GCAT - Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation

Guelph Road Collision Report – let’s not forget ‘near misses’!

The most dangerous location in Guelph for people on bikes…Surrey and Gordon. One of our GCAT members was seriously injured at this location in the fall of 2019. This spot is likely full of “near misses” as well.

by Ted Bangay, director, GCAT board

The City of Guelph recently posted its 2015-2019 Collision report. First the good news: the report shows an overall decline in injury-related collisions and the number of cyclists involved in collisions. The report finds that injury-related collisions on Guelph’s roads decreased by nine per cent over the last five years, and the number of cyclists involved in a collision decreased by about 26 per cent. All of us, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists should be happy about these decreases.

Nonetheless, we want to put this report into a broader context.

All of us want to make decisions based upon sound data, and the City’s collision study is a good example of gathering useful data. An injury-causing collision between a pedestrian or cyclist and a motorist is an extreme event that by its very nature is recorded as a data point. It is natural for decision-makers to want to reduce collisions at the recorded locations by investing in mitigating infrastructure. GCAT would support investments such as these.

What the City can’t easily record are the conflicts between road users that do NOT result in collision. Call them ‘near misses,’ but these are all the forced sudden stops, swerves and other emergency maneuvers cyclists and pedestrians have to make to keep themselves safe from motorists. We speculate that near misses are far more numerous than actual collisions. Because the City can’t record near misses it can’t learn the locations of these. It is an assumption that the near misses are clustered at the same locations as the actual collisions. It is quite possible that there are locations where there are many, many near misses that do not result in a high number of collisions. It’s hard to say.

One thing that we as GCAT members, particularly cyclists, can do is to make entries in the [bikemaps.org]bikemaps.org site. This site is a crowdsourced tool for global mapping of cycling safety. On this site you can add your own data on cycling crashes, near misses, hazards and thefts. The City of Guelph’s transportation planners do consult this mapping application when they are setting their priorities, so it is very important for all of us to help out by providing as much useful data as we can.

Besides collisions and near misses, there is also the issue of active transportation users’ general feelings of safety (or danger) when sharing roadways, even when there are few near misses or recorded collisions. For example, riding on a painted bike lane as cars speed along beside is overwhelmingly intimidating for many potential riders. Research has confirmed that this fear is enough to prevent a majority of people from riding bikes who otherwise would do so. If the goal is to increase the modal share of the various forms of active transportation, particularly cycling, then the answer is to invest in infrastructure that overcomes potential riders’ fears, whether or not collisions and near misses are taking place at these locations.So yes, let’s pay attention to where the collisions are, but let’s also recognize that this information only tells part of the story.

And, if you have or had any near misses, (we hope that you don’t, but if you do,) please enter your information on the bikemaps.org site!

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