Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists all break rules — and admitting that might be helpful

Can drivers, cyclists and pedestrians declare a truce on Toronto's roads? That question is at the heart of a new survey.

Insurance company survey finds all 3 groups want to improve safety, but encountering frustration

Can't we all just get along? A new survey looks at what it would take to form a truce between drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Can drivers, cyclists and pedestrians declare a truce on Toronto's roads?

That question is at the heart of a new survey from the insurance company RSA Canada, and it's being posed as the city continues to struggle with a high number of traffic-related deaths despite its Vision Zero goal.

The answer: maybe, but not without addressing a number of challenges, and blind spots.

The risk is real

There have been 16 pedestrian fatalities so far in 2018. City officials are aiming to get that number to zero. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Dozens of vulnerable road users are killed every year in Toronto, and RSA's survey of 1,560 Canadians — including 346 from the GTA — found those on foot or bike frequently feel at risk. That's highlighted by two findings:

  • More than one in 10 pedestrians say they had been involved in an accident, while 44 per cent say they know someone who has.
  • And, more than one in three cyclists has been in an accident, while just under half know of someone who has (While the survey has no figures specifically for Toronto, 48 per cent of GTA cyclists reported feeling unsafe compared to just 43 per cent of other Canadians).

Drivers are, as the report states, "the number one cause of distress."

Distracted and dangerous driving is the biggest cause of distress on the roads, the RSA survey found. (RSA Canada)

Even drivers themselves indicate other motorists are the biggest danger to them. So what are they doing wrong?

RSA's report suggests distracted driving and road rage are the biggest concerns, finding:

  • An astonishing 85 per cent of all respondents identified road rage as a serious or very serious issue.
  • Only 19 per cent of drivers say they've been aggressive toward a cyclist or pedestrian in the past month.
  • A quarter of drivers admitted to being aggressive with another driver.
Both drivers and cyclists have a tendency to get testy, the survey suggests. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Cyclists are also prone to outbursts, with nearly 40 per cent admitting they've recently "expressed anger."

Signs of confusion

Meanwhile, a large majority of drivers expressed frustration with cyclists and pedestrians that aren't following the rules of the road.

Nearly a third of cyclists reported seeing a road sign they weren't familiar with in the last year, while about a quarter report they don't always know who has the right of way.

RSA also found cyclists overestimate drivers' awareness of hand signals, while some riders struggle to identify the signals themselves.

Interestingly, those rule-breaking cyclists annoy cyclists, too. More than half of those surveyed who cycle say they want stiffer penalties for those breaking the rules on two wheels.

Drivers also expect pedestrians to go much further to keep themselves safe, the survey found. 

What next?

As Toronto's roads get more congested, there are more interactions between all three groups than ever before. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

While RSA's survey, and its TruceTO campaign, which launches on Saturday, will never protect pedestrians like a well-lit crosswalk, it does aim to illuminate what all three groups can do to improve relations.

In fact, all three sides say they need to play a bigger role to keep everyone safe, with more than three quarters of drivers suggesting fellow motorists need to be more aware and empathetic to the needs of pedestrians (just six per cent disagreed with that).

But will that happen in this city? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.


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