Published June 14, 2016 13:06

Vulnerable Road User Laws are long overdue in Ontario

More and more frequently, people are ditching their cars and opting for an active and more convenient method of transportation for their commute to work. Although cycling advocates in Toronto are working hard to become a bicycle friendly city, we still have a long way to go.

When reviewing cyclist deaths across Ontario between 2006 and 2011, we found something upsetting: while 62% of all bike related deaths were found to be at least partly the fault of the driver, only 27% of drivers involved were ever charged for those deaths. Even worse, those charges did not involve any jail time, license suspensions or court appearances, just small fines usually under $1,000.00. Just this last month, the driver that killed Edouard Le Blanc, a rider that was instantly killed when he was hit on the Gatineau Hydro Corridor, was fined a mere $700.00.

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act defines the bicycle as a vehicle that belongs on the road, which means all road users need to be aware of, and follow the rules. So we all work together to ensure all road users are safe, right? Wrong. As most of us know, this is not necessarily the case. It is very clear that motorists are not aware of, or choose to ignore the rules of the road and compromise the safety of Vulnerable Road Users.

So how do we fix this? We implement Vulnerable Road User (VRU) laws for the Province. If a driver could face potential jail time, or serious penalties, it would force them to take greater care when sharing the road with cyclists and other at risk road users. The penalties when a driver has seriously injured or killed a VRU would require the court to consider increased fines, license suspensions and jail if necessary.

Bike Law Canada has been working to implement VRU laws and we continue to do so. Our efforts have been great but we need the momentum behind us from our fellow riders. You can help by signing our VRU petition, joining our Facebook group, and continuing to advocate for VRU laws in Ontario. Sharing your stories with us and testimonies from families of victims are critical in creating legislative support.

It is time for Ontario to lead the change and bring stronger penalties when a careless driver crashes into a Vulnerable Road User.

Bike Law is a network of cycling attorneys founded in 1998 in the United States. The network has since expanded to represent Canadian cyclists; Patrick Brown is the representative of Bike Law Canada.

“Bicycle crashes are not bicycle “accidents.” Lawyers in the Bike Law Network have handled thousands of them, and we understand the difference.”

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