Dog-shaped tour of Toronto

I was rooting through my old files and came across the 115 km route I mapped out around Toronto almost a decade ago (pdf). (The dog shape is purely coincidental). I was working at the City that summer as a Cycling Ambassador—mostly we went to events and gave out maps and info but we got a brief chance to create our own promotional event. I worked on this route. However, because of liability and insurance reasons I never did run a tour while working for the City. But I managed to do it once on my own time as a Bike Month event. There have been some improvements to suburban and urban cycling infrastructure (such as the Finch Hydro Corridor Trail) and Richmond/Adelaide cycle tracks) that it could be worth it to update this route to take in some of those sights.

It's really hard to come up with good continuous bike routes in the burbs, particularly Scarborough. I can't blame people for just riding on the sidewalk instead of trying to search all the weaving residential streets to see which ones help get them to their destination and avoid those which dead-end. Even with this route, there are large chunks of Toronto still to be explored, including at least of Scarborough and southern Etobicoke.

Feel free to print this turn-by-turn booklet, share it, clip it to your bike. And go explore!

David Stern, the owner of the Queen Mother Café—with support of a group of pro-cycling lawyers— has asked the province to reconsider the John Street EA in light of new information—namely a professionally-conducted traffic count—that shows that bike traffic is much higher than the 2% that was quoted in the EA. Cycle Toronto Ward 20 and the Toronto Bicycling Network have written letters in support.

But Councillor Joe Cressy is not backing down. Instead he is fully supporting the EA championed by his predecessor, Adam Vaughan, and also has been touting the improvements the City is making to the adjacent Peter-Soho route as an alternative to cycling on John.

I've gone into a lot of detail on deficiencies of the John Street plan over the last few years (here, here, here for example). In short, the problem with the City's current plan for John Street is that it ignores people biking and gives them no space; and it pretends to be a "promenade" for pedestrians while doing nothing about the heavy car traffic. Even though the City staff don't spell it out, they were heavily influenced by the "shared space" initiatives in places like the UK. Shared space has come under increasing push back from people biking, people with disabilities and older people as dangerous designs (thanks to @SharkDancing for the source).

As one person who bikes regularly through the UK's shared space aptly said:

"Shared space is a false promise with poor delivery … sharing is never on equal terms - as a confident but anxious cyclist, I usually win the sharing transactions, but if a particular driver doesn’t want to yield, they won’t."

The shared space scheme on John Street was backed up by some faulty numbers. The Ward 20 cyclists conducted a professional traffic count showing some substantial numbers of people biking instead of driving on John:

[P]rofessional traffic counts completed at the intersection of John and Queen Street West in September 2016 show bicycle commuters account for 71.8% of all road traffic headed south and 55.9% headed north at the weekday morning peak. During the afternoon peak commuting hour, bicycle commuters accounted for 41.2% of all traffic heading south and 74.3% of all traffic headed north. It is likely that the 2014 installation of separated bicycle lanes on two arterial roads that cross John Street have promoted the use of active transportation on John Street.

These numbers are radically different from the suspicious ones reported on early on in the EA process, where City staff claimed that no matter the day or time, the bike count remained at a flat 2%. This number was easily disproved at the time with volunteers counting and even by the data the City releases.

The Peter-Soho Alternative?

Councillor Cressy to his credit has been working harder on the Peter-Soho alternative than his predecessor:

Just last year, we also installed brand new separated bike lanes on Peter Street, to connect with the heavily used Richmond-Adelaide cycle tracks. Over the past two years, we've been working hard to address safety at the jogged intersection at Queen and Soho, to provide a safe connection between the new Peter St. lanes, and the Soho-Phoebe-Beverley route. We're happy to announce the design for a two-stage southbound crossing, and that it will be installed next year. We're working hard with City staff to finalize the northbound solution at the same intersection, and will continue to communicate updates as we finish this work.

Peter Soho
Bike box on Queen for southbound cyclists from Soho.

What an awkward crossing. So anyone just trying to cross Queen street from the north side to the south side will have to do it in two stages? Has the City provided estimated time required for crossing Queen at Peter-Soho compared to John? It looks like it could be much higher on average.

