With dry roads and the summer weather upon us, there are more people than ever using Ontario’s highways and streets. The good weather means that people who are unable to use the roads in the wintertime are coming out in full force. There are motorcycles and bicycles and E-bikes. While each set of wheels has its own responsibilities and privileges (See: What Rules of the Road Apply to Scooters and E-bikes?) This article is targeted mostly toward defensive driving for drivers of automobiles. Here are some tips and reminders about bicyclists especially, and what to watch out for.
While automobiles are easy to see due to their size, bicycles are quiet and small. With all the busyness and loudness of traffic a cyclist can be easy to miss. Statistics on bicycle accidents involving automobiles show that certain types of accidents are particularly common.
Potential Automobile/Cycling Accident Situations To Watch Out For:
Driving At Nightfall
With warm temperatures, drivers should expect bicycle riders at night and in the twilight hours when they are harder to see. A recent change to Ontario’s highway traffic act, says that bicycles must have a white or amber light in the front, and a red light in the rear. The bike must also be outfitted with reflectors of some kind. While it is against the law to cycle without these safety devices, most automobile drivers have been shocked to suddenly see a cyclist at night, wearing dark clothing, on an unlit bicycle. In many cases cycling accidents are narrowly avoided when a driver only sees the cyclist in the last second – barely missing them. CAA statistics reveal that 34% of fatal accidents between cars and bicycles took place after dark.
When you are parked, before opening your door – check for bicycles coming up behind you. Many Toronto cyclists have been badly hurt by being “doored” when they hit the car door that unexpectedly opened in front of them. Ontario’s Bill 31, instated September 1st, 2015, levies fines any where from $365. up to $1,000. and 3 demerit points on your driver’s license, if you are charged for “Dooring”.
When turning right into a crosswalk, motor vehicle operators need to watch out for cyclists riding on the sidewalk. On busy city streets there is a high potential for cyclists to zoom into the walkway in front of you.
When making a left hand turn at an intersection, automobile drivers need to watch out for cyclists who are coming straight through at the intersection. Quick moving motorists often miscalculate the speed a bike is capable of and a collision occurs before either the car driver or cyclist can stop.
When You Are Turning Right At a Traffic Light
Many of Toronto’s most serious cycling accidents and fatalities have occured when a truck or automobile turns right and the cyclist driving along side them, intends to ride straight through the intersection and gets hit instead. Larger vehicles have huge blind spots and are unable to see the cyclist who is right beside them. Cyclists certainly have a responsibility for their own safety, yet no one wants to get hurt or be hurt someone else. Expect the unexpected.
Passing a Cyclist
Motorists must give cyclists a minimum of 1 meter of space between the two vehicles when passing. This is the law and comes with a penalty of 2 demerit points and a minimum $110 fine.
Don’t Get Distracted
People of all ages are using bicycles for exercise, social time or their main mode of transportation. They ride solo, in groups and even on bicycles built for more than one person. Some times the bike is loaded with groceries or other items. Sometimes the cyclist has a young child in a carrier on their back or a wagon behind the bike.
While some are experienced riders, many are not. They should not veer out in front of you or turn unexpectedly or dart between parked cars. It’s not legal and it is definitely not safe. It takes a second for a fast moving bike to appear from nowhere or a child to make a sudden move toward your vehicle. If you are distracted even for a couple of seconds, you might not have the reflex time to avoid a crash. Realizing the dangers of distracted driving in our increasingly electronic society, Bill 31 has increased the penalties for texting, or cell phone use to a substantial 3 demerit points against your driver’s license and a and a maximum $1.000. fine if you are convicted.
The Law Is Taking Distracted Driving Seriously
Drivers who are found guilty of distracted driving leading to a careless driving conviction will be assigned 6 months in jail, 6 demerit points, fines and a possible 2 years suspension of their driver’s license.
Cycling Accidents And The Law
While some of the above points are are important tips to help every one keep safe on our busy streets and highways, others are mandatory under Ontario Law and come with penalties. To understand more about demerit points see: Understanding demerit points and How Loss of demerit points can result in loss of driver’s license and driving privileges.
When traffic laws are broken and cyclists are injured in a car accident, victims may be entitled to claim compensation from the person or driver responsible. Personal injury compensation for cyclists is most often the responsibility of the at fault drivers insurance company. Compensation does not come freely. Its not uncommon for insurance companies to deny responsibility or deny injury claims outright.
Bicycles are a great way to exercise, and can be an efficient way to get around town without spending a lot of money for gasoline, car repairs or even parking. Having said that, bicycles are treated as a vehicle under the highway traffic act. Sharing the road with larger vehicles is a serious responsibility. When bicycles and cars collide the results can be fatal.
To learn more about bicycles and cycling see www.canbikeanada.ca which offers children and adults courses on bicycle safety including getting to know your bicycle, rules of the road, and bike etiquette, making proper left and right hand turns, safety equipment and maintenance, group riding and other important information.