I noticed some interesting, updated information in the background info for the Bloor Street Pilot Bike Lanes in regards to mode share and collisions for cycling. Collisions are higher where you'd expect them to be: where more people are cycling. But they don't match up cleanly. If they City is serious about reducing the number of cyclists killed and injured, focusing on the southeastern part of downtown.

First is updated statistics on the cycling mode share:

cycling mode share Toronto 2011
Cycling mode share Toronto 2011. They don't mention that the cyclind mode share of the other 30 wards is a paltry 0.8%. The green line is where the Bloor Street bike lane pilot goes. Source: some group at University of Toronto 2014

Wow! My biggest takeaway is that downtown cycling is approaching 1 in 10 of all trips! (More if we are just looking at Ward 19).

And also a heatmap of cycling collisions in Toronto over a 10 year period:

Cycling collison rates in Toronto 2005-2014
Cycling collison rates in Toronto 2005-2014. Source: Traffic Safety Unit, Transportation Services, City of Toronto.

This is also quite interesting. The hotspots seem to be in the bottom of Ward 20 and top of Ward 28/bottom of Ward 27. Perhaps Richmond and Adelaide and some north/south streets. These results are over a ten year period from before the cycle track installations in the area. I mashed the two together to get a better idea of how they overlap.

Toronto cycling collisions 2005-2014 overlay on cycling modeshare 2011
Toronto cycling collisions 2005-2014 overlay on cycling modeshare 2011

These areas are also areas of much heavier cycling mode share than in other parts of the city which increases the size of "KSI" (Cyclist Killed and Major Injured) as well. But for some reason Ward 19 which is at 11.4% mode share has fewer and smaller hotspots than the bottom of Ward 20 at 8.6% and top of Ward 28 at 5.8%. It is entirely likely that cycling levels have flucuated differently in these wards but I'm willing to bet not a whole lot. So I presume that those two big hotspots are particular areas of concern. And it makes me extra happy that we now have cycle tracks on Richmond and Adelaide. Let's now make them permanent and reinforce them even more. But I'm sure there are other streets of concern in the area. We can't know unless we get better detailed maps or raw data from the City.

Last year Councillor Jaye Robinson, Chair the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee said:

In 2014, 51 Torontonians were killed and many more were seriously injured in traffic crashes. As a city, we can and must do better, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, our most vulnerable road users.

We’re going to build on what’s worked in other jurisdictions and the plan will focus on international best practices from comparable jurisdictions, such as Vision Zero.

Such a visionary. What a tough stance in support of human life. Today, however, Robinson voted against the proposed pilot project that would put bike lanes on Bloor Street for over 2 km and study the impact. With her Vision Zero proposal last year Robinson even suggested that expanding the bike network would be part of the approach. Except, when it comes down to making actual decisions and trade-offs, it appears as Robinson waffles. And yet again driver convenience wins out over human lives and safety.

Robinson's reason for voting against the bike lanes? She claimed:

@CycleToronto @stephenholyday To clarify, my intent was to bring the report fwd to Council for a more fulsome debate and to get more info.

It's almost like she's saying the whole point of PWIC is to just skip thinking about policy and just pass everything on to council. Why even have committees at all? Let the mayor take the heat for this!

If Robinson wants to be visionary she needs to stop passing the buck and take a stand herself.

American Landscape by Jan Anders Nelson
American Landscape by Jan Anders Nelson (Wikimedia Commons).

In one of his more recent screeds against cycling, Jim Kenzie, the Star's car reviewer, wrote this chilling sentence in a screed against bicycling: "We still kill more pedestrians and motorists on Toronto roads than we do cyclists."

We shouldn't kill anybody. I'll say that again: we shouldn't kill anyone. We should never accept death as a price for anything. Any violent death, any injury, in the course of any activity means that something went wrong and needs correction. When it comes to automotive technology, and the million odd deaths it causes world-wide, we need to do a lot of correcting. We need a safety culture.

The safety cultures I know best, marine and aviation, have four defining principles, summed up in four words: priority, transparency, authority, and accountability.

Start with priority, as in the safety of life has absolute priority. Nothing trumps the word unsafe. Not convenient, not fast, not efficient, not cost-effective. Having a deadline does not justify an unsafe act. Money does not justify a lack of safety.

