02

Blog

Bad “bike accident” reporting in Canada

Victim blaming persists.

As a bike crash lawyer, I have seen far too many crashes that get unfairly reported when a vulnerable road user such as a cyclist or pedestrian is involved.  There is a tendency to turn the initial focus on the conduct of the victim.   This sets up a situation of victim blaming and promotes the already negative culture that exists toward vulnerable road users.  Unfortunately, this culture spills over into our court system and creates an erroneous perception by the public as to what is causing these deaths and injuries.

Things have not improved; in fact, vulnerable road user fatalities are increasing.  There has been a decrease in fatalities involving driver on driver collisions; however this doesn’t correspond to cyclists and pedestrians – we have already seen 23 deaths in 2016.  Responsibility for crashes is being diluted and drivers are increasingly becoming more distracted.  

In the Coroner’s Review of Cycling Deaths, it was found that 62% of fatalities are a result of driver misconduct, including speeding, failing to yield and distracted driving. When it comes to pedestrian death, it was strikingly apparent that speed kills. When the Coroner’s Office gave its recommendation as to what will prevent these deaths, it listed as number one, the need for infrastructure.  But despite the stats, crashes continue to be reported by focusing on the conduct of the victim.  

Language is important.  There is a reason we call it a “plane crash” and not a “plane accident.”  To understand the problem, one can consider the following reporting issues:

  • Despite every death of a vulnerable road user being listed as “preventable” by our Chief Coroner, reporting continues to use the word “accident.”  This softens an otherwise alarming problem.  It excuses the driver’s negligent actions and justifies deficient infrastructure.  
  • What the cyclist was wearing, helmet choices, and whether or not they had lights on their bike are usually mentioned in these reports even when they play little or no role in the crash.  While it is a common question to ask, this shifts our thinking to what the cyclist could have done to prevent the crash and it encourages victim blaming.  
  • The use of “car struck cyclist” rather than “driver” or “person” is also very common.  This shields the fact that a human was responsible for the crash.  Could you imagine the absurdity if unintentional or intentional gun violence was reported in the same manner?  “A gun shot the bystander.”
  • A bicycle “collided with” a car makes it seem as though the rider hit a stationary car, rather than a moving vehicle crashing into them.  Again, this twists the focus of blame on the cyclist, rather than the driver.
  • Although many drivers are traveling in excess of the speed limit, the speed of the driver is seldom reported in a crash with a cyclist or pedestrian unless it is extreme or the driver is racing.  Meanwhile, the speed of a cyclist which is generally within the speed limit is frequently reported as “fast.” By ignoring a driver’s speed of 5 or 10 km’s over the limit in reporting a crash we are only enhancing a culture that says speeding is okay.  

A coalition of walking, cyclist and pedestrian advocates including Walk Toronto, Cycle Toronto and ARC are meeting with Toronto Police Traffic Services to talk about the way crashes are reported.  We feel that by opening the lines of communication we will be able to discuss how reporting influences the public and how it can change so that we can work to transform that negative culture, and hopefully develop laws that protect cyclists and pedestrians and create a culture where all road users share the road safely.  

Bike Law Canada is represented by Patrick Brown, a cyclist, advocate, and bike crash lawyer.

Comments

Brendan Kevenides Jun 04, 2018

At sea a boat under power must give way to a more vulnerable craft.  The law requires that a power driven vessel give way to a sailing vessel.  A sail boat must give way to a craft engaged in fishing. These simple rules are consistent with the maxim that with greater power comes greater responsibility. […]

Read More
Commuter Bike
Bruce Hagen May 29, 2018

Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home that’s closer to my office, which has allowed me to start commuting by bike.  I rode my bike to and from my office 4 consecutive days before my schedule forced me back into the car. My hope and plan is to commute by bike at […]

Read More
Pat Brown May 10, 2018

Strength, ambition, and courage are just a few words that come to mind when we think of Anthony Lue.  Growing up, Anthony enjoyed playing competitive sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball and mountain biking, but his true passion was discovered on his high school track.    After winning gold for 100m hurdles at the provincial championships […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 30, 2018

Following a horrific bicycle crash in 2016, Dr. Michael Rifkin has become a new type of bicycling advocate — one who is deeply committed to ending distracted driving. Read his op-ed on Making Distracted Driving in Maine Taboo here. Dr. Rifkin’s piece reminds us that we can be distracted by our phones and other electronic devices even […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 26, 2018

On November 21, 2017, I saw a TV news story about how the Broomfield District Attorney’s Office was routinely offering lax plea deals to drivers that injure cyclists.  In bicycle crash cases with injuries, the DA was offering plead deals to “broken headlight” or “defective vehicle” charges. A “defective vehicle” sentence is one of the […]

Read More
Atlanta's Bike Czar
Bruce Hagen Apr 19, 2018

Who is looking for a great job in a dynamic city with a great opportunity to make bicycle advocacy not just a passion, but a full time, rewarding and well-paying job?   The City of Atlanta is in search of a a new Chief Bicycle Officer to replace the outgoing CBO, Superstar Becky Katz, who after […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 04, 2018

Piscitello Law – Bike Law PA is pleased to share highlights from the third annual Vision Zero conference, held March 17 in West Philadelphia.  The event was hosted by Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and opening remarks by the Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart encouraged 250 participants to “listen, learn and be inspired….”   Mayor James Kenney […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 03, 2018

The first issue is that many bicycle crashes are not being reported into the State of Maine Crash Database, which leads to incomplete and inaccurate state-wide crash reporting data and arguably also leads to uninformed priority setting and budgetary decisions.  The crashes that are unreported and/or underreported on a state level are sometimes, but not […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Mar 25, 2018

Foundational Principles Bicycles are Traffic and Belong on Maine’s Roadways In Maine, bicycle riders are included within the definition of “traffic” and should be treated as part of Maine’s traffic system.  See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 101 (82).   Rights and Responsibilities In general, a person riding a bicycle in Maine has all of the rights […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Mar 20, 2018

Vision Zero (VZ) is multi-nation initiative with a guiding principle that death and serious injury should not be an acceptable outcome of transportation.  Vision Zero plans often draw attention to flaws within the transportation system such as dangerous traffic patterns, speeding and a lack of sufficient protected bike/pedestrian lanes.  VZ action plans utilize data to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Mar 15, 2018

I will not pretend to speak for all cyclists, but I feel pretty confident in saying that being passed by cars on the road is a primary area of concern. Most of the time there is no problem and the vehicle passes safely. Nevertheless, I personally have been “buzzed” more times than I wish were […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Mar 14, 2018

Georgia Bicycle Laws   I find myself in what some people might describe as an odd position.  As a lawyer, I represent people who have suffered injuries while riding bicycles due to the negligent actions of others, mainly car drivers.   However, as an advocate for safe cycling, I spend a lot of time trying to […]

Read More
Load More