Streetcar tracks blamed in one-third of Toronto bike accidents

Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital have confirmed what many cyclists in Toronto have long believed – that streetcar tracks are involved in nearly one-third of bicycle accidents.

A study published in the current issue of the , found the greatest risk to occurs when they share major streets with parked cars and no bike lanes – like Dundas or King Streets – where there is a heightened risk of injury from moving cars and car doors opening.

However, 96 of the 690 crashes studied in downtown Toronto and Vancouver directly involved streetcar or train tracks. Eighty-seven of those accidents were in Toronto, accounting for 31.5 per cent of all bike accidents in the city that led to an injury that required a visit to an emergency department.

"Safety should be a primary consideration in decisions about how we design transportation systems in Toronto and this study has direct implications for a transportation strategy," said Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital, who helped design, perform and report on the research.

The lead author of the study was Kay Teschke, a professor in the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health. "Thus far, safety has not been mentioned in the debate about the GTA's future transportation plans. Safety needs to be of at least equal or greater importance to other issues when we are making difficult decisions about transportation strategies."

The research project found that of the accidents involving tracks, 19 cyclists (19.8 per cent) said their tires slipped on the tracks and 77 (80.2 per cent) said their tires got caught in the tracks.

Routes designed for cyclists – including bike lanes on major streets without parked cars, residential street bike routes, and off-street bike paths – carry about half the risk of being injured on a randomly selected point on their journey, the study found. Cycle tracks—physically separated – have the lowest injury risk for cyclists, about one-ninth the risk.

Dr. Glen Bandiera, head of the Emergency Department at St. Michael's, estimates that in the summer, four or five patients arrive in the ER every day after a bicycle incident. The most common injuries are wrist fractures and shoulder dislocations from people using their arms to break their fall.

St. Michael's was one of four hospitals in Toronto and Vancouver whose patients were tracked in the study. The study also provided an interesting snapshot of who is being injured in all cycling accidents in the two cities: Most are men (59 percent), between the ages of 19 and 39 (62 per cent), who are regular cyclists (88 per cent) and completed post-secondary education (75 per cent).

Most were cycling to or from work or school (42 per cent) on a weekday (78 per cent) in daylight (77 per cent) and good weather (92.5 per cent). It found 68.3 per cent were wearing helmets, although that figure reflects the fact it's mandatory for adults to wear helmets in British Columbia, but not in Ontario. The single largest cause of bike accidents in the study was a collision with a motor vehicle (33.5 per cent).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study prompts safety precautions for cyclists

Jul 27, 2012

Interviews with cyclists hospitalised following road crashes have reinforced the importance of measures such as wearing helmets and bike lights, and better interaction between all road users.

Only 1 in 5 bike share cyclists wears a helmet

Apr 30, 2012

A national rise in public bike sharing programs could mean less air pollution and more exercise, an environmental and health win-win for people in the cities that host them, but according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess ...

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

4 hours ago

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

Italy scraps ban on donor-assisted reproduction

Apr 09, 2014

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a Catholic Church-backed ban against assisted reproduction with sperm or egg donors that has forced thousands of sterile couples to seek help abroad.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
not rated yet Oct 29, 2012
Where the biker has to cross street car tracks at an angle less than 45 degrees, odds of an accident start to rise very sharply. At 30 degrees the risk is severely elevated, and at 15 degrees you need special skills not to crash down.

Avoiding these crashes demands from the cyclist a constant awareness of the tracks, and paying this attention is attention away from other attention.

Several European cities have bike lanes painted on sidewalks, or on the street itself. And in cities with street cars, bike roads have extra curves (like chicanes) so they cross street car tracks at right angles.

It is not unusual to commute by bike, even in North European cold climates. 10-mile commutes are not unusual at all, and many offices install showers and lockers for bike commuters. Bike shops also sell winter tires, with or without spokes, and isolated seat covers.