It is very dangerous to ride a bicycle in Toronto or Scarborough, Ontario
iding a bicycle is one of the simple pleasures that I grew up with. You need not go extra fast, just tool along at whatever speed you wish, admiring the scenery. Riding does not pollute, is good for your health, and transports you to wherever you want to go. I cannot think of a negative aspect of wanting to ride a bicycle. The big danger here in Toronto, Ontario, and specifically Scarborough in East Toronto, is that car drivers try to kill you. If they succeed they’ll get a slap on the wrist and a small fine for the pleasure of running their two ton weapon over your healthy, sweat laiden body. It’s all legal, and so dangerously accepted.
Yesterday, on Sunday May 31 2009, my son and I were cycling along Huntingwood Avenue at 10:30 am, in the bicycle lane. We were close to the curb, following all traffic rules, minding our own business. There was no traffic in either direction, until a silver Mercedes-Benz decided the very wide lane of Huntingwood Avenue was too narrow for his liking and decided to veer into the bicycle lane, almost hitting the two of us. Needless to say I was very angry.
There was no need for the carelessness of this idiot driver. Huntingwood Avenue is about 1.5 times the width of a downtown street. The bicycle lane is about a full car lane wide as well. With no traffic, why try to kill us? Such carelessness could have cost us our lives.
While I do enjoy cycling, I much rather prefer living. I read about complaints that dedicated bicycle lanes are unnecessary because of the dearth of cyclists, and this is probably true. The reason there are so few cyclists is because it is just to dangerous to ride a bicycle on Toronto streets without incurring great risk of bodily harm.
You really cannot blame citizens for not cycling if they feel they will get hurt in the process. This should be common sense. Refrain from doing any activity that will result in harm to your body. If and when cyclists feel safe riding on the road, I am sure that more citizens would cycle.
There are many possible reasons why cycling in Toronto is dangerous:
- The level of driving skill of Toronto and specifically Scarborough car drivers is exceptionally low. In mixed traffic pf cars and cyclists, this unduly endangers cyclists.
- Cars park in bicycle lanes. This forced cyclists to veer into the path of car traffic and therefore into greater danger.
- It’s so very easy to hit a cyclist and drive away. The cyclist is down on the ground, the car continues on. It is exceedingly difficult to get the license plate number of the car that hit you, and even then you need to positively identify the driver or the police will not lay charges.
- Fines for hitting a cyclist are pitifully inadequate. It’s almost akin to sanctioned killing.
Until the danger level of cycling on Toronto streets is reduced, riding on side streets or the sidewalk is by far safer for all. On the sidewalks you can slow down or go on the grass to pass pedestrians with little problem. Both parties are safe.
Reducing the risk to cyclists on Toronto streets should include:
- separate cycling lanes, blocked from car traffic by a median. Cars and trucks should not be able to park in a cycling lane
- Increased education to car and truck drivers on the rights of cyclists on the road, the dangers of hitting a cyclist, testing of cycling-related information on the drivers license test.
- Increased number of protected bicycle lanes, with secure areas to lock up your bike.
- Increased fines for hurting and killing a cyclist, which should include further education on the rights of cyclists.
Cyclists are citizens of Toronto and expect the same rights as others. Toronto roads are financed from property taxes. Cyclists pay property taxes like everyone else. Cyclists should therefore expect to use Toronto roads safely, just like everyone else. It’s time Toronto stop being so car centered and share the roads with others.