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  • Writer's pictureDave Shellnutt

Construction vs Bikes – A Cyclist’s Guide to Navigating Dangerous Road Work

Biking along a well used (albeit painted) bike lane in Toronto, I came across major road work/construction.

It was Friday at 3pm, not a construction worker in sight. Gone for the day/weekend no doubt. 2 construction cones bookend a wide gap of missing pavement. The street's asphalt removed and a 1.5ft drop to gravel debris below remained.

(June 24, 2021 – Argyle and Dovercourt, Toronto) *Also note the crosswalk gap similarly leaving pedestrians in peril.

I got off my bike, found a skinny pilon and cross bar (above) not in use on the sidewalk and placed them between the 2 cones. I then called the City of Toronto (311). I asked for someone to come down, inspect the construction site (which continued up the road), and make this area safe for all road users.

Perhaps a car wouldn't drive through that gap, but at night, a cyclist could quite plausibly continue on in the bike lane, pass between the cones and crash off the lip.

Serious injury would no doubt result.

My experience on Argyle Street is not unique. As reported by the Toronto Star (and again here) it is a tragically common occurrence.

Toronto and many other municipalities experience a construction boom every time the weather cooperates (fair enough). Construction projects become a regular feature during the best cycling months.

Many of These projects are haphazardly monitored and the unique safety needs of vulnerable road users Frequently ignored.

Cycling advocates across Toronto (and I’m certain in other Ontario cycling communities) have increasingly been documenting and exposing road works/construction projects that fail to consider the safety of those who ride bikes (or walk, roll, or do anything but drive a motor vehicle).

#NotSafe4BikesTO has been created to publicly expose these failures in Toronto.

I would encourage other cycling communities to do the same.

We know that data, grassroots information gathering, and activism can lead to changes. By pressuring our elected officials, we have seen safety measures implemented. Though certainly, it often takes loss, tragedy, and even death to dislodge complacency and inaction.

But, sustained activism and community pressure work as well.

As an individual, a lone cyclist out there on our unforgiving streets, you too can take direct action if you see construction or road work creating a situation of danger for vulnerable road users:

1. Document it! - take pictures, video, write notes.

2. Connect the dots – identify the construction company and the municipal office or official in charge of that area and project.

3. Report – contact your local transportation authority (or relevant body) with as much information as possible. Kindly request a solution.

5. Name names – take to Twitter, Facebook or other social media platforms to publicly document the dangerous behaviour/area, not only can this correct behaviour but it can also help alert your fellow cycling citizens of the risks they may face if following your path.

6. Follow up.

*By photographing signage we can identify not only the road hazard but the construction company responsible - see above.

We recognize this could be a full-time job for someone (and perhaps it should be City of Toronto) and can be draining, please do only what you have capacity for.

Any individual action taken, no matter how minor can have a broader impact on our collective safety.

sadly, this year alone the Biking Lawyer LLP has been retained on 4 road construction cases resulting in serious cyclist injury.

In addition to using our ONLINE CRASH REPORT, you should take the following steps and/or have a friend/bystander/family member help you with the following if you are severely injured:

1. Get safe and assess your injuries.

2. Take pictures of the following:

a. The scene leading up to and including the danger zone

b. Warning signs (if any) leading up to and at the danger zone

c. Road imperfections or disrepair left improperly closed off or marked

d. Exact spot of your crash

e. Your injuries and bike/property damage

3. Witnesses – get witness information of anyone who saw the crash or the state of the construction site when you crashed.

a. Look for nearby video cameras that may have caught the crash

4. Call 911 and/or seek medical attention

5. Consult a lawyer and put the City/Construction company on notice.

a. By putting the City on notice of your claim quickly you give them time to survey the area and ensure the construction company is identified and records preserved.

Some causes of construction related bike crashes to keep an eye out for:

Improper signage

The law stipulates that road users should be given ample warning of any construction/road work using proper signage. The City is very clear on the type of signs that should be used on the road, the number and where they need to be placed. If the construction company fails to use the proper warning sign to notify road users, it can lead to a crash.

Notify motorists of upcoming construction and lane merges

If road users face a sudden change in condition or dangerous merge situation, collisions are more likely to occur. The law requires that the construction company or municipality should avoid instances where road users will be required to make too make dangerous last minute maneuvers especially when they are at high speeds, which can be very dangerous.

Uneven pavement

When a road is constructed, the company or municipality in charge may leave a dangerous condition in the pavement that contributes to a crash. If an unmarked uneven road surface causes a crash, they should be held liable.

Poor road construction

Once the construction of the road is complete, a crash can occur because the job was poorly done. If this happens, a claim can be filed against the ‘’owner’’ of the road. 

Many of these lawsuits are as a result of poor maintenance as opposed to negligent construction.

We could go on, but for now, ride safe, report often and check out these favourite #NotSafe4BikesTO tweets of ours:

Thanks to the many cycling advocates who continually inspire our work and keep us all safe. You're too many to mention, but we adore you.

***Many of these shots were taken by our friend Dave Edwards @DaveLikesBikes @torontocyclechic. We are indebted to your advocacy and friendship Dave.

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1 Comment

Aug 31, 2021

Most on-street construction sites are required to have a police officer in attendance while work is underway. Should these officers be required to ensure the site is secure before leaving? If they are not competent to judge, should they not be required to enlist someone competent before they leave the site?

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