Are motorists shirking their responsibility? Yes.

There’s a feeling “out there” that because motorists pay “user fees” for licences and registration as well gas taxes and insurance, that they somehow have more “rights” to the road than everybody else. And that because motorists pay for those things, somehow motorists are more “responsible” that the rest of society which includes lowly cyclists.

Let’s dispel a myth today. It is my assertion that motorists are, in fact, acting much less responsible than they claim, and further, that they are to blame for a lessened quality of our public spaces.

First off, there are plenty of articles about who pays for the roads, including articles on this very blog. I’ll refer the reader there to read these entries, and I won't bother repeating those arguments.

My copy of the driver’s handbook, copyright 2007, has written in the second paragraph of Chapter 1 that would be motorists “have to pass a test” for “driving privileges.” What this means is that everybody has the same and equal right to share the road, but licensed drivers have the privilege of doing so with an insured and registered motor vehicle. That’s all. Somewhere along the way many seemed to have forgotten this.

Licensing fees and registration fees pay are set to cover the service to provide licensing and registration -- barely. Toronto residents who own a car pay an additional tax on top of our vehicle registration, one which raises about $90 million to offset the almost $300 million operating costs and the approximately $360 million in annual capital costs in Toronto’s budget this year. That car drivers finally have to ante up and pay additional fees for the extra wear-and-tear that their heavy vehicles place on our roads is only fair, but does not grant them and additional privilege or rights.

Let’s talk about motorist’s feeling that they’re responsible citizens. There’s an old adage that “Insurance is expensive, until you have to use it.” All motorists are required to have insurance to driver a motor vehicle. The reality is that motorists crash. Because of the strength and weight of their vehicles, they cause extensive and major damage which is usually expensive to repair and/or replace. Carnage is an apt term. Motorists crash into each other, into buildings, signs, poles, trees, barriers, pedestrians, cyclists, all manner of animals (wild and domestic) and everything else that happens to be on, or near, any surface that can be driven on.

It’s sad enough we tolerate animal road-kill. But now motorists treat human victims the same way. Motorists inflict other people with injuries, and then leave the victims to lick their own wounds by making the victims cover their own costs for recovery. Besides the rise of hit-and-run collisions, even when a motorist does stay to face the pathetically low penalties for their negligence, their insurance does not cover the costs to their victims. This means that humans are being treated in a manner similar to road-kill in order to help keep insurance premiums low. Victims of car crashes are subsiding the bad behaviour driver’s exhibit on our streets, and drivers are further subsidizing the worst drivers and keeping them on the road; all in the name of “cheaper insurance.” The scam, the fraud, is not “of the system” but the fraud is the system itself. The Insurance industry refuses to cover the costs they are being paid to cover, and governments are complicit because the insurance industry knows that a government will fall when they don’t keep insurance rates down.

Pedestrians and cyclists cannot cover themselves with supplemental insurance; insurance companies don’t offer this service. Our province won’t mandate it because it would mean recognising the shortfall that they themselves created in our current "the victim pays" insurance system.

Because motorists systemically treat their fellow humans like road kill illustrates how motorists are abdicating their responsibility. These are not responsible people; motorists are people who shirk their responsibility for cheap insurance. Cheap insurance isn’t cheap; ask any crash victim: Most are still suffering after a sub-standard payout -- if they even got one!

Lastly, our roads are shared, public spaces. Why should we have to put on “body armour” to enjoy public spaces? By body armour, I mean the “safety kippahs” that cyclists wear, or the airbag-padded, steel armour that motorist’s don? We want to go outside, not go to war. We’re simply trying to get to the store, to work, to visit with family and friends, or to have some fun -- why should we have have to have body armour to do this? Something is innately wrong with a society that would mandate body armour be worn to enter its public spaces; something is clearly wrong with our society, with our “culture”.

Am I involved with a “war on the car”? No. I’m in a war against the irresponsible motorists who aren't decent enough to clean up after their own messes and require all of us to wear body armour to enter public space. Enough.

Contact your local MPP and also the Minister of Transportation and ask that we stop giving bad, and irresponsible drivers a cheap ride at the expense of the human road kill they create. And further ask them to give more powers to municipalities to create safer spaces for everybody that does not require the use of body armour.

By the way, Bike Snob NYC is another person who compares a bike helmet to a "safety kippah"
See also: Wikipedia 's Kippah entry

Some links about the current Insurance debate:


You don't have to wear a helmet to enter the public space. You only need to wear a helmet if you're going to operate a bicycle.

Think of it as being equivalent to the licensing fee that a car driver has to pay (and which you yourself defend) to put their vehicle in the same public space.

Agreed on all points. Eloquently stated and facts ring true.

