Views on who is to blame for the confrontation between courier Darcy Allan Sheppard and former attorney general Michael Bryant seem to depend on whether you travel on two wheels or four.
Cyclists accuse motorists of carelessness, aggressiveness and stupidity. Motorists recount irresponsible cyclist stories.
So who is right? City statistics on the most common types of collisions involving cyclists in 2008 indicate 16 per cent of such crashes occurred when motorists and cyclists were travelling in the same direction and one sideswiped the other. It’s not clear who was to blame in these cases.
The numbers do, however, indicate that cyclists who did not have the right-of-way and rode into the path of motorists accounted for 15 per cent of collisions.
Motorists, meanwhile, deserved blame for 33 per cent of all incidents. They emerged from parked cars and “doored” unsuspecting cyclists (12 per cent of collisions). They turned left in front of cyclists (11 per cent). They did not have the right-of-way yet drove into the path of cyclists at intersections, laneways or driveways (10 per cent).
Such numbers help explain cyclists’ rage. Other statistics, meanwhile, suggest their injury rates may be higher than anyone likes to admit. The number of injuries has remained steady in recent years at about 1,000 per annum. This isn’t bad, the argument goes, given that nearly one million adult Torontonians ride bikes. The total, however, includes a large group of people who cycle just once or twice a week for fun or fitness.
A much smaller group dodges cars on a daily basis. Only about 20,000 Torontonians cycle to and from work, according to census data.
A 1999 survey (currently being updated) counted 338,000 “utilitarian” riders who bike to work, school, shopping and for errands and visiting.
My bet is these cycling stalwarts are the most likely to be injured. Bike crashes, it’s worth noting, tend to occur on weekdays between 8 and 9 a.m., over the lunch hour, and between 3 and 7 p.m. These are not times when dabblers frequent the roads.
This all makes me wonder at the city’s lack of commitment to separating bikes and cars.
Toronto’s infrastructure funding wish list is a case in point: It includes $55 million for new police stations and a paltry $9.5 million for new bike corridors. Cyclists and motorists should unite in protest.