1. On ” Rules of the road apply to cyclists too” it remains obvious motorists still just don’t get it. Drive at a cyclist and the results are serious.
    On July 27 just before 8 pm I was westbound on the Queensway at 35 to 40 kph approaching Ellis Av. Although the curblane is wide I took the lane as motorists still pass far too closely at speeds often approaching 80 kph. I was bumped TWICE from behind. That is the last I remember until being loaded into an ambulance.
    Hours later in hospital the investigating officer began interviewing me. I’d been fed a cocktail of medication to help me maintain breathing despite the pain of my injuries and the ongoing affects of whatever hospital staff had used to put me under while inserting a chest tube was still clouding my mind. I was informed my helmet was trashed.
    I did my best to struggle through the interview despite details were cloudy. When I mentioned being bumped the officer became antagonistic immediately and informed me he had “witnesses” who say I simply “fell” off of my bicycle.
    Let us visit Newton’s first Law of Motion;
    Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
    This would suggest given that I was moving forward I should continue moving forward upon (ahem) “falling”. Injuries should be concentrated along the central axis of my body. But they are not. They are concentrated on the right side of my body. Examination of the tread of the rear tire reveals marks on the left side. As a consequence, in agreement with the first law of motion it would appear an unbalanced force most likely exerted by a motor vehicle of some description acted on the left side of my rear wheel pushing it forward with respect to my front wheel until the tire could no longer roll and sideway friction caused it to tumble forward. In essence, in motorcycle parlance, I high sided. This is virtually impossible on a bicycle.
    Why? Why did the motorist do this? They figured they were entitled to “teach me a lesson”? They were entitled to commit assault with a weapon on an entitled road user?
    Why was the police officer so quick to conclude the investigation. I since learned no accident report was made and any information he has counld only be accessed by a freedom of information request. He did not include my reporting being pushed from behind and denied my reporting it though I clearly remember his response in hospital when I’d originally put this forward.
    Contrary to appearances the bicycle was in an excellent state of repair before the incident. It had been carefully cleaned, brake pads and chain replaced on July 22. The wheels were straight and true.
    I remain convinced motorists remain focussed on justifying driving aggressively around cyclists so as to continue this mania of marginalising cyclists. Pursuit of the open road by intimidating other entitled road users from using it seems part and parcel of motor vehicle promotion and common space use. This we MUST change.

  2. First off, let me express my sympathy for the pain you went through.

    I would think that if a “motor vehicle of some description” purposely impacted your rear tire with enough force to “teach you a lesson” by high-siding you, your rear wheel would be obviously mangled.

    Yet you say only that “the tread of the rear tire reveals marks on the left side”. Can you clarify?

  3. I think cyclists carry little weight politically because they’re associated with being on the fringe–poor, young, or both. We would get more respect, and maybe support, once decisionmakers realize that cyclists may also own cars, pay property taxes, and vote.

  4. geoffrey: i’m sorry about your accident and hope that you’re healing well.

    i feel queasy reading the arguments between drivers and cyclists. it seems that everyone is getting angrier, and anger on the roads leads to serious badness.

    i wish politicians would clearly allocate roadspace for different uses. bike lanes are an obvious idea, although i personally don’t think that bike lanes are a complete answer. why aren’t they doing anything? it’s not as if nobody has been asking!

  5. This summer I’ve let anger get the best of me the many times a car has caused near death. I *want* to talk to them, but at the moment of fear and adreneline, I end up yelling or banging on their hood. Some days it’s like you can feel bad driving in the air, and I take side streets because I hate this kind of human interaction.

    That said, I agree mostly with this article, it’s not reactionary. I see (i’m sure we all do) lots of bad bike riding, passing on the inside when cars are turning right, etc. Sometimes I think cyclists should be licenced — which is not how it should be — but the bad riders, the ones who put themselves at risk then get upset, the ones who blow through open streetcar doors, are nearly as bad as bad motorists.

    Geoffrey — that sounds terrible. Can you follow up though — after you said you were bumped, did the police file a report? Who was the witness?

  6. I think one of the big problems is this dichotomy between “vehicle” and “pedestrian” which completely ignored the distinct nature of cycling. A bike is not a car and nor is it someone walking. It is very difficult physically for a bike to start and stop, unlike a car where all it takes is a push of the peddle. Hence why so often bikes roll through red lights when there is little traffic or by pedestrian crossings. These traffic calming measures were designed with cars and trucks in mind, not bikes.

