in the draft report, no scientific basis for it is offered, and is at 
        variance with what the Coroner said on the radio. It appears to be a 
        sop to the vocal bikeway advocates on the Committee]
      - Side guards for trucks

      COMMENTS

      It should be noted there were discrepancies between the report's recommendations and the personal views expressed by the Coroner in the radio interview. In the report, he appears to have partly distanced himself from the recommendations by attributing them to the advisory committee made up of representatives of various interests including cyclists, anti-car activists, bicycle dealers, the insurance industry, government, truckers, police, and health care.

      His radio interview focussed somewhat more on equality on roads and the rights of cyclists as drivers of vehicles. The Coroner said 60% of cyclists deaths can be attributed to cyclist error.

      SYNOPSIS OF RADIO INTERVIEW

      - education required of both motorists and cyclists in the rights of cyclists to share the roadway

      - the issue [is] respect of cyclists' right to be in the roadway rather than hugging the kerb

      - the "stay right law" requiring cyclist to ride as far to the right as practicable needs to be clarified - it's not clear what "practicable" means

      - cyclist may [i.e. has the right to] dominate the lane or be in a centre lane

      - there are some inconsistencies between current cyclist education and the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario

      - cyclist confidence-building [in taking the centre of the lane or riding wherever on the roadway] through experience is needed

        [The above comments clearly show the Coroner endorses vehicular
        on-road cycling]

      - it's a two sided coin; education of motorists is also required

      - problems with bike lanes need to be reviewed; [bike lanes] are normally on the right side of the roadway and perceived as where cyclists belong but [in the bike lane] is not always appropriate and causes confusion, for example left turns, and motorist right turns; need for clarification if they [bike lanes] are to be a solution

      - bicycle helmets: an asset but not a panacea; [they] discouraged cycle use in New Zealand and other places where mandated; [in cases of] high impact speed of motor vehicles [helmets] won't prevent death; helmets will help in falls

      Recommendations:

      1. Education

      2. Clarification of Highway Traffic Act

      3. Federal regulations to require trucks and buses to have side bars across wheel wells.


      FURTHER INFORMATION

      A Report on Cycling Fatalities in Toronto 1986 - 1996, Recommendations for Reducing Cycling Injuries and Deaths, July 1, 1998, W.J. Lucas, Regional Coroner for Toronto

      Copy available from:

      The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario
      28 Grenville Street
      Toronto, ON
      M7A 2G9

October 1998
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