Anthony, I'd really like to know more about this, with better statistics.

How much does the maintenance of Ontario & Toronto's roads cost each year?
What percentage of this is spent on roads that bikes are barred from travelling on, like highways?
What percentage of this is paid for by general taxes?
What percentage of this is paid for by car-based taxes (gas, licensing, etc) ?

If cyclists are already subsidizing the cost of roads they are not legally allowed to use, this idea of licensing bikes (to cover costs) could be negated pretty quickly. If we're paying a for large percentage of local road maintenance, but doing an insignificant amount of damage, we're subsidizing them too.

The number of kilometres travelled by bikes, or cost per km (as calculated in the "Who pays for the roads?" article) is irrelevant. We don't only pay for the roads we DO use, we pay for the roads we CAN use.

You write

My copy of the driver’s handbook, copyright 2007, has written in the second paragraph of Chapter 1 that would be motorists “have to pass a test” for “driving privileges.” What this means is that everybody has the same and equal right to share the road, but licensed drivers have the privilege of doing so with an insured and registered motor vehicle. That’s all. Somewhere along the way many seemed to have forgotten this.

Does this imply that one should have a driver's license to ride a bike around? I wasn't aware of this.

Does this imply that one should have a driver's license to ride a bike around?


Many of us who ride a bike also happen to drive; I happen to be one. I like to keep my driving skills up to date, so I have a recent copy of the driver's handbook.

I was using the handbook merely to illustrate the point that driving a motor vehicle is a privilege, and that this is documented in a location which is easily accessible by motorists.

Great, now shrink that down into one or two sentences for me to toss back at the driver endangering my life as he yells out the window about his "rights".

It's impossible to educate about this subject on the fly like that. Makes me bitter.

What about some positive incentives from the gov't for people who aren't pushing the public road and ecological systems to their limits?

Anthony, I'd like to know more about which types of insurance are available to cyclists, from what I gather here nobody in ontario would insure me while i'm on my bicycle? I find it hard to believe state-farm and others don't want to take me out back and hose me down every few months.

Maybe the gov't will make me get a silly little laminated card that claimed i knew what i was doing and thus had a right to drive on the streets(like motorists have) vs my current privileged access...

One of the things that the Toronto Cyclists Union looked into was providing insurance for cyclists. Last thing I heard was that there were some talks with an underwriter. But nothing concrete has come of this; not yet. I imagine that as long as someone is working it things will progress, so it is a matter of when, not if.

Now I have to go asking to find who who was working on this...

Here's a copy of the letter I sent to the MTO Minister...
(the italicized bit is paraphrased, as a link to this page is redundant)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Anthony Humphreys
Date: Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 2:52 PM
Subject: Please don't cheapen insurance to make insurance cheaper

Minster Bradley,

Cheap insurance isn't cheap. I wrote this article explain why I think so.

If you want to get insurance rates down, then remove more of the bad drivers from our roads. A small percentage of drivers account for a very high number of collisions. It is time you stopped making the rest of us pay for their bad driving habits. Removing more of the bad drivers from our roads will reduce the overall number, and also reduce the severity, of crashes and collisions that occur. This will make insurance cheaper.

Making the victims of crashes lick their own wounds, like road kill, is not a solution that a "civil society" would choose. Further, it is an abdication of the responsibility that drivers took on for the privilege of using a motor-vehicle to move through our public spaces.

The OPP have done a wonderful job on our highways in reducing crashes, especially fatal crashes, by enforcing the new street racing laws. And I'm looking forward to the effect's of "Greg's law" kicking in.

I'd prefer that the MTO did much more to reduce the number of crashes and collisions to bring insurance rates down; don't impose the costs of these crashes and collision on the victims.


^please see the comment. comment posted from


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Most cyclists who have homeowner/tenant and/or liability insurance are covered for most negligence acts they do while riding. It is a blanket clause covering your liabilities in general. ie. Your minor child throws a ball and takes out a window, your insurance will pay. This is of course generalization, you need to look at your own policy to see the specifics as they apply to you.

If you are hit by a car, this is dealt with by your car insurance. If you do not have any, then by the driver's insurance company.

If your bike is worth a pretty penny, then you can get a rider under your homeowner/tenant insurance to cover it.

Now if you do not have h/t insurance, talk to a broker about personal liability insurance. This would give you blanket coverage, cover you from anything from your baseball game to riding. No insurance will cover you for intentional acts.

That was heart wrenching and really hit home.
Nice find geoffrey.

If you haven't yet, read geoffrey's posted link above this comment.

