Calgary cyclists speaking out after spike in fatal collisions
CALGARY -- On a cool November evening in 2018, Kevin Dalton experienced the shock of a lifetime.
“I was terrified,” he said. “I was not expecting to be able to get up, it was a hit hard enough that I knew immediately lots of parts of me hurt and I was fearful something bad had happened.”
Dalton was hit by car that failed to come to a complete stop and made a left turn coming out of an alleyway near Bow Trail and 45 Street S.W. He was on his bicycle at the time of the crash.
The result ended in multiple soft tissue injuries and bruises to his neck, spine, left knee and ribs.
“A driver can inflict a lot of harm in a very short period of time, with no consequences to themselves, but they can seriously injure or kill people in a moment -- a glance at your phone and you’ve hit somebody,” said Dalton.
The incident is one of hundreds of crashes involving cyclists that occur each year in Calgary.
In 2020, Calgary police responded to 199 collisions where cyclists were hit, which is down slightly from 227 in 2019.
“The downside is that we did unfortunately have two fatalities last year involving cyclists when typically we only get one or none,” said Sgt. Colin Foster with the CPS Traffic Unit.
Even despite fewer Calgarians driving on city streets in 2020 due to the pandemic, crash fatalities were up 26 per cent compared to 2019.
Rebecca Davidson with the Bureau of Service and Community Support explained during a recent Calgary Police Commission meeting that pedestrian-involved fatal collisions were also slightly higher than in years prior.
“2020 was the only year on record with two triple-fatality collisions,” she said.
“Vulnerable road users were also tragically lost where we had four pedestrians, two cyclists and five motorcyclists, accounting for 46 per cent of our total fatal collisions.
Davidson adds that 17 of the 24 crashes were due to high speeds, although the number of fatal collisions involving alcohol or drugs were significantly lower in 2019 compared to 2020.
CALLS FOR MORE ACCESSIBLE INFRASTRUCTURE
Bike Calgary director Gary Millard says even one fatality is one too many in the city and notes that more accessible infrastructure is key to preventing collisions in the future.
“The safest thing we’ve got out there is to make sure there’s physical protection for the vulnerable users so really it’s about designing a city that has the infrastructure that allows people to travel safely and not being worried about being hit by drivers while they’re out walking, cycling and scootering,” he said.
Currently, the City of Calgary has implemented a 5A network – Always, Available for All Ages and Abilities – which means some bike lane infrastructure in the city is designed for complete driver and pedestrian safety.
Some bike lanes like the ones on Bowness Road for example in northwest Calgary do not have physical barriers set up, only lines of paint to emphasize the lanes division.
“Paint is not infrastructure and it doesn’t make it any safer,” said Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell.
“We also know that safer infrastructure improves business, there’s loads of international studies that show when you provide access to bicycles in areas, you see an increase in retail sales.”
Farrell is optimistic that Calgary will continue to make moves towards being a more accessible city for everyone. She’s especially pleased with the support Calgarians are showing by utilizing new adaptive lanes on Memorial Drive, put in places as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we were designing our cities to keep up separated from each other, but we need to create a sense of belonging because mental health is improved, the feeling of solidarity is improved and we know that’s an important part of city design so we’re learning from that right now. “