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Can't we all just get along? The car, bicycle, skateboard, pedestrian et al debate

James

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So in light of recent events where a downtown Toronto taxi driver hit and killed a longboarder, I started to think about the ongoing and at times heated debate about rules of the road and rights of way. As someone who used to be a skateboarder in my teens and who has lived downtown walking and cycling everywhere, not to mention having a vehicle in the downtown core as well, I can appreciate all sides of the discussion. In my opinion, no matter how many bicycle lanes or special traffic signals or additional vehicle lanes or extra-wide sidewalks or custom markings on the ground are put in place, nothing is going to truly change until our attitude and tolerance of each other on the road as individuals change, regardless of what mode of transportation one is utilizing. Simply put, why can't we all just...get along?

Recent Toronto Sun story of the taxi driver hitting and killing the skateboarder: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/05/21/cabbies-gripe-about-tos-streets

Cabbies gripe about T.O.'s streets

By Laura Pedersen,Toronto Sun

They’re mad as hell and they’re just not going to take it anymore.

Cabbies across the city are opening up about Toronto’s hectic streets after last week’s deadly collision between a taxi cab and a skateboarder.

Drivers say they’re sick of pedestrians, cyclists and boarders of all descriptions ignoring even the most basic road rules and putting lives in danger. They want a new code of respect to recognize the difficulties many cabbies have navigating Toronto’s streets in safety.

“Skateboarders should stay off the streets,†insisted Jerome Salim, a taxi driver in Toronto for seven years.

“It’s just not safe to zig-zag on your skateboard down streets filled with cars, buses, and even bicycles,†added Salim.

Toronto cab driver Adib Ibraham, 43, has been charged with second-degree murder after a skateboarder was hit by a taxi near the intersection of King St. E and Jarvis St. on May 14. Ralph Bissonette, 28, of Toronto died from injuries sustained in the incident.

While Salim neither knew Ibraham nor saw the incident, he insisted there’s a common reaction to “always blame the cab driver†when mishaps occur on the road.

Some reports of the incident cited allegations that Ibraham intentionally ran the skateboarder down. Other reports contained accusations that the skateboarder aggravated the cab driver by holding on to the back of his cab.

Nothing has been proven in court.

Police confirmed that road rage may have been a contributing factor in the collision. They have gathered statements from witnesses and local security footage during the course of their investigation.

Thomas Tuah, a Toronto-based cab driver for 37 years, said he has watched the roads rapidly get “worse and worse.†An ever-expanding city means more cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and operators of various modes of transportation are quickly filling the streets.

“We go through hell,†said Tuah. “The police don’t back us, no one does.â€

“Everyone is against us,†added fellow taxi driver Abdul Ali. “We are serving the people of Toronto, and I think someone needs to do something about our treatment.â€

Ali was quick to mention “every cab driver can tell you horror stories.â€

He charged that often even the police are not quick to side with cab drivers. In the past Ali has been on the receiving end of assault from passengers and customers who run away before paying their fare.

When the cab driver called the police for help, they often “never arrived,†he complained.

“We just don’t have a choice. We do this because we have families and children and bills to pay,†said Ali.
Another story, from the Toronto Star, of a cyclist hitting and fracturing a pedestrian's skull: http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1020450--cyclist-fractures-pedestrian-s-skull-gets-400-fine

Cyclist fractures pedestrian’s skull, gets $400 fine

A cyclist who was going the wrong way on a one-way street when he struck a 56-year-old woman and fractured her skull will be fined $400, whether the woman lives or dies.

In a case that raises questions about the strength of the province's traffic laws, the 49-year-old man — whose name was not released — was charged with careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act. He faces no criminal charges or jail time.

The incident occurred Tuesday, before 11 a.m., in Chinatown at the intersection of Dundas and Huron Sts., just east of Spadina Ave. The woman, who was crossing Huron on the south side, fell back after she was struck by the cyclist, hitting her head on the road. She suffered severe head trauma and was rushed to hospital, where she remains.

