It is the middle of a busy and eventful cycling season. Cycling issues seem to be in the news every week. And, all too often, it is bad news.
This past month, Canada Post was making the news for all the wrong reasons. According to the Toronto Police Service’s safe cycling champion, Kyle Ashley, Canada Post vehicles routinely block bike lanes when making deliveries. This situation has become such a chronic problem, that Mayor John Tory was forced to wade in; apparently calling Canada Post and requesting that they start taking cycling safety “seriously”.
In May, the news goes from bad to worse. A 5-year old boy was killed when riding on a recreational trail maintained by the City of Toronto. Again, the Mayor’s office was called on to respond, and admitted that “it is past time for us to have a hard look at safety on these trails.” As a result, City staff launched a safety review of Toronto’s trails.
Anyone who represents accident victims will know that from June to September we deal with an enormous increase in calls involving cyclists. Unfortunately, accidents involving cyclists often involve very serious injuries, including brain injuries, spinal injuries, and severe fractures.
With more and more people taking up cycling as a way to avoid Toronto gridlock, we are seeing an enormous increase in calls regarding injuries caused by unsafe cycling infrastructure. For people on the frontlines, it is painfully obvious that the City is woefully behind in creating safe cycling options. While actions against the City can be difficult, this difficulty is balanced by the fact that the Defendant has incredibly deep pockets. And, until the City responds with creative and ambitious plans to meaningfully increase cyclist safety, it is going to continue to have significant exposure.
While cases against individual drivers are more common, municipalities can be (and have been) found liable. For example, they can be found liable for inadequately maintained cycling infrastructure or unsafely designed infrastructure. Cyclist v. City of Toronto is here to stay, at least until the City finds the political will to stand up for cyclists and ensure their safety.