More bicyclists are being killed on Canadian roads. Are we taking bike safety seriously?

A cyclist bikes up Brock Street in Kingston, Ont. There were 42 biking fatalities in 2017. Callie Warren/CKWS News

With warmer weather establishing itself around much of the country already, cyclists will be out in full force and sharing the road, potentially leaving themselves open to accidents causing injury — or even worse, death.

According to a Statistics Canada report that looked at deaths related to cycling between 1994 and 2012, a total of 1,408 deaths were recorded — an average of 74 accidents a year. Then there are the serious injuries, which on average are 7,500, CAA says.

READ MORE: Edmonton cycling group embraces people who are ‘less than fit’

Last year there were 42 fatalities in Canada recorded by the Ministry of Transportation.

And this month alone, there have been at least five fatalities involving cyclists reported in the news: one in Montreal, one in southern Alberta, one in Toronto and one in Markham.

Story continues below advertisement

So how seriously do Canadians take bike safety?

“Our landscape is a bit unique in that we’re very reliant on motor vehicles,” said Lewis Smith from Canada’s Safety Council. “In certain areas of the country, especially, it’s just not possible to get around with a bike and still maintain the same type of lifestyle.”

For example, a worker in rural Saskatchewan might have several kilometers to get to work, in which case riding a bike wouldn’t be a viable option, Smith says.

So unlike Europe, cycling in Canada is not part of the regular lifestyle and therefore isn’t integrated into much of its infrastructure, Smith explains, which makes ensuring safety a bit difficult.

“Most often [accidents] happen at intersections and anywhere traffic is controlled,” Smith explained. “In a sense it seems a bit counterintuitive as you think it would be the type of place where drivers and cyclists would be slowed and that traffic would be calmed.”
Story continues below advertisement

Most accidents, he says, occur when the cyclist is trying to turn because often times either the cyclist will miss seeing the vehicle or vice versa.

Another common issue is “dooring,” where a driver will fail to see an income cyclist when opening their car door, resulting the cyclist colliding with the car’s door.

Lastly, one big dilemma drivers run into quite often is when bikers weave in and out of traffic. This is a dangerous maneuver, Smith warns, and it should be avoided.

READ MORE: Cyclist urges caution after he says he hit barbed wire strung across Toronto bike trail

And while the majority of accidents do tend to take place within cities, that doesn’t mean those living in rural areas are immune to such events.

The problem in these cases, Smith says, is that drivers will often not anticipate coming across a cyclist on open or dirt roads and therefore will not take the proper precaution to prepare.

So what can both bikers and drivers do to help make the roads safer for everyone?

First, be aware of the road around you and anticipate your next move well ahead of time. For drivers, that’s making a habit of looking over your shoulder before you turn. For cyclists, it’s keeping your head up and being ready for any surprises like sudden car door openings.

Story continues below advertisement

Next, drivers should know that it’s best that cyclists have a metre of space around them in order for them to have a safe driving experience. This is in case a pot hole appears and a rider needs to move around it, for example.

Follow the rules of the road, Smith continues. Both vehicles should stop at red lights and stop signs, yield when prompted and signal their turns.

Lastly, for cyclists, make sure to always drive with the traffic with the cars at your back, and never against it. This is because the impact one experiences going in the opposite direction will be significantly worse compared to when someone following traffic is bumped from behind.

Sponsored content