Police say they lay charges based on the offence, not the outcome, and there was no criminal intent on the part of the cyclist.

“If [the woman] dies that’s going to be handled in civil courts,†said Toronto police Const. Hugh Smith.

But critics charge the province’s careless driving law should distinguish careless acts that cause serious injury or death from those that don’t.

“People that are driving carelessly need to realize that when they kill another human being that person is gone forever,†said Daryl Bowles, whose father was killed in a careless driving accident in 2008. “And it’s not fair the person that’s responsible gets a slap on the wrist.â€

Careless driving carries a fine ranging from $400 to $2,000, licence restrictions and potentially up to six months of jail time. It is the highest charge under the Highway Traffic Act.

Motorists and cyclists are treated equally under the act, though a cyclist does not suffer any penalties against their licence, such as demerit points or a suspension.

Motorists who injure or kill someone can be charged under the Criminal Code if they are deemed to have been driving dangerously. The difference between dangerous driving, a criminal offence, and careless driving, a traffic offence, lies in intent.

To be charged with dangerous driving, police must prove a driver planned and intended to do something dangerous, such as race or dart in and out of traffic. Careless driving, defined as driving “without due care and attention,†refers to a lapse of judgment.

A cyclist could not be charged with dangerous driving because the offence only covers motorized vehicles. But if there was evidence of intent, Smith said a cyclist could still be charged with assault or another appropriate criminal offence.

Police say the cyclist in Tuesday’s incident travelled southbound on Huron through the intersection with Dundas — where Huron becomes a one-way street in the opposite direction — and struck the woman, who was crossing the road on the south side with two other people.

A motorist committing the same act may have been charged criminally with dangerous driving causing bodily harm, Smith said, because it would be a more obviously dangerous situation. But recent cases of careless driving deaths suggest drivers are, in general, treated similarly.

An 18-year-old Mississauga man, who killed Eduardo and Fernandina Pascoal with his car last year, pleaded guilty to careless driving earlier this month and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

In May, a 39-year-old truck driver in Brampton pleaded guilty to failing to yield and was fined $500 for the death of Tina Kuipers, 65, who was killed as she tried to cross Queen St. in Brampton last year.

“There are a lot of variations of careless driving, and if you actually kill someone there should be a much steeper penalty,†said Bowles, who created an online petition pushing for tougher penalties at familiesfightingcarelessdriving.com.

Bowles’ petition — which has more than 2,000 signatures — calls for a new law specifically for careless driving causing death, which would include automatic jail sentences and a spectrum of stiffer penalties.

Although the cyclist in this case was given the minimum fine, the injured woman or her family may pursue a civil litigation, Smith said.

“He may escape the provincial court for this offence; it doesn’t mean there’s not going to be thousands of thousands of dollars later.â€

Tickets given to cyclists

2008 – 3629

2009 – 4010

2010 – 6773

2011 – 2464 (as of May 31)

Source: Toronto police (tickets include equipment infractions)
And lastly, from the National Post, an article indicating Toronto having one of the highest collision rates involving cars and bikes & pedestrians: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/05/25/toronto-has-countrys-highest-rate-of-car-collisions-with-bikes-pedestrians/

Toronto has one of Canada’s highest rate of car collisions with bikes, pedestrians

Natalie Alcoba May 25, 2011 – 7:35 PM ET | Last Updated: May 26, 2011 10:34 AM ET

As Toronto gears up for a debate over physically separated bike lanes, new sobering statistics show the city has among the highest rate of cyclist collisions in the country.

The rate of pedestrians colliding with vehicles also tops a chart of major Canadian cities, according to recently released statistics by the city. Data for all cities was not available.

“We don’t know why Toronto is different from these other jurisdictions,†said Mike Brady, manager of traffic safety at the municipality. “My guess is our mode of travel mixture is very different. We may actually have more pedestrians moving around in a day-to-day environment.â€



The city does what it can to improve the conditions for road users, said Mr. Brady, with better marked crosswalks and pedestrian countdown signals at intersections.