Six years after cyclists started offering ideas to City staff on how to improve the intersection, both in public and in private meetings, staff still haven't got any firm plans for improving the experience for northbound cyclists. I imagine we'll see lots of conflicts where cyclists are allowed to go northbound but all car drivers must turn right. It's not going to be pretty.

It was six years ago that Dave Meslin presented a creative solution to eliminate the jog with a bike path that cuts through the sidewalk and building. Although it was unlikely to happen, it started a conversation with City staff. But looks like staff never got around to firming up any plans. If the City is trying to push cyclists off John Street, why are they dragging their heels on the alternatives?

I appreciate the work Cressy has been putting into this, but I don't believe these are zero-sum options. The request to reopen the EA isn't presupposing how John should look. It is a request that the EA be reopened so that the City can properly account for the safety of cyclists this time. We've already had the negative experience of the pilots on John which squeezed cyclists next to cars.

Squeezed on John
Photo by Ian Flett.

Everyone knows that there's no way Petter-Soho can match the convenience and comfort of John Street, despite the City's attempts to improve the cycling experience on it. Unless the City makes cycling on John Street truly awful (or if it's closed off during a rare street closure) we'll still see lots of people choosing to bike on John over Peter-Soho.

 

Collision

This is a story about Daniel, his wrecked bike, the insurance company of the driver who hit him, and his struggle to get compensated. (Photo credit: Jari Schroderus)

A driver collided with Daniel and totalled his bicycle. Thankfully Daniel was mostly unhurt. Daniel had recently arrived from Germany and didn't have much money to buy himself a new bike. Not being Canadian, Daniel wasn't aware of all the details of Canadian law and insurance, but he made up for it with determination. Daniel found my page on how to make claims against the driver's car insurance (all credit to Patrick Brown from McLeish Orlando for writing up some excellent advice) and we worked together to find a solution: get money for Daniel's totalled bike. We hope this can help others who end up in the same situation.

Daniel called the driver's insurance company. The agent, either intentionally or foolishly, told Daniel that he would need to get a lawyer in order to make a claim. This is completely wrong and the agent should have been reprimanded for giving patently false information. After we chatted I had found that the Financial Services Commision of Ontario would be able to help Daniel pursue the matter. Daniel emailed the FSCO and got in contact with the complaint officer who got the stone rolling. Here's the result:

so after a long two weeks and loads of phone calls and emails: I finally have approval that the damages on my bike get paid for by the car owners insurance. Let me run you by the steps I had to go through so you can update the information on your webpage so everyone knows how to proceed in a situation like this.

After your last email I contacted the fsco - as you suggested. They pointed me to this webpage http://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/insurance/complaints/pages/default.aspx. I went ahead and filed a complaint with the insurance companies complaint officer. This was addressed to very quickly and they filed a complaint for me. So whatever I got told on the phone that I need to get a lawyer was just wrong and even the insurance company apologized for the person giving me the wrong information (I don`t know if this is the standard procedure insurance companies go through on the phone just to scare people off - so it might be worth mentioning that).

I made clear that I only wanted the repair costs for my bike to be covered which does not seem to be standard over here (I assume this is why car insurances are so rediculously expensive in Canada) and the officer that was in charge of the claim was really surprised and approved my $590 CAD claim for a 5 year old originally priced at $1100 CAD bike within 2 hours. I am currently only waiting for the release form that will get mailed to me after which they send me a cheque to get my bike repaired. If you would want to claim anything concerning reimbursements for injuries or maybe compensation for the time you were not able to work: I cannot say too much about if that would go as smooth but I guess the filing the claim procedure would stay the same.

The fsco also pointed me to this page http://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/auto/mvacf/Pages/mvacf_property.aspx which would be suitable for hit and runs or in case the driver is not insured. They offered to file a claim but I decided to go through the drivers insurance instead.

I hope updating the information on your webpage helps more people (although I rather hope less people get hit and more drivers use their eyes/mirrors more often - but accidents happen anyways).

I've often had people email me after they've been in a fall or collision and I try my best to point them to resources, lawyers or other people who can help. I had asked Daniel to let me know how things went. It was satisfying for me to see some resolution for Daniel. It's no small task to keep dogging insurance companies and navigate the bureaucracy of government and corporations.

