June is Bike Month in the GTHA
This June, the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is celebrating Bike Month, an annual celebration of cycling. The goal of Bike Month is to promote cycling as a sustainable, zero-emission, healthy way of getting around the region.
Supported by municipalities in the region and Smart Commute, Bike Month is designed to encourage more people to consider cycling as a viable option for commuting to work, engaging with their local community, and exploring outside their neighbourhoods. With dozens of Bike Month events tailored to riders of all ages and experience levels, the sponsors of this annual initiative hope to highlight the positive health benefits and environmental impacts of cycling in the GTHA.
However, as anyone who has tried riding a bike in Toronto’s downtown core or on some of the worst roads in Ontario will undoubtedly know, no matter how inclusive or fun this month-long initiative may be, cycling can still feel extremely dangerous. And even though Bike Month will see the establishment of pop-up safety stations throughout major cities, the focus appears to be on what cyclists can do to remain safe, not how motor vehicle operators should behave towards these vulnerable road-users.
With the OPP reporting a 300% increase in accident-related cycling deaths across the province, it is only natural for both experienced cyclists and novices to feel hesitant about bike riding as a primary mode of personal transport. In order for new cyclists to feel comfortable riding their bikes through construction-laden city streets occupied by increasingly aggressive drivers, widespread safety measures at municipal and provincial levels of government must be implemented.
Bike Month could be so much more than a simple celebration of cycling. It could be a time to scrutinize public safety initiatives, re-evaluate policies that are falling short of their intended goals, and advocate for safer streets. Coinciding with a municipal election in Toronto, Bike Month is certain to draw attention to public policies and governmental attitudes towards the safety of cyclists.
Bike Lane Advocacy
For environmentalists, urban planners, traffic engineers, and other experts, the widespread implementation of bike lanes into our cities’ streets is not a matter up for debate. The positive impacts of bike lanes on congestion, the environment, and public safety cannot be overstated. And yet, during each major city’s municipal election season, the construction or removal of bike lanes is a contentious – even ideological – wedge issue.
Bike Month in the GTHA can be an opportunity to widely debunk big myths about bike lanes so as to better educate the public about the need for more. Doing so could help many community members realize the traffic-reducing, economy-boosting, and – most importantly – life-saving benefits of a robust urban cycling infrastructure.
Those who call for the removal and deconstruction of bike lanes in major urban centres blame them for their city’s traffic congestion. Sitting in a car during rush hour traffic, watching cyclists zip by their windows in a dedicated, barricaded arterial lane might lead motor vehicle operators to presume that their predicament is caused by the very presence of a bike lane. However, that could not be further from the truth.
According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, a single two-way protected bike lane can move nearly 10 times as many people as a single lane of car traffic, and in a fraction of the space. Whereas a single traffic lane exclusive to motor vehicles can move only a few hundred people per hour (depending on how many people occupy the vehicle), a smaller lane dedicated to two-way bike traffic can accommodate 7,500 citizens each hour. That is nearly as many people as can be transported in a dedicated public transit lane.
Another popular myth used to denounce the construction of new bike lanes is that their implementation is bad for local businesses. The installation of new bike lanes often requires the removal of dedicated street parking spaces, which is concerning to some small business owners who believe their sales and services are dependent upon the availability of nearby public parking.
However, business owners have historically overestimated the importance of accessibility by car and have undervalued the economic impacts of foot traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists are, in fact, even larger drivers of the local economy than actual drivers. According to a recent study on the economic benefits of walking and cycling, people who walk or bike to stores and restaurants spend 40% more per month than motorists. Installing bike lanes and implementing other improvements to favour walking and cycling over driving has the potential to increase retail sales by 30% annually. More options for people who ride bikes could lead to significant economic growth.
But the most important benefit of dedicated bike lanes is their potential to drastically reduce fatalities. Indeed, in the city of Toronto, the construction of recently installed bike lanes have the potential to reduce the number of bicycle accident-related injuries by a whopping 89%.
Bike lanes have been proven to save lives, reduce traffic, and stimulate the local economy. All road-users across the GTHA – and throughout the province – should appreciate their benefits before jumping to emotional misconceptions about their construction.
Urban Bike Safety
The operators of motor vehicles should always practice caution behind the wheel and considerately share the road with bicycles. Unfortunately, drivers do not always have the best interests of other, more vulnerable road-users in mind, especially in congested downtown cores.
There is no excuse for unsafe, aggressive driving. But people who choose to ride a bike need to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe from harm.
Before riding a bike, it is important to inspect its condition in order to identify any potentially dangerous issues. That is why, prior to any ride – especially at the beginning of the cycling season – it is essential to conduct the ABC Safety Check by inspecting:
- A – Air and Wheels
- B – Brakes and Bars
- C – Chain and Crank
Cyclists are also encouraged to make themselves as high-vis as possible by wearing brightly coloured or reflective clothing. Wearing safety gear like a helmet and pads could also help bike riders decrease their chances of sustaining serious injuries as the result of a collision with a negligent motor vehicle operator.
Finally, when riding a bike downtown, it is important to ride defensively. Even the most alert, safety-minded cyclist could be injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver. By maintaining an awareness of their surroundings, checking blind spots often, keeping an eye out for potential hazards, and anticipating the actions of drivers, pedestrians, and other bike riders, cyclists could help avoid serious – or deadly – accidents.
Call Our Ontario Bicycle Accident Lawyers
During Bike Month, GTHA residents are encouraged to give cycling a try to improve our collective physical health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our cities. But Bike Month is also a time to advocate for new safety measures, and to interrogate systems that are currently resulting in a record number of cycling-related injuries and deaths.
If you were injured in a bicycle accident, Preszler Injury Lawyers are here to provide you with a free initial consultation on your case. To receive personalized legal feedback from our Ontario bicycle accident lawyers, contact us today.