    In turn bikes are larger and fast then pedestrians and should definitely yield to pedestrians and never ride on the sidewalk.

    I don’t think its the cyclists that need to bend to traffic laws but instead the traffic laws that need to bend to cyclists.

  7. There is no excuse for motorists. That much is obvious. Being in larger vehicles, they do have responsibilities to others, as well as themselves.

    However, cyclists should agree that not all of them are the “victims” of drivers.

    Moving about the city at any time, it should be clear to anyone that cyclists do not always obey all rules of the road … not wearing safety equipment (helmets, etc.), crossing against traffic signals or riding on sidewalks.

    Yes, motorists should be aware of cyclists.

    But cyclists could help their own causes by following the rules. These allow people (driving or walking) to know where cyclists will be and where they will not.

    Roads are for all to use, but with this use comes responsibilities for all users, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists – everyone must do their part.

  8. Larry, I think your point is valid in the sense that while cyclists and motorists share the road and the responsibilities that come along with it, the relationship isn’t symmetrical.

    Roads were not designed with the unique attributes of the cyclist in mind, and easy adaptations (eg cycleroutes, paths, and lanes) fall by the wayside. Not to mention that when car and bike meet, usually the cyclist pays the larger price.

  9. Dave,

    You think it’s okay for bikes to roll through red lights because it takes an effort to stop and start them?

    You think red lights are just traffic calming measures that apply to cars, not bikes?

    You don’t think cyclists should follow traffic rules, but rather the rules should accommodate cyclists instead?

    Do you suppose YOU may be the guy this article is about?

  10. Great comments all around. Yes, cyclists should obey the rules of the road…sometimes we don’t, me included. Yes, our own infrastructure would be extremely helpful in reaching this goal because, as many mentioned above, cars and bikes are not created equal.

    That being said…I always wonder why drivers are so concerned with helmets. It’s mentioned in the article, and I’ve gotten comments from drivers while riding. I personally don’t wear a helmet, although I probably should…I just can’t bring myself to do it. Regardless, that is my choice. I don’t consider it the job of drivers to pay more or less attention to me while driving because of that. As far as I’m concerned all cyclists, and indeed drivers for that matter, are created equal in that we are all human beings, helmet or not. Call me a cynic, but the only reason I can see that drivers would be SO concerned is that if they happen to hit a cyclist, they think that the helmet is some sort of force-field that will shield the cyclists from any and all injuries causing death and serious harm, thus relieving the driver of the guilt. Like I said, call me a cynic.

  11. Sort of like how head injuries have gone up in the NHL since the manditory helmet rule was passed? (at least that’s what I’ve heard colour commentator’s say).

  12. Anybody who thinks cyclists are the same as cars.. would you please come for a bike with me tomorrow through the city.

    If you cycle on a regular basis in this city you adapt, unfortunately as a cyclist you start out all wide eyed and fresh (smiling,signaling,stopping at stop signs etc) but eventually the ‘game’ gets you and soon enough you start wearing the characteristics of a rebel.

    Bike lanes would go along way to welcoming cyclists on the road. It is this unwelcome feeling and the impression that I am in the motorists way that fosters this rebel attitude.

    Also I think it is whats called ‘bias’ from the motorists view when they get upset that some cyclist went through a stop sign. Drivers ‘notice’ when a cyclist goes through because it stands out, everybody in a car is stopped(and usually really angry in general), as a cyclist I ‘notice’ when cars make complete stops at street signs.

    If you are truly concerned with the safety of me cycling through a stop sign…ok but if you are just angry that I am somehow getting away with something or breaking the law then worry about your driving and I will worry about my cycling.

    The bottom line is I should not have to come into direct contact with motorists as much as I do. This is not a problem of the driver or the cyclist its the outdated design of the city.

    Unfortunately until something is changed in the way the city is designed ( eg bike lanes) more people like Geoffrey are going to be happening and this conflict will never end.

  13. Helmets: but if you do wear one, they’ll sneer at you for looking stupid in your prissy little helmet because you think you’re so important. So don’t bother altering your behaviour for anyone else’s benefit on that score (but please consider protecting yer melon).

