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

Atlanta Slow Roll
Bruce Hagen Apr 18, 2019

Bike Law Ambassador Niklas Volmer and Bike Law Georgia client Jordan Streiff have had enough of the City of Atlanta’s lip service and hypocrisy when it comes to building out meaningful bike infrastructure and decided it was time to do something about it. For some context, the City of Atlanta has promised to invest $250,000,000 […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Apr 17, 2019

ALABAMA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Alabama. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Danny Feldman directly. Right to […]

Read More
Rick Bernardi Apr 16, 2019

From the beginning, the Bike Law Network has had a singular focus—helping cyclists who have been injured find justice. Well, what’s so special about that? Lots of lawyers take bicycle accident cases. But the Bike Law Network is different—the lawyers in the network are cyclists themselves, and they’re passionately committed to protecting the rights of […]

Read More
Bike Walk Macon, Georgia
Bruce Hagen Apr 11, 2019

Rachel Hollar is the energetic spark behind the success of Bike Walk Macon, the leading advocacy group in the Macon-Bibb County area.   I recently had a chance to catch up with Rachel to discuss how cycling culture has changed in the Macon area since Rachel founded Bike Walk Macon in 2015.    Back in 2015, […]

Read More
Charlie Thomas Apr 11, 2019

LOUISIANA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Louisiana. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Charlie Thomas directly. Right to […]

Read More
Amy Benner Johnson Apr 10, 2019

TENNESSEE  BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Tennessee. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Amy Johnson directly. Right to […]

Read More
Ann Groninger Apr 10, 2019

NORTH CAROLINA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in North Carolina. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Ann Groninger directly. […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 10, 2019

COLORADO BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Colorado. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Brian Weiss directly. Right to […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Apr 10, 2019

GEORGIA  BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Georgia. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Bruce Hagen directly. Right to […]

Read More
Bryan Waldman Apr 10, 2019

MICHIGAN BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Michigan. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Bryan Waldman directly. Right to […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 10, 2019

MAINE BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Maine. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Lauri Boxer-Macomber directly. Right to […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 05, 2019

PENNSYLVANIA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Pennsylvania. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Joey Piscitello directly. Right to […]

Read More
Load More