Jul 02, 2009 04:30 AM by Kyle G. Brown

Under Ontario proposal, accident rehab benefits would be slashed for many who are injured

Of all the bailouts bequeathed to Canadian companies, there is one of which few people are aware. It's being considered in the recesses of Queen's Park, and would come in the form of new automobile insurance legislation.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario, which regulates the auto insurance industry, conducted a comprehensive review that will affect drivers and passengers all over the province.

Of FSCO's 39 recommendations, one has shocked health professionals. If implemented, car crash victims not classified as "catastrophic" – those most seriously injured – would see their rehabilitation benefits slashed from $100,000 to just $25,000. Such a move would leave thousands of people stranded, without sufficient medical or rehabilitative care.

For many, $25,000 provides sufficient coverage. But to legislate this as a cap for all noncatastrophic accident victims would be to wilfully ignore the thousands of people whose needs far exceed this amount, and to pretend that they don't exist.

True, policyholders could still get up to $100,000 coverage, but in this system they would have to pay more. Few drivers purchase additional accident benefits, and that's unlikely to change in the current economic climate.

Cyclists and pedestrians would be directly affected because they receive standard accident benefits unless they take the unusual move of purchasing extra coverage.

As a cyclist, I was run over by a truck and received numerous injuries – some of which will be permanent. If this proposed cap were law, I would have exhausted all of the funds available for rehabilitative therapy mere months after the accident, long before I would have recovered.

Many people are in such a precarious state in the aftermath of a crash that they need every bit of coverage they can get. The cessation of such vital health care for those who cannot afford more would be disastrous.

By 2005, OHIP had stopped covering physiotherapy and chiropractic care. Most outpatients are not covered for psychological treatment or the therapy they need to learn to speak again after a brain injury. So instead of lining up for public health care, survivors of accidents must submit treatment plans to insurance companies, requesting approval for treatment in the private sector. That call is made not only with an eye to the care required, but to its affordability.

Insurers insist that rising medical costs put them on the brink of financial ruin. There's just one problem with that claim: If the whole industry needs to be overhauled to account for such costs, why do a number of companies continue to make impressive profits? And medical and rehab costs have been rising for many years. Why did insurers not propose a rise in rates a long time ago? Some companies have failed to respond to these obvious market forces and are predictably sinking as a result.

But by no means all. MSA Research, an analytical research firm focused on the Canadian insurance industry, lists the total income of Canadian property and casualty insurance companies in 2008 as more than $2.6 billion. That's down from previous years but still impressive, and after a decade in which insurance industry profits rose continuously from more than $100 million in 2000 to many times that figure in 2007.

But rather than weathering the economic crisis like other industries, auto insurers are asking the government to legislate them out of a downturn.

And they're asking for help without first finding ways to increase efficiency on their own.

Insurance companies spend an enormous amount of money on bewildering bureaucratic procedures that are – even according to FSCO – costly and increasingly difficult to navigate.

They send out "independent examiners" to assess accident victims who have already been assessed, sometimes several times.

It's meant as an occasional check to make sure therapists are not requesting unnecessary treatment. But according to a recent report by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, this corrective measure has become a subindustry in its own right. For every dollar insurance companies spend on treatment, they spend an additional 60 cents or more on assessments alone.

There is a host of other factors too, which have an impact on insurers' performance, from their handling of premiums and payouts, to marketing, forecasts and investments. All of this and more affects insurers' profits, but they have instead drawn apocalyptic graphs of rising medical costs and falling profits, begging governments to step in to rectify the ratios.

This would not be the first time. Back in 2003, insurers persuaded the Ernie Eves government to double the amount insurance companies receive in deductibles. Families whose loved ones were killed or injured must pay insurance companies thousands of dollars out of their settlements. This is a gross injustice, which continues to this day.

To its credit, FSCO recommended the government eliminate deductibles for fatal claims and reduce them for the rest. This would allow more people to access justice without being deterred by the threat of financial penalties.

But by seeking a 75 per cent reduction in accident benefits, insurers are trying to balance their books on the backs of accident victims.

There's no question the system is in need of an overhaul. Insurers are sometimes billed for unnecessary or inappropriate medical assessments. Inexperienced insurance adjusters reject treatment plans without good reason. But before begging for deliverance, insurers should first purge their costly and creaky bureaucracy.

Accident survivors should be given treatment that is reasonable and necessary – not the cheapest and most expedient.

The kind of treatment necessary, and when it should cease, should be determined by close medical scrutiny, not by a crude bottom line.

Cutting off people in need of care would leave them in a state of deep distress. We run the risk of making people suffer not only from untreated physical illnesses, but from the psychological illness that results.

In an effort to save a few thousand dollars, we would have instead a number of people who do not heal, do not return to work and who then depend on a host of public services.

In this scenario, we all end up paying.

Kyle G. Brown is a journalist and year-round cyclist.

Any way you slice it this insurance is not enough assurance

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