Biking on Ontario roads may be more dangerous than you think

Biking on Ontario roads may be more dangerous than you think

It is finally summer time.  For the few short months of snow-free weather we have in Canada, we can finally pull out our bikes and go about town in an eco-friendly way.  However, before you get too excited, you should know this:  biking may seem safe, but auto-bicycle accidents and related injuries do occur, and the consequences could be severe.

Issues faced by cyclists

Unfortunately, there are numerous issues that cyclists face on the road.  As the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog suggests, a driver could unintentionally drive too close to a cyclist and the cyclist may lose control of the bike.  The automobile could also come into contact with the cyclist and knock him or her off of the bike.

Besides moving automobiles, the doors of parked or stopped cars and trucks are also dangerous.  As reported by Peter Mansbridge on CBC, “dooring”—the term for knocking a moving cyclist off of his or her bike by opening the car door unexpectedly in front of them—is a major issue on Canadian city streets.  Even streetcar tracks can cause a cyclist to fly off of his or her bike.  The most dangerous part about these accidents is that if the cyclist tumbles onto the road with moving cars or hits something hard, it may be fatal.  Sadly, these tragedies have happened one too many times.

Recent fatalities and injuries

Within these past four years, there have been many reports in the media about these auto-bicycle accidents.  In 2010 alone, at least 17 cyclists were killed and 2,087 cyclists were injured, according to the 2010 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report.  Last month, a 23-year old Caledon man who was biking near County Road 109 suffered minor injuries when he was clipped by a driver who went past the fog line on the road.  Even more recently, on June 23, 2014, a dump truck ran over a 55 year old cyclist in Ottawa, pinning him under the truck.  Although he is now in stable condition at the Ottawa Hospital, his injuries are severe.

Legislation for cyclists

To address the rising concerns about auto-bicycle accidents in Ontario, Bill 173, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe), 2014 was introduced into the Ontario Legislature on March 17, 2014.  One of the main proposals is that drivers must maintain a distance of at least one metre from the cyclist until the vehicle has passed the bike safely.  In the proposed legislation, fines could be up to $1,000 and three demerit points can be given for texting and driving, as well as for “dooring” a cyclist.

Options available for victims of auto-bicycle accidents

However, despite the government’s efforts in creating cyclist-friendly law, accidents and injuries may still happen.  According to Burn Tucker Lachaine, auto-bicycle victims with injuries, whether or not they are critical or just minor, should still seek professional medical help.  This is because injuries such as minor back injuries, have the potential to become more complicated over time.  The victim may experience pain and suffering, and the spill-over effects may include time off of work, a diminished quality of life, and the inability to carry out regular activities in life.

As a result of the injury, victims may receive compensation, with the size of the compensation proportionate to factors such as how severe the injury is, the out-of-pocket expenses paid, and the pain and suffering that the victim went through.  Additionally, if there was injury to the brain, the victim may be compensated for lost wages as well.  Moreover, a victim may file an accident benefits claim, tort claim, and a claim under the Family Law Act, for the loss of “guidance, care and companionship”, according to Deutschmann Law.  Legal help from a personal injury law firm is suggested for dealing with such claims.

In the case of an auto-bicycle accident with fatalities, the surviving spouse, children, or parents may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and be entitled to burial expenses as well as other damages, as suggested by the Injury Law Group.

How to be prepared and proactive on the road

While bicycle licensing is not available in cities like Toronto, automobile insurance can cover cyclists in no-fault accidents and a homeowner’s policy of insurance can cover cyclists in at-fault accidents in Ontario.  Contacting your insurance company ahead of time may help if and when accidents occur.

The Ministry of Transportation also strongly advises cyclists to wear bicycle helmets as it helps prevent head injuries during accidents.  Cyclists under 18 years old who are biking on the public road are required to wear bicycle helmets, by law.

As for automobile drivers, instead of waiting for Bill 173 to become law, they can also start practicing to be more vigilant and respectful of cyclists on the road.

Given that there are many factors that cause accidents on the road, it may be impossible to eliminate auto-bicycle accidents altogether.  However, there are steps that both drivers and cyclists should take to make the roads they share safer.  Overall, biking on Ontario roads may be more dangerous than you think, but together, and with the help of Bill 173, we can help make the roads safer for all Ontarians going forward.

Hermione is a Paralegal student at Centennial College in Toronto studying professional communications with Omar Ha-Redeye.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *