Curbing dangerous cyclists

Hit twice, victim presses for regulation, enforcement

After being run down twice by cyclists who ran red lights, Emily Niedoba hopes the city will crack down on cyclists who flagrantly ignore the rules of the road.

Niedoba, who says she sustained brain injuries, was initially hit by a cyclist in Yorkville who didn’t even bother to check her condition as she lay on the street.

Essentially, she says, it’s a hit and run. And according to the Highway Traffic Act, cyclists are subjected to the same laws as motorists.
“I have extreme anxiety even crossing the street,” said Niedoba.

In June, she was knocked over by a second cyclist who ignored a red light at Yonge Street and Rosehill Avenue.

In another incident in July, a woman had her skull cracked after she was hit by a cyclist near Huron Street and Dundas Street West. The cyclist was charged under the Highway Traffic Act.

Earlier this summer, police ran random checks and fined cyclists for ignoring lights, stop signs and for not having lights and bells on their bikes.

Niedoba said that her second accident added to her woes and she now sees doctors several times a week. She’s also receiving care from Sunnybrook Hospital’s neuro-trauma centre.

She plans to present a proposal to her Ward 22 councillor, Josh Matlow, which advocates for mandatory insuring and licensing of cyclists above a certain age.

Matlow said that he shares her concerns and he agrees more enforcement and better education will help prevent similar incidents.

“Kids need to learn early to share the road respectfully,” he said. “If it’s taught in school, it becomes practice to them.”

However, Adrienne Batra, press secretary to Mayor Rob Ford, said the issue is complicated and there isn’t a quick fix. “We appreciate her recommendations and I will ensure our executive committee chair is aware of the issue and maybe there are some solutions…. But there’s no silver bullet solution.”

Manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for the city, Daniel Egan, says the issue of licensing surfaces every few years, but he doesn’t think it will become a priority in the near future, in part because of the large bureaucracy it would create.

At one time, cyclists were issued licences by the city. The program, which ran from 1935–1957, was dropped because relations between children and police officers left negative impressions.

The city decided it was a costly and inefficient program and showed little change in cyclists’ behaviour.

Niedoba thinks existing laws should be strengthened to deter errant cyclists. Fines should cost as much as the ones given to motorists and include the possibility of jail time, she says.

If a cyclist holds a licence for a vehicle, they should lose demerit points, she says. If they don’t have a licence, make it count toward any future licences.

Juveniles should face consequences, too. Niedoba recommends dummy licences for people under 16, which will go onto a dummy record.

“Make it serious because it is a serious offence,” she said.

The most a cyclist can be fined is $400 if charged with dangerous driving.

The man who hit Niedoba was fined $180.

Spokesperson for Toronto Police Traffic Services Hugh Smith said that police do enforce the Highway Traffic Act for cyclists, but isn’t sure how many charges are laid because officers do not always indicate whether the offender is a cyclist in the data that is sent to the city analyst.

Meanwhile, Niedoba is concentrating on her recovery. She hopes to meet with Matlow soon to discuss her concerns in the hope that she’ll be the last victim of irresponsible cyclists.

She’s also begun collecting other people’s stories through her Facebook group, Wheelsafecity Project and her blog at wheelsafecityproject.blogspot.com.

“Even if one accident can be prevented, I’ll be happy,” she said.


About this article:

By: Alexandra Bosanac
Posted: Aug 29 2011 7:02 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto
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