Ottawa

'Right hooks' blamed for half of Laurier bike lane collisions

About half of the collisions between motorists and cyclists using the Laurier Avenue bike lane in Ottawa involve vehicles turning right into the path of oncoming bicycles, according to a new report released Tuesday by the city.

Review began shortly after cyclist killed by right-turning truck in 2016

Half of the collisions between vehicles and bicycles using the Laurier Avenue bike lane since it opened in 2011 have involved right-turning vehicles, a safety review has found. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC Ottawa)

About half of the collisions between motorists and cyclists using the Laurier Avenue bike lane in Ottawa involve vehicles turning right into the path of oncoming bicycles, according to a new report released Tuesday by the city.

"Right-turning vehicles continue to be the greatest threat to cyclists in the corridor, accounting for 50 per cent of collisions," according to the safety review by Dutch transportation consultant Mobycon.

Right-turning vehicles also "represent the most frequent manoeuvre involved in pedestrian-related collisions," according to the report. "This is by far the most significant type of collision."

It's a phenomenon known among cyclists as a "right hook," and has been a consistent source of complaint since the lane opened.

Right turn in cyclist's death

The truck that struck and killed cyclist Nusrat Jahan in 2016 was turning right onto Lyon Street from Laurier Avenue. The driver of the truck was later charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death, and stop lines were moved farther back from intersections along Laurier Avenue in an effort to prevent future collisions.

"Just because of the size and visibility involved with trucks [it] makes it quite difficult to mix trucks and cycling traffic together," Alex deVries, a spokesperson for Bike Ottawa, said.

There have been more than 220 collisions reported since the bike lane was opened, or about five per month.

On the plus side, the Laurier Avenue bike lanes are proving popular. Since the they opened in 2011, the number of cyclists who use the route daily has nearly doubled from 2,331 in 2012 to 4,128 trips in 2016.

Despite that rise, the collision rate involving bicycles fell by 30 per cent over the same period, while collisions involving pedestrians along Laurier Avenue dropped by half.

The safety review of Ottawa's first segregated bike lane, running between Bronson Avenue and Elgin Street, started in October 2016 and concluded in August 2017. 

The review relied on both research and user surveys, and is aimed at coming up with future improvements to the lane. 

Majority experienced near miss

The majority of respondents said they had either witnessed or been involved in a near miss or collision in the last year — mostly at intersections. 

The surveys also found that "conflicts" between cyclists and motorists happened most often when there was no physical separation between the two.

Most of the collisions resulted in damage to bikes or vehicles, but about one-quarter involved an injury, usually to the cyclist involved.

Recommendations on how to improve the infrastructure included more separation between bikes and cars, addressing blind spots near loading docks and dealing with right-turn collisions.

"It's the long-term suggestions that are going to make the biggest difference," deVries said.

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