Too many cyclists are risking their lives by riding without headgear, a review released Monday by Ontario’s chief coroner has found.
The report — which called for measures to make helmets mandatory for all cyclists — disclosed chances of a fatality are worst on city streets.
The review reported only 35 of 129 cyclists killed from Jan. 1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2010 — of which 86% were boys or men — were wearing helmets. And despite being mandatory for riders aged 18 or less, only 44% were using them.
“Every one of these tragic deaths was preventable,” said study team leader Dan Cass, who’s also Ontario’s deputy chief coroner.
Citing road safety as a “global public health issue,” the report — the first since 1998 — “clearly shows just how preventable cycling deaths are,” added Ontario Chief Coroner Andrew McCallum. “Awareness and respect for the rules of the road by all road users are integral to preventing these deaths.”
Share the Road Cycling Coalition founder Eleanor McMahon, widow of an OPP sergeant killed in a truck collision while cycling on duty in June 2006, called for more “tolerance” by all street-users and an end to the “us versus them” attitude that foments a “so-called war between cyclists and motorists.”
She said “there are bicyclists who make mistakes,” and motorists who do “goofy things, and make bad decisions.”
The report faulted riders in 44 of the 104 cases involving vehicles and bicycles, citing mostly inattention, failing to yield or ignoring traffic signals.
Motorists were held responsible in 33 deaths and in 44 fatal cases, “contributing factors were identified on the part of both the cyclist and the driver.”
Of the other 15 fatalities, riders hit other objects or fell off their bikes.
Almost two-thirds of the deaths studied from documents, police reports and input from the public occurred during recreational rides, compared to 31% while commuting.
The report said cycling deaths dropped from 41 in 2006 to 14 three years later, then almost doubled to 25 in 2010.
Jared Kolb, a director with Cycle Toronto, lauded McCallum for listening to rider’s concerns.
If lawmakers adopt recommended bicycle paths on older streets and in new communities, “this will save lives, reduce unnecessary injury, and get more people riding more often throughout the city.”