June 15, 2012
Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s)
100 Queen Street West, Suite A17
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Councillor John Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West)
100 Queen Street West, Suite A16
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25, Don Valley West)
100 Queen Street West, Suite A12
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest)
100 Queen Street West, Suite A11
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Dear Councillors Matlow, Parker, Robinson and Crawford,
I am writing to you in my capacity as President of the Morning Glory Cycling Club (MGCC). MGCC is a Toronto-based group of road cyclists with 321 registered members. Our members are primarily recreational riders who, whether they are in their 20s or their 60s, have discovered the health benefits of cycling as well as the enjoyment of training in a group setting.
As the name “Morning Glory” suggests, our members meet up as early as 5:40 in the morning every week day to ride together before they begin their work days. We also have weekend rides at 6 and 7 a.m., and evening youth off-road rides. All of our road rides commence at Tremblett’s Valu-mart at the intersection of Bayview and Davisville. Our rides traverse Wards 22, 25 (Crestwood hill repeats), 26 and 36 (Brimley Road South hill repeats), and we have members living in all of these Wards. You can find out more about us and about our rides at http://www.mgridetoronto.com/.
The reason for this letter is that I want to encourage you and your colleagues at City Council to take a fresh look at cycling safety in this City. Road safety is of paramount concern to MGCC’s membership; indeed, one of the benefits that MGCC offers its members is the greater safety associated with riding with a group as opposed to riding alone. We cycle in the early morning, when City roads are quiet; we are mutually respectful of cars and commuters heading to work and we ride at hours to minimize interference with traffic patterns. We employ ride marshalls wearing reflective vests to ensure that we are able to safely turn at intersections. We require our riders to wear helmets, and to have front and back lights as it is dark when our rides commence. We respect the rules of the road – stopping at lights and stop signs, signalling our turns and riding in a compact and organized pace line formation so as to ensure that drivers can predict our movements and safely pass us. When we are driving our cars, we try to show this same respect to cyclists.
To date, much of the debate about cycling in this City has focused on commuters and, more specifically, bike lanes in and out of the downtown. While bike lanes positively contribute to the safety of cyclists (depending on where the lanes are located and how they are configured), the debate about safety is much broader than the issue of bike lanes. Our organized rides do not use bike lanes and only a minority of our members commute on their bikes. While we do not have statistics for Toronto specifically, it is apparent that there has been a marked increase in recent years in the number of road cyclists and triathletes who use City roads not for commuting, but for training. This is consistent with the general growth in popularity of road cycling across Canada. Indeed, a recent article in the Globe and Mail reported that the growth rate is in the 10% range and commented that Canadian road cyclist Ryder Hesjedal’s recent victory in the Giro d’Italia is likely to contribute to the continued popularity and growth of this sport.
Our members choose to train in the City because our families and jobs are here and it is not feasible to leave town on a regular basis to train. We are encouraged that the City of Toronto will be hosting several high profile competitive cycling events on its streets in the next few years, including the recent Toronto Criterium, the Toronto Triathlon Festival this Summer and the Pan Am Games in 2015.
It is clear that, with more and more cyclists training on Toronto’s roads, there will be cycling injuries and, regrettably, deaths. A number of MGCC’s own riders have sustained cycling injuries in and around Toronto. While we do not have data for Toronto, the Ontario Medical Association recently reported that in 2009, there were over 26,000 emergency room visits and 1,300 hospitalizations for cycling injuries in Ontario. A recent Canadian Institute for Health Information report based on trauma registries shows that Ontario is the province with the highest number of cycling injuries per year, although it does better on an age-adjusted per capita basis than do many other provinces.
Given the increasing popularity of cycling as training, and the City’s plans to host world class cycling events, we think there is a need for Council to consider the broader issue of cycling safety beyond the issue of bike lanes. In particular, we would urge Council to consider the extent to which any or all of the following measures might be implemented at the municipal level:
· A full study of the causes and scope for prevention of cycling injuries and deaths in Toronto, building on the study that the Ontario Coroner is conducting into cycling deaths. This study should focus on concrete change: are there particular roads and intersections where accidents are more common and, if so, can changes be made to improve safety?
· An education campaign aimed at educating both drivers and cyclists on sharing the road, particularly on busy City streets. Share the Road has published some basic rules for motorists and cyclists: see http://www.sharetheroad.ca/improving-road-safety-s11935 and the Toronto Cyclists Union has published a handbook on road safety for cyclists: http://bikeunion.to/sites/default/files/handbook/cyclists_handbook_eng.pdf. We understand that the Ontario Driver’s Handbook also contains content about driving alongside cyclists; however, we believe that the education component needs to go beyond entry-level drivers to include long-term drivers. We would be pleased to provide you with additional views and materials on point focussing on group ride safety (from the perspective of both cyclists and drivers).
· A requirement for mandatory side guards on trucks. We understand that the City’s transportation manager is drafting a report on side guards that will be presented to the public works committee, which will make recommendations to Council. We also understand that this issue is being studied at the provincial level. We would urge Council to move quickly on this issue – do not wait for another cyclist to die under the wheels of a truck.
· Following the lead of other Canadian cities such as Ottawa by implementing Summer Sunday morning (for example 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.) road closures on low traffic routes within the City (for example, Bayview Avenue south or Moore Avenue and the Gardiner fly-over) so as to allow cyclists to safely train while minimizing any inconvenience to drivers.
· A change to the tone of debate at Council which includes a recognition of the positive benefits of cycling to the health of this City. We fear that from the very opening of City Council by Don Cherry, cyclists have been vilified by many City Councillors as some type of fringe group. Our members include CEOs, bankers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, medical professionals, engineers, teachers and many others from all walks of life – we are certainly not a fringe group.
We challenge each of you to take on this issue and to become a force for positive change when it comes to the health and fitness of your constituents. We would also like to formally invite you to participate in one of our group rides – so that you can enjoy the joy of riding at dawn first hand and hear more suggestions from our members (your constituents) on how City Council can contribute to positive change for cyclists and motorists alike. We can assist by providing an appropriate bicycle if you do not have one. One of our members will contact your office in the coming weeks to follow up on this invitation.
Yours very truly,
 Globe and Mail, “Cycling is the new golf: The rise of an on-trend activity”, June 10, 2012.