“Cycling infrastructure has come an awful long way,†he said, although many would say not far enough. With that in mind, the city’s public works and infrastructure committee, chaired by Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, is expecting a report next month that proposes “the development and implementation of a continuous separated bike-lane network in the downtown during the current term of council.â€

But it’s not just about city infrastructure, and Mr. Brady hopes the latest statistics make road users more aware of their surroundings. They show, for example, that the most common kind of collision between four and two wheels involves one side swiping the other; the second most common is a cyclist striking a car’s open door.

Knowing this may help remind people to stick to the lane they are in, or check a rearview mirror before opening a car door.

Mr. Brady also points to 50 years of statistics to show that things are getting better. Before the 1990s, there were two outcomes of a pedestrian collision: injury or death. Now there’s a small, but important, third category: those who don’t get injured at all.
 

dt_toronto_geek

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Add to that list those motorized mobile chairs that fly along the sidewalks at crazy speeds!

The bottom line here is we need two things:
1) a real network of truly separated bicycle lanes that taxi's, courier trucks and such cannot get into, and
2) stricter enforcement for those who ride bicycles on sidewalks or who disobey the highway traffic act (I still support licensing of each cyclist over age 16 just like for a car, and a license plate on every bicycle)
 

James

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2) stricter enforcement for those who ride bicycles on sidewalks or who disobey the highway traffic act (I still support licensing of each cyclist over age 16 just like for a car, and a license plate on every bicycle)
I wholeheartedly agree with this one. We absolutely have to have registration and traceability for cyclists if they are to share the road with automobiles. The anonymity of riding a bike enables one to be more aggressive than one would otherwise be.

One interesting thing about the taxi-skateboard issue though is that a skateboard is not considered a road vehicle and therefore must actually be used on a sidewalk. In other words, the longboarder who was hit by the taxi driver was actually riding it illegally. Not sure how this affects the outcome of this incident.
 

RC8

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Cabbies can tell you horror stories? Really?

I've almost been hit by at least 5 cabs this year riding my bike legally. One of them did so while both passing a car on the right and breaking the speed limit.

If a car hits a bike/pedestrian/anything the driver should be held guilty no matter what. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian same thing.

Walking freely should be considered nothing short of sacred in my opinion. Cyclists and drivers should always accommodate pedestrians and drivers should accommodate cyclists. Cycling and walking are healthy pollution-free energy efficient and financially sound ways of getting oneself from one place to another. Taking the streetcar/subway is less so, but there's a case to be made for it. Driving... not so.

I don't think we should ban driving or anything, but we should focus most of our infrastructure elsewhere.

P.S. I don't drive right now but when I used to I NEVER, for example, honked at a pedestrian for jay-walking. I didn't even realise crossing the street inappropriately was illegal til 5 years ago (the idea was just too absurd to be true). What gives me the right to travel at insane speeds on a space that could be better used by people just because I purchased this big machine to do so?
 
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Electrify

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I don't mind sidewalk riding, but there are two things to keep in mind. First how crowded the sidewalk is compared to the road needs to be considered. I don't mind someone riding on the sidewalk in the suburbs where car traffic is moving 60-80km/h+ and there are only a few people walking, but downtown where cars move slower, there are more pedestrians, and there are bike lanes and/or parked cars providing a buffer then you should grow a pair and ride on the road.

The other thing to keep in mind is that not all bikes are created equally. A $100 bike from Canadian Tire is an entirely different vehicle than a $1000 bike from a specialty store. Regardless of which you choose, you need to ride to the conditions.

I think the best options could be to implement a speed limit when riding on the sidewalk, or at least when pedestrians are present.
 

Electrify

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Cabbies can tell you horror stories? Really?

I've almost been hit by at least 5 cabs this year riding my bike legally. One of them did so while both passing a car on the right and breaking the speed limit.

