If you have lived in the City of Toronto for any period of time, you have no doubt noticed designated lanes for cyclists springing up on roads all over our city. For the non-cycling motorists, these are those funny narrow lanes directly to your right between the curb lane for motor vehicle traffic and the sidewalk.
Although I have not reviewed any statistics for the prevalence of motor vehicle accidents involving cyclists on roadways with designated lanes for cyclists vs. roadways with no such lanes, my concern is that such lanes have managed to place cyclists directly in right turning motorists’ blind spot more than they would have been without such lanes. I for one was much more comfortable as a driver having adult cyclists directly in front of my vehicle or directly behind my vehicle. I must confess that the enthusiastic use of designated lanes for cyclists in and around the University of Toronto by the university students has forced me to become reacquainted with my right sideview mirror, as I make my way home from work at Bay and Queen to the Bathurst and St. Clair area. It is hard to argue that reminding me that I have a right sideview mirror is a bad thing. However, I have noticed during right turns on red lights that my focus tends to be divided between that right sideview mirror, the roadway ahead and, often, on any pedestrian walkway across the roadway I am turning onto.
There is a provision in the Highway Traffic Act which states that a motorist who strikes a pedestrian or cyclist bears “the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct” of the motorist. Lawyers refer to this as the “reverse onus”. Thus, if a car driver was to strike a University of Toronto student cycling to or from the campus on a public highway, the driver would face the challenge of trying to demonstrate to the court that he or she had done nothing wrong.