For some background, Daniel's email:

Hi,

I read through the information you provide towards "http://www.ibiketo.ca/guide/how-tos/how-claim-insurance". As I was in an accident today where the driver went into my lane and hit me (which he does not admit and stated to police that he was in his lane) I was wondering how
to proceed in this matter. No witnesses were there as every car just drove on that witnessed it. So its his word against mine. I was wondering if you could shed some light in the dark on if I have to get a lawyer to actually get money for the damages caused to my bike.

Thanks in advance

Daniel

I prefer to call it a collision since "accident" presupposes that there was nothing that could have been done differently. That usually only applies in the case of meteors falling out of the sky and not with motor vehicles driven with human agency.

After I explained the no-fault insurance part, Daniel got back to me after he reached a dead end where the insurance agent suspiciously derailed him from making a claim:

Hi Herb,

sorry to bother you again but I tried to contact the insurance today and they are saying that I can not put a claim in in person but would have to go through a Lawyer - which would most probably cost me more then the parts  to repair my bike themselves. I am kind of lost in this (just moved here 6 months ago from Germany - where things are handled very differently as in the police would make sure the drivers insurance pays any damage caused to the cyclists bike) and I am kind of lost in this - my first and hopefully last - legal matter.

If you find a minute to advise me on how I can proceed with filing that claim - I`d greatly appreciate this! My Fork, front wheel and a few bits and bobs are bend/broken and at the moment I am looking at $400CAD to replace the parts. I really feel stupid for not just calling an ambulance and sueing the person that hit me - but thats not who I am. I thought everyone that makes a mistake would pay for the damage they cause (or at least the insurance). But over here things seem to go very different - from what I am experiencing.

Happily, once I insisted that insurance claims could be made without lawyers, Daniel started getting some results slowly as you read at the top. Indeed, the whole point of no-fault insurance was to avoid getting lawyers involved! I strongly suspect that Daniel is right that either it's standard procedure in this company or this individual agent's procedure to try to scare people away from making claims with lying.

When asking Daniel if I could print our conversation, I also asked him if he had anything else to add so others can hopefully avoid the same trials and tribulations. Daniel replied:

[C]yclists should NEVER leave the scene of the accident (which I unfortunately did). Gather as much information as possible if you are able to. Get as many witnesses as possible (and their details).

I guess if I would have been hurt in the accident and it would have come to a court case I would have not been lucky as I did not have any witnesses, the driver said he stuck to his lane (which is a lie), and we left the scene to go to a bikeshop to get a quote for the damages on the bike (the driver wanted to give me $100 which would not even have covered the replacement front wheel). The only thing I was able to collect as evidence later was the marks of my tire on the asphalt from locking my back wheel.

Another thing cyclists should do is call the police (911 will do but if noone is injured call 416-808-2222 and wait - it took about 1.5 hours in my case) because without a accident report from an officer it could also get messy. The officer was really friendly and told me that I might even have to sue the driver because its his word against mine (as the tire marks could have come from anyone) - which shows that even the police can be misinformed on how the law sees this.

All this wouldn`t have happened if I would have taken a picture of the accident scene, had witnesses or anything else to prove that it was not my fault.

After reading up on other webpages: you should also - even if you do not need a doctor/ambulance right away - keep documentation of your injuries as in photographing cuts, bruises, etc regularly in case something turns out to be worse then you thought later.

All excellent advice. After being in some minor and major collisions myself, I've gotten more savvy on just taking a breather. The driver might want to leave but you're in no obligation to let them go. On the contrary, call 911 and tell them you've been in a collision and that you might have injuries (you often can't tell when pumped up on adrenalin). Take photos. Get the driver's documents. FInd witnesses and get their phone numbers. Who cares if it takes hours. You never know if the next day you find out you've got a concussion or some other injury. Or damage you didn't see in the moment. Get a lawyer or advice from a lawyer. You shouldn't feel embarrased or ashamed for doing a thorough job of protecting yourself. We're already vulnerable enough as people on bikes or foot in a car-centric world.