In aviation and marine activities, that goes without saying. In a sane and decent road culture, it would go without saying as well. We do not need to pay road tolls in blood. Not only does trading a certain number of deaths for speed and convenience create a dire moral calculus: when we pay the price in lives, we don't get the convenience or the speed. If an aircraft cannot take of safely, it does not take off. That not only saves lives, it saves money and in the long run, it saves time as well. Yet somehow, a callous, or perhaps fatalistic attitude finds its way into our discussion of road safety.

We cannot make safety a meaningful priority without transparency, broadly defined. Transparency means first making transparent what has failed, then making that information widely available. It means not only the publication of information, but also the collection of that information. It means adequately investigating every loss of life incident, every personal injury accident. It means making public what happened, who died or suffered an injury, and who else the incident involved. Privacy should apply here only in very limited circumstances. What we do on the public roads we do in public, and by definition we cannot make claims of privacy for public actions. Nor should the authorities tasked with investigating incidents settle for an inadequate investigation to save money or to get the roads open quickly. In fact, to avoid compromising investigations in order to appease impatient drivers, the Highway Traffic Act should specify a minimum road closure for any accident that causes a death. Once the accident investigation team arrives, the clock starts; they have as much time as they need to gather evidence, but all the affected lanes and a buffer lane must remain closed for a minimum period.

Authority: in the marine and aviation safety cultures, the authority to do whatever it takes to ensure a safe flight or a safe voyage, rests with the person who has the most at stake and the greatest ability to assess any situation: the pilot in command of an aircraft or the commander of a vessel. In contrast, on our roads the state, primarily through the police, operates as a surrogate parent to drivers. This does not work. If drivers have no authority, neither law nor custom can really hold them accountable. Treating the nearest traffic police office as the actual commander in charge of each car simply relieves the person at the steering wheel and brake pedal of their responsibility. And whatever expertise traffic police officers bring to their work, they cannot possibly supervise all drivers. I propose simple addition to the highway traffic act: no peace officer shall issue, and the courts shall penalize no road user for failing to obey, any unsafe order.

That brings us to accountability. Pilots and mariners have the authority to operate safely, and both law and custom lays upon them an unconditional responsibility for doing so. To the excuse of ignorance, the safety culture replies: you had a responsibility to know. To the excuse of a mechanical failure, the safety culture replies that a pilot or captain has a responsibility to ensure the mechanical and structural integrity of the ship or aircraft in their care. Anyone who operates a two tonne steel bomb in public has an obligation to ensure the safety of their vehicle, to know or learn the relevant road conditions, and to conduct themselves in a safe manner. And a road crash truly arises from circumstances no reasonable preparation could have avoided, that usually changes the target of accountability. If the road design makes it impossible
for any driver to operate safely, then the road design needs to change. In the case of a mechanical failure, the vehicle manufacturer has an obligation to correct the problem.

If faults go uncorrected, then dangerous vehicles have no place on the road, and the government should not register them. When accident investigations implicate infrastructure, then authorities responsible for that infrastructure have a responsibility to do whatever makes that infrastructure safe, whether that means changing the infrastructure itself, changing the conditions for using it, or even closing it to traffic altogether.

But most crashes happen because someone made a mistake, often a culpable mistake. Here the infrastructure and economy we have built around the automobile makes accountability difficult to enforce. The economics of motoring led successive governments to reduce the requirements for a driving license to a level nearly anyone could meet, while the design of cities and suburbs made use of a car necessary for daily life. A permanent revocation of a driving license, as well as a long suspension, appears to many as an extended house arrest.

Here again, aviation provides a model: the penalty for most safety errors in aviation consists of more training. I propose a back-end graduation on licensing: for most relatively minor offences, such as careless driving or careless driving causing injury, the license of the driver at fault should reset to the lowest level, and the driver should then have the burden of going through the training process again.

For more severe culpability, particularly dangerous driving causing injury or death, the law should provide a restricted license. A restricted driver would have the right to drive directly to the closest available medical facility with a sick or injured family member. For all other trips, whether shopping, commuting to work, or otherwise, the holder of a restricted license would have to get specific permission, providing the route, time, reason, and the reason public transit would not suffice for the trip. Such a license would rule out pleasure driving; it would also come with the same restriction on alcohol as a graduated license: drivers would be required to have no alcohol in their systems while operating a vehicle, period. This may seem harsh, but it strikes a middle way between prohibition on driving and full restoration of driving privileges.

We do not have to treat death on the roads the way we treat our mortality, as inevitable. We can have a safety culture, and a properly implemented safety culture does have the potential to reduce if not eliminate the carnage we see on our roads today.