Ontario’s Coroner on Cycling Deaths

In June 2012, the Chief Coroner of Ontario released the report, Cycling Death Review, which examined 129 accidental cycling deaths which occurred in Ontario between January 2006 and December 31, 2010.

The report notes that while 129 residents in Ontario were killed while riding their bicycles in those five years, more than 26,000 Ontario residents visit an emergency ward each year due to an injury sustained while riding a bicycle.  The Coroner’s report also indicates that while these deaths are called “accidental deaths”, all of them were predictable, and therefore preventable.

When the Coroner’s Office examined these 129 deaths, it found that:

  • 86% of the cyclists were male;
  • 51% were 45 years in age or older and 15% were 19 years or younger;
  • 73% were not wearing helmets;
  • 63% were cycling recreationally while 31% were commuting to work; and
  • 68% occurred in urban areas while 35% occurred in rural areas.

Examination of the details of each death indicated that:

  • 18% involved a heavy truck, and in half of these cases, the cyclist struck the side of the truck and was then pinned or dragged under the truck;
  • In 55% of cases, head injuries contributed to death, and in 43% of these cases, the head injury was the sole cause of death;
  • In 71% of cases, there was a modifiable action on the cyclist’s part that contributed to the collision (e.g., inattention, failure to yield);
  • In 23% of cases, the cyclist was under the influence of alcohol;
  • In 62% of the cases, there was a modifiable action on the driver’s part that contributed to the collision (e.g., speeding, inattention, failure to yield);
  • Information on the driver’s sobriety was not available in most cases; and
  • 34 charges were laid against 30 of the drivers involved in the 129 deaths.

The report notes that:

  • Denmark reduced deaths among cyclists by 35% by providing segregated bicycle tracks or lanes alongside urban roads;
  • The state of Victoria in Australia increased the use of helmet from 31% to 51%, and reduced head injuries among cyclists by 51%, within one year of implementing a new law requiring helmets in 1990; and
  • The United Kingdom decreased fatalities among cyclists who collided with the sides of heavy trucks by 61% by requiring truck guards.

The Coroner’s report recommends, among other things, that:

  • The Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing guide new development and re-development of communities in Ontario towards a “complete streets approach” that includes: the creation of cycling networks (incorporating strategies such as connected cycling lanes, separated bike lanes, bike paths and other models appropriate to the community); and designation of community safety zones in residential areas with reduced posted maximum speeds and increased fines for speeding.
  • The Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing develop an Ontario Cycling Plan which would establish a vision for cycling, guide the development of policy, legislation and regulations, and commit the  infrastructure funding needed to support cycling in Ontario.
  • The Ministry of Transportation should identify the development of paved shoulders on provincial highways as a high priority initiative.
  • The Ministry of Transportation, in consultation with appropriate partners, develop a comprehensive public education program to promote safer sharing of the road by all users.
  • The Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Consumer Services require that important bicycle safety information be provided to purchasers of any new or used bicycle.
  • The Ministry of Education incorporate cycling and road safety education into the public school curriculum.
  • The Ministry of Transportation update the Official Driver’s Handbooks to include information around sharing the road with cyclists, and include cycling-related scenarios in driver examinations.
  • The Ministry of Transportation conduct a comprehensive review and revision of the Highway Traffic Act to ensure that it is consistent and understandable with respect to cycling and cyclists and therefore easier to promote and enforce.
  • The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the City of Toronto conduct a comprehensive review and revision of the Municipal Act, the City of Toronto Act and relevant Municipal By‐Laws to ensure that they are consistent and understandable with respect to cycling and cyclists and therefore easier to promote and enforce.
  • To the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Consumer Services, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ontario Provincial Police promote the use of helmets by cyclists of all ages.
  • To the Ministry of Transportation amend the Highway Traffic Act to make helmets mandatory for cyclists of all ages in Ontario.
  • To the Ministry of Transportation amend the Highway Traffic Act to include a one meter passing rule for vehicles when passing cyclists.
  • Transport Canada make side-guards for heavy trucks mandatory in Canada.
  • The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing review local data related to cycling injuries and fatalities in order to identify and address opportunities for targeted education, public safety interventions and enforcement activities.

The Coroner’s Report can be accessed at: http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/stellent/groups/public/@mcscs/@www/@com/documents/webasset/ec159773.pdf

Prepared by Kim Perrotta

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