If a car hits a bike/pedestrian/anything the driver should be held guilty no matter what. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian same thing.

Walking freely should be considered nothing short of sacred in my opinion. Cyclists and drivers should always accommodate pedestrians and drivers should accommodate cyclists. Cycling and walking are healthy pollution-free energy efficient and financially sound ways of getting oneself from one place to another. Taking the streetcar/subway is less so, but there's a case to be made for it. Driving... not so.

I don't think we should ban driving or anything, but we should focus most of our infrastructure elsewhere.
So I can just walk out in traffic and sue the driver? Sweet!
 

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Why are you using a story from almost a year ago in some search for balance, to support the idea that cyclists are as irresponsible as every other user of the road? Cars hit pedestrians all the time, jump sidewalks, take out trees and porches (one damaged the Spadina wavedeck over the winter). These incidents are so common that they never merit more than a morning's comment on the news. There are many reckless cyclists on the road (saw a guy carrying a window air-conditioner on his handlebars down Brimley last week). Dealing with them is a matter of police visibility and enforcement. I wish there were many more tickets handed out for running red lights and riding at night without lights, and fewer blitzes looking for bikes without bells. There are also many reckless automobile drivers - I seldom go for a bike ride along streets where I don't spot several drivers using cellphones. I wish there were many more tickets handed out for that. The difference is the potential damage that can be caused by a car versus a bike. Licensing bikes is folly. Cyclists are no more reckless because they're anonymous than are drivers. Cyclists are very visible and vulnerable relative to drivers, who are enclosed in steel and glass and are gone before you even notice what happened. Try from a bicycle spotting and remembering a license plate when someone in a car throws something at you. Try taking that number to the police and see what they do. Alll licensing will do is keep many casual bicycle riders off their bikes. The conflict on the streets is a result of poor infrastructure, a polarized political culture, and a special kind of Canadian passive aggression. None of that will change anytime soon.
 

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Why are you using a story from almost a year ago in some search for balance, to support the idea that cyclists are as irresponsible as every other user of the road? Cars hit pedestrians all the time, jump sidewalks, take out trees and porches (one damaged the Spadina wavedeck over the winter). These incidents are so common that they never merit more than a morning's comment on the news. There are many reckless cyclists on the road (saw a guy carrying a window air-conditioner on his handlebars down Brimley last week). Dealing with them is a matter of police visibility and enforcement. I wish there were many more tickets handed out for running red lights and riding at night without lights, and fewer blitzes looking for bikes without bells. There are also many reckless automobile drivers - I seldom go for a bike ride along streets where I don't spot several drivers using cellphones. I wish there were many more tickets handed out for that. The difference is the potential damage that can be caused by a car versus a bike. Licensing bikes is folly. Cyclists are no more reckless because they're anonymous than are drivers. Cyclists are very visible and vulnerable relative to drivers, who are enclosed in steel and glass and are gone before you even notice what happened. Try from a bicycle spotting and remembering a license plate when someone in a car throws something at you. Try taking that number to the police and see what they do. Alll licensing will do is keep many casual bicycle riders off their bikes. The conflict on the streets is a result of poor infrastructure, a polarized political culture, and a special kind of Canadian passive aggression. None of that will change anytime soon.
I believe that if both cyclists and drivers are to share the road and abide by the same laws, they should both be subject to the same registration requirements. I'm not pro-car anti-bicycle or vice versa but I believe in a fair and just system. Anyone legally bound to operate their mode of transport on the road should take the same theory and road tests prior to being able to use the road, regardless which mode they choose.
 

timeo

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I believe that if both cyclists and drivers are to share the road and abide by the same laws, they should both be subject to the same registration requirements. I'm not pro-car anti-bicycle or vice versa but I believe in a fair and just system. Anyone legally bound to operate their mode of transport on the road should take the same theory and road tests prior to being able to use the road, regardless which mode they choose.
Eh, should cyclists and drivers share the road? Should they have to abide by the same law? Not sure if they should really.
 