    Cops: not surprised. Friend of mine got doored and phoned it in. They wouldn’t give her the time of day, leaving her to stagger home under her own (substantially reduced) power, though of course it was terribly rude and scofflawish of her to try to report the incident later. Suddenly, such things must be reported “forthwith”. Weren’t too interested when she was bleeding in the rainy night, though, were ya, asshole?

  14. Sue: the rear wheel is not nor would need to be “mangled” for an impact to have occurred. In this case two groups of marks on the tread are the summation of the evidence. Part of this is due to this is a well maintained bicycle – the wheels were not only trued but tensioned as well and as a result are less prone to go out of true.
    If one applies a small force to a body in motion, that force will affect that bodies direction. This is what happens when a vehicle applied a force to my rear wheel at other than the direction I was moving. Remember the marks were on the left side of the tread. This would suggest the force applied by the vehicle would push my rear wheel to the right of my direction, in effect it would step out until a critical value were hit and that force could no longer be converted to rotational energy of the wheel and sideways friction would become the dominant force. At this juncture the rear wheel would have to slide on the pavement for me to stay upright. Even if this occurs friction will become the dominant force of the sideway travelling wheel and as a consequence I (the rider) will be pitched off the right side of the bike resulting in right side injuires of my body. Consider a vehicle when the rear wheel skids out; this is the scenario. However the energy producing the slip angle in this case is generated by a motor vehicle pushing on my rear wheel at other than the direction my bicycle was moving in.
    Shawn: the investigating officer did not file an “accident report” as no motor vehicles were injured. Or in the words of the witnesses, no motor vehicles were involved. I have no idea who the witnesses were nor where they came from but genuinely suspected they had a vested interest. Could they have been occupants of the motor vehicle which struck me? Getting the investigating officers notes on the investigation will require a “freedom of information request” which may be denied. Reports so granted I understand are heavily editted. Gleaning details would be all but impossible.

    I too am tired of the helmet mantra especially as there have been a number of studies showing motorists pass helmetted cyclists closer than those not wearing cyclists.

    As for riding “legally” or not, when there is a culture of marginalisation practiced by motorists against cyclists (which I indeed believe is what we are witnessing) cyclists will respond in whatever means possible to maintain their transportation option. When cyclists are pushed into the curb gutters and onto sidewalks, they will pass stopped traffic in the curb gutters and on the sidewalks. Motorists MUST begin taking broader responsibility for their actions. That motorists blow through stops and red lights strikes me as much more heinous than cyclists doing the same particularly considering the amount of kinetic energy a 3000 lb car moving at any speed carries. Our driver education system is woefully inadequate considering the absurdities motorists have spouted at me over the years. The Ministry of Transportation must get on the ball and begin taking responsibility for its charges. Hello Donna Cansfield!

    The Province NEEDS to look at;
    A report on cycling fatalities in Toronto
    1986 – 1998

    Recommendations for reducing cycling injuries and death

    Prepared by:
    W. J. Lucas, M.D., C.C.F.P.
    Regional Coroner for Toronto
    July 1, 1998




    Section 130(2) Careless Driving

    Maintaining an appropriate and safe distance between motor vehicles and bicycles need more emphasis in the HTA.

    Suggested wording for consideration is as follows:

    Upon passing a bicycle, drivers or operators of motor vehicles shall maintain a distance of least 1 meter beside. Upon traveling behind the bicycle, drivers or operators of motor vehicles shall maintain a distance of at least 3 meters behind. Where a traffic lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle, it is legal for a bicycle to take the whole lane by riding in the center of it.

    The source for this recommendation is the Ontario Ministry of Transportation Cycling Skills (1985) publication. Motor vehicle operators must appreciate that a bicycle is a vehicle and is entitled to dominate a lane where it is appropriate to do so. This concept is widely taught in bicycle skill training courses.

    Section 141(2)(5)(6) Turns:

    Wording in this section should be reviewed to identify the rights of bicycles as vehicles occupying the roadway.

    In urban centers, there is a concern about motorists turning right at an intersection at the same time that a cyclist is proceeding straight through the intersection. In situations where bicycle lanes exist, the problem is compounded even further as the motor vehicle is positioned further to the left in the curb lane.

