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Cyclists and drivers collide in Ottawa

A spike in bike traffic has been accompanied by a rise in accidents involving cyclists, says Ottawa personal injury lawyer Howard Yegendorf.

According to the CBC, the City of Ottawa reported about 300 cycling collisions a year between 2010 and 2014. On average, three accidents each year resulted in a fatality.

More recent statistics are not yet available, but Yegendorf, founding partner of Howard Yegendorf & Associates LLP, says he wouldn’t be surprised if the number of accidents has gone up.

“There seems to have been a significant increase in bicycle accidents. Ottawa has made several bike lanes, but there are a lot of people getting injured,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

A CBC analysis of the 2010-2014 data found that in the overwhelming majority, cyclists were moving straight forward at the time of the accident, compared with about 30 per cent of vehicles. Another 30 per cent of collisions involved a car turning right, while in 20 per cent of cases, a car was turning left when the crash occurred.

Of the cases that resulted in deaths, an estimated 60 per cent involved heavy trucks.

One of Yegendorf’s clients, a man in his 80s, suffered serious injuries when he was hit by a garbage truck while riding his bike in a residential area. The accident resulted in his left leg being amputated just below the hip.

“He’s very strong. He was living independently, gardening, and doing all kinds of chores for himself. But now it looks like this poor man is going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It’s a sad situation,” Yegendorf says.

Late last year, the opening of the city’s O’Connor Street bikeway generated controversy after three collisions were reported in its first three weeks of operation.

The CBC reported that the design chosen for the cycle lanes was the third choice of consultants specializing in cycle lane integration, who deemed it “less safe” than its preferred layout. The company recommended protected bike lines on either side of the street, but the city eventually opted to construct a protected two-way lane for bikes on the east side of the street only.

"Everything is trade-offs, even safety is a trade-off from time to time," Kornel Mucsi, a program manager at the City of Ottawa, told the CBC, noting that the consultant's preferred option would probably not have made it through the approvals process due to dissent from drivers because of the reduced space it would have meant for cars. 

"The public, motorists, cyclists all have input into our designs. And if the option that we select is not sellable — politically or publicly — then that option is not going to happen," Mucsi added.

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