RC8

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I believe that if both cyclists and drivers are to share the road and abide by the same laws, they should both be subject to the same registration requirements. I'm not pro-car anti-bicycle or vice versa but I believe in a fair and just system. Anyone legally bound to operate their mode of transport on the road should take the same theory and road tests prior to being able to use the road, regardless which mode they choose.
That's a very car-centric opinion, I think. Should you pass a test as demanding as those that truck drivers need to pass to drive your Prius just because you are sharing the road with them? It's down to THEM to drive safely around you. It's down to you to drive safely around cyclists and pedestrians, and it's down to cyclists to ride safely around pedestrians.

Once serious infrastructure is built for cyclists (grade-separated bike lanes in most major or parallel to major roads) I'll support licences. How often does a cyclist cause any injuries to others?
 

typezed

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I believe that if both cyclists and drivers are to share the road and abide by the same laws, they should both be subject to the same registration requirements. I'm not pro-car anti-bicycle or vice versa but I believe in a fair and just system. Anyone legally bound to operate their mode of transport on the road should take the same theory and road tests prior to being able to use the road, regardless which mode they choose.
So your plea for us all to get along is really a front for an ideology that accepts the dominance of cars as the norm and expects everything else to conform to its systems. Standard Sun comment crap, calling for bikes to be licensed and insured if they want to be treated like vehicles allowed on the roads. Automobile drivers are required to be tested and licensed because they are operating powerful machines that will kill people if handled incorrectly. Sure, incidents also happen where bikes operated recklessly cause injury, sometimes even death, but the impact of bikes on other users of roads and public spaces is tiny relative to automobiles. For the record, I do own an automobile (just renewed the frickin' insurance tonight). I'm an enthusiastic cyclist and a reluctant, remorseful driver. Honestly, I feel the chances of being ticketed on my bike are much greater than when I'm driving, even though to stay in the flow of traffic I regularly travel 10-20kph over posted speed limits, even though I probably don't come to a full stop behind the painted lines when turning off residential roads, even though I sometimes push yellow lights (because if I didn't someone pushing harder behind me would be very surprised), and even though I try to be a responsible cyclist. Still, I feel it much more likely that I'll one day be caught in a stupid bicycle blitz not putting my foot down at a stop sign. If the day arrives when bikes do require licensing, I will get a license, because I'm a committed cyclist. The people most affected will be those who have a bike in the garage they take out occasionally to ride around the neighbourhood. They'll be forced to either ignore laws or give up cycling, because the hassle of registering won't be worth it for the manner in which they use a bike. And then cycling becomes even more a minority choice, with more people who have no experience of cycling questioning cyclists' right to be on the roads.
 

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I can go along with requiring bicycles to have a licence plate, but requiring the cyclists themselves to be licensed is ridiculous. Would we ban children from riding their bicycles until they're old enough to pass a cycling road test? If not, then why would we start requiring licences at a certain age when presumably peoples' maturity/responsibility/capability in riding their bicycles improves as they get older?

What about visitors to the city? Do we make them take a course and pass a road test before they're allowed to ride their bikes in our city?

The desire to licence cyclists is just a sour grapes response from selfish drivers who don't want to share the road.
 

James

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The desire to licence cyclists is just a sour grapes response from selfish drivers who don't want to share the road.
Ah but alas, how do we change this mentality of drivers in the city? As I mentioned in my original post, "nothing is going to truly change until our attitude and tolerance of each other on the road as individuals change, regardless of what mode of transportation one is utilizing". I see the selfishness and sense of entitlement amongst drivers every day. I also see it in cyclists and pedestrians. I certainly agree that the severity of the actions of someone in a vehicle is much graver than someone on foot, hence the consequences and damages are much more serious, but we need to all go back to basics. The root of the matter is respecting others who share the roads and sidewalks. My agreement that licensing and courses can make a difference is a way to get everybody to start thinking and re-thinking about others on the road.
 

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