  15. I find that there’s a lack of awareness among both the public at large and well as cyclists about the rules on where you can cycle and not, how they interact with cars/pedestrians and so on. This ignorance leads to incidents such as described above and that leads to opposition to cycling infrastructure since drivers have the upper hand and politicians take their moaning about cyclists more seriously.

    I support the aims of the mybikelane project wholeheartedly but find that a lot of painted lines on Toronto roads are treated as optional, not least unbroken centre lines.

  16. Has anyone ever tried actually following traffic laws when cycling? This includes going into the left-turn lane at a light, waiting for the green, advancing into the intersection and waiting for an opening before turning. Try it once, it’s a terrifying experience. Cars honk and have no idea what you think you’re doing.

    The Plateau-Mont Royal area in Montreal is the urban cycling holy grail. A set up like that is all we ask for. 🙂

  17. I just came back from Berlin and that city’s traffic management – not just bikes, but cars and public transit, too – is a dream. Bicycle lanes are not only separated from the road, but are painted red and are elevated from the surface of the actual roadway. Bicyclists also get their own signals at intersections which are separate from pedestrian, car and streetcar traffic lights. I found that the average Berlin commuter – whether pedestrian, motorist or bicyclist – is far more conscientious and civilized than the average Torontonian.

  18. Michael: “Has anyone ever tried actually following traffic laws when cycling? This includes going into the left-turn lane at a light, waiting for the green, advancing into the intersection and waiting for an opening before turning. Try it once, it’s a terrifying experience. Cars honk and have no idea what you think you’re doing.”

    That was indeed my practice. Prior to this incident I was strong enough that I could keep with aggressive drivers pulling away from intersections. But that did not deter asshats from pulling up on my right side (with two wheels on the sidewalk while I was in the right lane) informing me I was not a vehicle and they considered my taking the lane unsafe. Inconvenient is what they really meant.

  19. geoffrey, thanks for clarifying. I had interpreted your first post to mean that a motor vehicle deliberately rammed you twice from behind at a speed far exceeding your 35-40 kph. From your second post, it seems more likely that the speed differential was minor. Unfortunately for cyclists, however, that’s all it takes to cause a disastrous, even deadly, fall.)

    bill, that’s a cop out. (If people still say “cop out”.) It’s quite right to blame motorists when they break the law, but you go on to blame motorists for causing cyclists to break the law.

    Agreed there should be a separate set of laws for cyclists, distinct from motorists. Those laws should be vigorously enforced too. But until that time cyclists must be responsible for obeying the laws that are in place for them — they have so much more at stake than motorists.

    And while we’re pigeonholing people as “drivers” and “cyclists”, let’s ask “pedestrians” what they think. I believe we’ll find that they dislike cyclists almost as much as they dislike motorists.

  20. I’m glad Geoffrey’s assault by vehicle is getting more public – and he’s an experienced cyclist who takes care of his machine and knows how to use it. But having the Right-of-Way doesn’t mean having the right of weight, and cyclists just aren’t welcomed on the carterials, though Can-Bike doesn’t teach that.
    As for the cop, most of the cops drive in from 905 so entrenched “carism” prevails. Violence with a vehicle is normal – that’s why they drive not ride bikes, and they used the Constitution to prevent a requirement once proposed that the City hire locally Does anyone remember the Weltschmerz/lind cop motto “To swerve and project”?
    I’ve drawn Geoffrey’s being run into to the attention of Miller and Perks – no response from them yet.
    The province could act – a big part of why the Euro’s don’t wear helmets is I believe there’s an EU-wide law that if there’s a carash, the car is automatically at fault until proven otherwise and even then they’re not really off the hook.
    See Cycling in Copenhagen linked on bikelanediary – that puts our “carrupt Kultur” in Smogtown to shame.
    Over $255M for 2kms of the Front St. Excessway in the core and we can’t find $200,000 for 8kms of Bloor bike lane right beside our major subway!

  21. Michael: “Has anyone ever tried actually following traffic laws when cycling? This includes going into the left-turn lane at a light, waiting for the green, advancing into the intersection and waiting for an opening before turning. Try it once, it’s a terrifying experience. Cars honk and have no idea what you think you’re doing.”

