September 16, 2023

Safety Ride & Other Provincial Cycling Measures

From September 21 to 24, Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden will be doing the “Safety Ride” from Ottawa to Toronto and holding public consultations in Ottawa, Kingston, Brighton, Oshawa, Scarborough, and Toronto. This ride comes ahead of the return to Queen’s Park on Monday, September 25 where he will be promoting Bill 40 (Moving Ontarian Safely Act). It represents the latest attempt by the Ontario NDP caucus to pass a vulnerable road user law. The previous attempt – Bill 54 – passed second reading in November 2021, but the 2022 election was called before the Standing Committee on Justice Policy could debate it. Let’s recap what this bill does and what other measures the Ontario government should do for cyclists.

What is Bill 40?

For those who aren’t already aware, Bill 40 – and other vulnerable road user bills – impose the following measures in addition to any financial penalties those who kill vulnerable road users would be subject to:

  • Take a driver instruction course
  • Perform 50 to 200 hours of community service related to road safety
  • License suspension until these two actions are done via a probation order
  • Required court attendance for victim impact statements

Patrick Brown with Bike Law Canada advocated for this bill for several years with the first attempts dating back to 2017. The bill was inspired by the lack of financial penalties imposed when vulnerable road users get killed; including when a driver was fined only $300 when she hit (now FFSS spokesperson) Jess Spieker in 2015.

Memorial ride for Dalia Chako on June 20, 2018

Idaho Stop

Another demand that has been popular with Toronto’s cycling community for years – but ramped up since the police were ticketing cyclists in High Park in Summer 2022 – is the Idaho Stop. The Idaho Stop involves treating stop signs as yields to preserve momentum while cycling, though some other jurisdictions took this a step further by allowing traffic signals to be treated as stop signs. Some such as Jason with Not Just Bikes argued for scrapping stop signs altogether in favour of infrastructure changes.

In some cities such as Paris, they allow people who bike to yield at T intersections on a red light.

Leading Bicycle Intervals

Earlier this year, there was another case of police ticketing directed at those who biked when the walk signal was on but the traffic signal was still red. This has prompted calls for law changes that allow people biking to proceed with leading pedestrian intervals (which is allowed in Montréal). Toronto has started adding leading bicycle intervals at some intersections where bicycle signals exist, but nowhere near every street with a bike lane has bicycle signals in place which restricts their implementation.

Reinstate the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program

One early casualty of the Ford government is the cap and trade program which had the unfortunate side effect of killing the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling program which provided funding to municipalities to build out cycling infrastructure. As the climate crisis escalates – as evident by the poor air quality from wildfires earlier this year – this kind of cycling program needs to be reinstated ASAP and made permanent. The federal government has also introduced an active transportation fund, but it’s important to have both provincial and federal governments at the table.

Fix 400-Series Highway Crossings

One long-time pet peeve for people who bike is the consistent resistance by the Ontario government to make their 400-series highway crossings safe for cycling (and walking). These highways act as a real barrier for cycling; especially where on-and-off ramps are concerned. Within Toronto’s city limits, there are only two safe 400-series highway crossings which are at Conlins Road in Scarborough and Eglinton Avenue in Etobicoke. These kind of safe crossings need to be required by default as such bridges, underpasses, and interchanges become due for construction.

Conlins Road is one of only two safe 400-series highway crossings in Toronto

Connect The Rail Trails

Over the past few years, I have been riding some of the longer distance trails with Kitchener to Hamilton and the Lake to Lake Route being the most recent rides. However, there is a need to fill certain trail gaps in order to create a trail network in Southern Ontario which can rival QuĂ©bec’s Route Verte. The Ontario government has a role to play in developing these trails in terms of ensuring connectivity across municipalities along with consistent wayfinding. Through expanding GO Transit service, the Ontario government can make even more of these trails accessible to those who don’t have access to a car.

If you look at the cycling layer east of Peterborough per the below image, you will notice lots of trails leading to Kingston, Ottawa, and even the Québec border. The bones are there; including the abandoned rail lines. We just need the will to link them together and ensure communities such as London are connected.

On To The Safety Ride

While the municipal government remains the primary focus for road safety advocates, the provincial government can do several actions to improve road safety. These include protecting vulnerable road users, legalizing Idaho stops and cyclists using leading pedestrian intervals, ensuring municipalities get active transportation funding, fixing highway crossings, and connecting the trails into a cohesive network.

If you support Bill 40, I encourage you to sign this petition, but also sign the paper version if possible given only those are accepted at Queen’s Park. Those who live in Scarborough and Toronto are encouraged to take part in the “Toronto Ride for Safe Streets” with Toronto East Cyclists and Scarborough Cycles on Sunday, September 24 which will have the following schedule:

UPDATE 2023/09/24: Jun wrote about the Safety Ride which you can read here.

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