We're only entering the third day after Ontario's chief coroner released the Cycling Death Review, the review of cycling deaths in Ontario between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2010, so it may be a bit early to assess its impact.
One thing seems to be clear: it was a review with only one recommendation.
That could certainly be your understanding, having read the various media reports. With the exception of a few media outlets (including the story in The Record, written in part by yours truly), Ontario's media, ranging from the National Post to the London Community News, grabbed on to recommendation No. 11: "The Highway Traffic Act should be amended to make helmets mandatory for cyclists of all ages in Ontario..."
According to some of the responses to Take the Lane and on the Twittersphere, those other 13 recommendations in the report were merely smoke to hide this most sinister of bureaucratic infringements on our personal liberty.
Hardly anyone seems to have noticed the two other sentences in that recommendation: "...This should occur in conjunction with an evaluation of the impact of mandatory helmet legislation on cycling activity in Ontario. Such an evaluation strategy should be developed and carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Public Heallth Ontario."
So, first, a multi-ministry study and if the study shows a net benefit, helmet laws. If it doesn't show a net benefit, perhaps no helmet laws. If you truly believe that helmets discourage adult cycling, then you can rest easy. Helmet laws ain't gonna happen. At least, it's pretty unlikely that anything will be in place by the end of the summer.
And few seemed to notice the other recommendations of the review: complete streets approach to planning; an Ontario Cycling Plan; high priority to paved shoulders on provincial highways; a provincial share the road campaign involving the CAA, the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, police agencies and other groups; cycle safety information to be provided to new bike buyers; cycling safety education to be incorporated into the school system; improvements to the driver's handbooks and driver examinations; a review of the Highway Traffic to rationalize sections dealing with cycling (hallelujah!); a review of the Municipal Act and municipal bylaws to ensure consistency; a three-foot passing law; sideguards for heavy trucks in Canada; and finally, co-ordinated collection and sharing of cycling injury and fatality data to help improve cycling education and enforcement in the future.
Haven't these been things that we, as cyclists, have been wanting for a long time? I know that a couple of the recommendations here are things I mentioned when I sent my submission to the review panel. Don't you want to see a better cycling future?
So, say so! Instead of giving letters page editors a flood of anti-helmet-legislation missives to fill opinion pages, write about the aspects of the report that the media missed, and that will make for a better cycling environment. Push your MPP to download the Cycling Death Review and read it. It's only 36 pages. It'll be the easiest thing your local politico will have to do. It's a minority government. Everyone is looking for something to trumpet in their favourite committee. Make your MPP make this his or her issue.
The link to the report online is at the top of this post, or go to www.ontario.ca/coronersreports and download the report.