    Um, I do this all the time. If the road is too scary for you, get off of it.


  22. Jonathan,

    It depends on where you are. While it may be an enjoyable left turn on Harbord, it will not be much fun on Spadina anywhere south of King.

  23. I’ve done it on Spadina several times, I’ve done it on Yonge… if obeying the laws is too scary for you, I suggest buying a TTC pass.

  24. I see biking in Toronto as an extreme sport. I actually don’t take unnecessary risk in the road and I think the best way to survive while biking in Toronto is by staying extremely alert with your surroundings and by using common sense. I agree that the rules of the road should be obeyed, but most times it is extremely risky to do so, for example; biking in underpasses is very risky, cars for some reason will drive faster and closer to you if you do not take the whole lane in those places, so I bike slowly and carefully on the sidewalk staying as far from pedestrians as possible.

    I don’t stop at signs, I slow down, look both ways and then I proceed; a bike has a lot less kinetic energy than a car and hence easier to stop, but since I am using my legs to propel the bike it is harder to regain momentum if you come to a complete stop, for a car all you have to do is step on the gas pedal (there is a reason why suburban dwellers are more overweight). I will however give right of way to a car if it arrived at the intersection before me, even if I have to come to a complete stop.

    I will go the opposite way in a one-way street if I have to choose it over a busy artery next to it. I don’t like doing this but sometime the option of cars zooming millimetres next to you is something I like even less.

    One thing I never do is put pedestrians at risk, I would rather risk getting hit by a car than risk hitting a pedestrian with my bike.

    As for cops; most of them don’t like cyclists and many more believe that cycling is not a valid method of transportation. But once in a while you get a few who are sympathetic and understanding of our plight. I will never forget the cop who stopped a lady who almost killed me while I was making a left turn on Dovercourt right in front of 14th division. I was wearing my helmet, had both light flashing and signalled I was turning left, she started honking, accelerated and almost hit me while passing me to my right. The cop was behind her and flashed his lights right away. It made my day… I think cops should spend at least 30% of their patrolling on bikes, the rest of the time it should be done by foot and car. I also tend to agree with those who say that a police officer should live in the city were he/she works.

    One thing I can conclude is that all this conflict could be avoided if the city followed the examples of Berlin and Amsterdam. There is a need for bike infrastructure, every year I see more people biking, maybe due to higher gas prices or due to a crowded TTC, it doesn’t matter the reasons, what matters is that city hall must wake up to such reality and gear its policies into making Toronto a bike friendly place, even if that means giving cars less priorities. Pedestrians first, cyclists second, public transit third, then, dead last miles away from all first three, the car. That is how you build and organize a city.

  25. I’d like to thank everyone for their wellwishes. Recovery seems to be progressing but my thoracic surgeon reiterated I would be extremely fortunate to be able to get back on a bike in another month yet. The longest I was off bikes all winter was 32 days so this seems intolerable.
    The pneumothorax has healed but there is alot of liquid remaining in my chest cavity due to the trauma which limits capacity to less than 3/4 normal and causes a great deal of discomfort on involuntary gasping, sneezing and coughing. So if you see someone suddenly double over while walking down the sidewalk for no apparent reason ..
    Anyway, the liquid should eventually be reabsorbed. Hopefully my appetite will recover with that. I’m down close to 20 lb I figure and wasn’t exactly large before the incident.
    The pneumothorax (collapsed lung) was due to my lung being perforated when my third and fourth ribs broke.
    Next week my orthopaedic surgeon will take another look at my broken clavicle. My thoracic surgeon warned me the news maybe less than I’d hoped for (the clavicle showed up in the chest xrays). I hope to get him to take a peak at my hip as well as it is still numb and swollen four weeks after the incident.

  26. Bikes should be allowed to go the wrong way on all one way streets in residential areas. Most residential streets in the downtown area are one way as part of a “traffic calming” scheme, but bikes are currently not legally allowed to do so. It is perfectly safe to do so, because there isn’t very much traffic. Allowing this would really encourage cycling in the older parts of Toronto, because we would no longer be legally required (supposedly) to ride our bikes on busy, dangerous streets.

