The Future Of Safe Cycling In Hamilton

I came across an article recently about the City of Saskatoon removing bike lanes on one of their major arteries.

The reason? “Detractors were concerned about the lanes limiting parking spaces and creating an unsafe, confusing situation for drivers.” This pilot project included white posts along the route.

Hamilton, on the other hand, has decided on a more hybrid approach, at least with the bike lanes on Bay Street, between Barton and Stuart.

In a motion that passed 9-1, the council recently decided to examine the possibility of allowing parking on the bike lanes during non-peak periods, as well as possible removal of some of the barriers and relying on what are called ‘sharrows’: pavement arrows that remind drivers that cyclists are using the space as well.

While the originator of the Hamilton complaint—a property owner on that stretch named Giovanni Puzzo—indicated that “those bike lanes are not being used at all” the city’s project manager for active transportation noted that 28,000 bike trips were recorded along that stretch, in 2018.

All of this comes on the heels of another set of popular lanes on Cannon Street being closed this summer for repaving, which is adding a little fuel to the bike lane debate fire.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that this kind of inconsistent application of whether or not someone can park, or ride in the lane, will lead to more confusion and possible accidents, if not confrontations between cyclists and motorists. It will also likely lead to motorists ignoring the bike lane restrictions in other parts of the city.

So this is a great time to go over some of the rules of the road when it comes to sharing with bicycles, as well as what cyclists should do if they’re ever in an accident.

Motorists: Be Aware Of Bicycles

Motorists are the larger vehicles and, as such, you have to ensure that you’re doing your best to mitigate the possibility of an accident with a cyclist.

Right vs Wrong means very little when a car and a bike collide.

For example, if you are parked—not in a bike lane, I hope—and you are about to open your door to exit your vehicle, here’s a technique to make sure that you never forget to check for cyclists: use the dutch reach.

All it means is that instead of opening your door with your left hand, reach over and open it with your right. This forces you to look back and you’ll spot a cyclist before you end up dooring them and they go over their handlebars. Not only will they likely be hurt, but your wallet will hurt too, as ‘dooring’ comes with a fine of $365 and 3 demerit points.

Here are a couple of other reminders:

  • As a driver, you need to leave a metre of space between your vehicle and cyclists. If the roadway is very narrow, the cyclist is entitled to take the entire lane and you must slow down behind them. If you fail to leave cyclists this space, you could end up being fined $110 and if you fight that in court and lose? Up to $500 and 2 demerit points.
  • Crossing the median line to pass a cyclist with the required distance is fine, if it can be done safely. If not? Best to hang back behind the cyclist, at a safe distance and wait for an opportunity.
  • Cyclists are allowed to use left turn lanes, if one is available, so leaving them the space to do so is important.
  • The last 15 metres of a bike lane on approach to an intersection will often be a dashed line. This indicates that you can merge into the bike lane for the purposes of making a right turn. However, if there is a cyclist in the lane ahead, you must yield to them as they might be going straight rather than turning. A cyclist who is behind you but has not yet reached the intersection must yield to you if you are indicating that you want to use the lane to make a right turn.

Cyclists: You’re In An Accident With A Vehicle. Now What?

While cyclists aren’t licensed and don’t carry insurance for riding, they are obligated to follow the rules of the road. That said, up against a car or truck, a cyclist is going to fair far worse in an accident as they have no protection, save a helmet (I hope.)

It’s important to remember a few things:

  • Be sure to wear reflective clothing and have a headlight, for night riding. It’s not just about safety, but you can be fined for not being properly equipped, to the tune of $20.
  • If you’re under 18, you must wear a helmet. Not doing so can be expensive, as a fine of up to $75 might be in order. Adults aren’t required to wear helmets but it just makes sense to do it and it sets a good example for the kids!
  • If you’re in an accident with a motor vehicle, make sure that you:
    • Get checked out by your doctor, even if you think you’re fine. The adrenaline and shock that will be coursing through your body post-accident will prevent you from noticing that you might be seriously injured. If you get checked over, there is a written record of your injuries, which could come in handy if they turn out to be more serious than originally thought and a lawsuit is in the offing.
    • If you’re told to follow a course of treatment by your doctor, follow it to the letter. Any deviation could be seen as not mitigating the injuries and would hurt your further in the event of a suit.
    • Get the driver’s details, including full name, driver’s licence number, telephone number, insurance information, including the policy number and any witness information (name and phone numbers). If you have a phone on you, record the details of the accident with notes and photographs, or ask someone to do it for you.
  • Remember that if you have car insurance, and you need to file a claim as a cyclist in an accident situation, you would file with your own company. That’s how no-fault insurance in Ontario works. If you don’t have your own car insurance, you might have to file a claim against the driver. The situation becomes complicated if you don’t have insurance and the driver takes off or is uninsured.

Whatever the circumstances, if you’re injured as a result of a collision with a vehicle, while on a bicycle, talk to a personal injury lawyer.

The seriousness of your injuries might not be fully known right away, and you need to be sure that you’re taking the right steps to protect yourself and your rights.

Finally, if you’re looking for some great cycling in the Niagara region this summer, the Niagara Parkway is a safe route to consider, as well as being one of the most picturesque in the province!


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