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Collisions stats need careful interpretation, not banner headlines
30.08.09 by Buffalo Bill

It’s easy to make sweeping generalisations, which are apparently supported by the ‘facts’, such as this one, made by a doctor, who practises in Toronto, which has been published to the web here.

While motorists often accuse cyclists of being the cause of bike-car accidents, a Toronto analysis of 2572 police collision reports (Table 1) demonstrates that this is actually not the case. The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection controlled by a stop sign or red light, and either failing to stop properly, or proceeding before it was safe to do so.

However, a closer reading of the study1 on which this statement is based shows that the figures, apart from being 10 years old, show an underlying problem with a particular type of cyclist behaviour which, when combined with bad driving, produces the rates of collision found in the study.

In just over half of these crashes, the cyclist was struck while crossing the intersection within the pedestrian crosswalk. Drivers in a hurry tend to approach intersections quickly, often without stopping until they have already entered the crosswalk area… Cyclists between the ages of 10 and 20 years of age were highly over-represented in this type of collision. Young cyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks in Toronto, but they should be taught that walking across intersections increases their own safety, as well as the comfort of pedestrians. It is likely that this age group generally lacks the cycling experience that might help them anticipate motorist behaviour at intersections.

So in other words, young cyclists (who are allowed to use the sidewalks legally in TO), exit the sidewalk, and are hit by careless motorists. Now, I am not saying that the stats show the opposite of the generalisation made above, but they require more nuanced exposition than a simple ‘car drivers are always at fault’. I mean, cars suck, yes, but there’s a bit more to be said than that.

1 Conflicts Between Cyclists and Motorists in Toronto, Canada. David Tomlinson. Available as a PDF here

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  1. yep, gotta be impartial otherwise its just a load of biased bullshit that will be dismissed


    — lee    30 August 2009, 13:42    #
  2. But don’t mistake something that you can do to prevent/avoid an accident as meaning you are responsible if you don’t do it.

    i.e. riding defensively and anticipating the actions and bad behaviour of others can be helpful to keep out of trouble – that doesn’t mean that if you don’t ride defensively you are at fault if a car hits you when you had right of way.


    — No    3 September 2009, 13:56    #
  3. that’s not what I said above – and not something I have ever said, if you take a look.


    — Bill    3 September 2009, 14:31    #
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