  27. As a long time friend of Geoff, first I am thankful he is still here. I’ve rode with him and he is a very strong cyclist, follows the rules of the road, and is concious of other people and vehicles. I live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and I see some aggression here towards cyclists, hopwever, I feel the majority of motorists are cognizant of cyclists. It is true here, too, that I am careful not to cycle on main throughways which could lend to confrontation or accident. All in all, I think it is safer in this city for cyclists, and the need for driver education has to be inculcated at the grassroots level i.e. when young drivers are going through their G1 and by their peers, parents, and schoolboards.

    Geoff, get well, and get on big fella.

  28. sorry to hear about your accident, geoffrey. the cop’s conduct and the ‘witnesses’ are especially disheartening.

    for me, those are the real issues, in fact.

    no matter how much we grumble about the dangers of the road, that’s not going to change anytime soon. we know the risks and we know what might happen.

    what is really sad is how isolated cyclists are. anyone driving is against us. pedestrians too (i think they’re more dangerous than cars when they’re j-walking between parked mini-vans downtown). apparently we shouldn’t depend on the cops to enforce the rules either.

    perhaps one way to reduce friction is for non-cyclists to learn the rules. then, and only then, can they legitimately judge our conduct. (some cyclists need to learn the rules too – i’ve seen so many cyclists pass right-turning cars on the inside – i think many of them just don’t know any better)

    in the mean time, i think it’s important to cycle without communicating AT ALL with drivers. we are the vulnerable ones. road rage. everyone against us. the ease with which drivers take risks with our lives. just look out for yourself and get to your destination. if someone harrasses you, ignore him/her. if you see another cyclist fighting with a driver or pedestrian, help to take him or her out of the situation; do NOT escalate it.

    time is on our side. as the price of gas and owning a car increases, as the TTC becomes more pathetic, more and more people will ride bikes in the city. i think a time will come in our lifetime when bikes outnumber cars in the city core – a permanent critical mass. now is the time to establish a sense of cycling community so we will all be better cyclists (and people) in the future. who cares about drivers, really? it’s sad to see that owning a car brings them all so little happiness.

  29. About 6 years ago, I was grazed by a car very gently at Bloor and Ossington. The passenger side mirror just knocked my handlebar. I fell up against the side of the car, and then onto the roadway directly behind it. I was certain that I was about to be run over. Fortunately, I was the last through the light, and traffic stopped behind me.

    There were no injuries. The people on the sidewalk said I just fell over. I told A police officer that arrived on the scene in his car about 20 to 30 seconds later the colour and make of the car that had just grazed me…


    That’s the day I quit bicycle commuting. I was 41 years old at the time.

  30. Hi Geoffery,

    I came across your article while researching rates of injuries and fatalities of bikers as a means to discourage a friend of mine from purchasing a motorcycle.

    I felt the need to comment on your article for two reasons, the first being that the particular police officer, Ali Rashid, named here, happened to have been quite helpful to me while I was in the downtown area early in October. It was not a cycling incident, however, he definitely was a man of high calibre and showed a great deal of professionalism. He was very respectful and I commended him on his assistance that day.

    Secondly, the police work very hard and put forth a strong effort in fulfilling their mission to serve and protect. When you say this officer wouldn’t take a victim statement from you, I just think there’s no reason he or any officer wouldn’t take a statement if they felt the information was relevant. A witness is a witness, cyclist, motorist, or pedestrian, this any cop will tell you. I myself have been a bystander at a bus stop and have been asked to give a statement as I had witnessed an accident.

    I have the utmost respect for our policing services all across the province. It takes a very unique person to be able to go into this line of work and the screening and training process is quite extensive and thorough. These individuals are specifically trained in filtering information that is pertinent to their investigation, and thus only record witness statements they determine to be relevant.

    Often what we may feel is relevant or pertinent isn’t. If they were to take every witness statement and record it, technically each and every witness could be subpoenaed which would put our courts in a more serious backlog situation then they already face.

    Most reports indicate that bikers have a higher incidence of both injury and fatality on the roads not due to aggressive driving habits of motorists but rather the nature of the vehicle in itself. It is a vehicle that is more sensitive to road disturbances, weather disturbances and inappropriate and aggressive bike handling. Granted aggressive motorists aggravate the problem, but it’s not the only issue or reason why the roads are unsafe for cyclists. I wish you much success in your endeavour for making Toronto more bike safe. Cheers!

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