We Share Our #NearMissToronto Stories
We talk about our close calls as drivers and cyclists, and get advice from road expert Alex Kelly on how we can be safer.
The hashtag #nearmissToronto was created by a Toronto parent dropping their daughter off to school when they witnessed a close call between a driver and a student at a crosswalk. Road users have been using the hashtag to share their near-miss experiences when travelling in the city, and it’s quickly gained traction on social media.
Onlia HQ is in the heart of Toronto, and our staff commutes from all over the GTA; some walk to the office, some cycle, and others drive in. As you might expect, we have some near-miss stories of our own to share.
We also connected with road safety and transportation expert Alex Kelly for tips on how we can avoid these close calls, and do our part to make Toronto’s roads safer!
“You don’t belong here” - Mosann S., Claims team
"It was my first day cycling to my job – it was about a 10 km commute. I was on Eglinton approaching Kingston Road; there’s a curve in the road and then a T intersection where you have to turn either left or right. I was making a left onto Kingston Road when a lady driving an SUV yelled out of her window “get off the “f%$&ing road, you don’t belong here.”
Yikes. While there may not be bike lanes on all roads, cyclists do have the right to share road space with cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles as stated in Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act. Sharing the road can be pretty challenging when space is cramped, but it’s important to remember that everyone has somewhere to be. So slow down, and be courteous to other road users; they’re all equally entitled to use the roads!
“It’s usually up to me to pull back so that I don’t get hit” - Chris V., Development team
“Oftentimes, when I’m in the designated bike lane and the car next to me wants to turn right, they won’t check their blind spot – or even look next to them. It’s usually up to me to pull back so that I don’t get hit. I’ve had some very close calls with this, and even with big vans in this situation.”
Everyone should drive, ride, and walk in a way that is predictable. Staying in your lane, making turns that are indicated, and obeying traffic laws ensures that everyone is dependable and reliable. Drivers should always check their blind spots, whether it’s for other vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians that may be about to cross. However, the onus isn’t just on drivers…
“I thought that move was pretty risky” - Tarisha, Content team
“One time, a cyclist pulled around to the left of my car at a red light and rode in front of me to make a right turn. I understand that they didn’t want to wait behind the other cyclists that were waiting at the intersection, but I thought that move was pretty risky. What if the light changed and I let my foot off the gas just as they started crossing in front of my car?”
A little more reinforcement that everyone should drive, ride, and walk in a way that is predictable. Unless all road users follow the rules, there will always be the risk of collision and injury. While vehicles dominate most roadways and often cause the most damage, it’s important that vulnerable road users take as many precautions as they can to keep themselves out of harm’s way, and put their own safety first – if people don't know where to expect you, they may not look for you.
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“I opened my door and missed dooring a cyclist by about 0.001 seconds” - Dave S., Content team
"I was driving in downtown Toronto and had just parked on the side of a busy road. Without looking around me, I opened my door and missed dooring a cyclist by about 0.001 seconds. Luckily no one was hurt, but the cyclist was none too happy with me – rightfully so! I still cringe when I look back on it; I suppose the silver lining being that it was an effective wakeup call on checking my surroundings before I get out of my car."
Checking out one’s surroundings is imperative before exiting your car, especially in a busy spot like downtown Toronto. Using a move like the “Dutch reach” is a good way to ensure that you take a look around your car before exiting, no matter what.
What is the Dutch reach, you ask? Well, rather than using the hand that’s closest to your car door to open it, use the one that’s furthest away. This ensures that you turn your body to take a glance around each time you exit your car – not to mention, it’ll help you avoid the hefty fine that comes with “dooring.”
“Cyclists expect cars to notice they’re coming” - Pieter L., Management team
“I’ve noticed that many drivers here aren’t cognizant of cyclists on the road when they’re opening their doors, and cyclists expect cars to notice they’re coming. I always check for cyclists before I open my car door, but that’s probably because I’m used to being in the Netherlands where there are many, many more cyclists on the road.”
Confirmation that the Dutch reach does, in fact, work. Even if cyclists look out for themselves, the risk of being injured or involved in a collision won’t be diminished unless motorists look out for them, too. We all have a shared responsibility to look out for each other out there; it’s the only way we’ll be able to work towards our vision of zero.
“I’ve had more close calls with getting hit by a car than I care to count” - Dave S., Content team (again)
"As a pedestrian walking around the city, I’ve had more close calls with getting hit by a car than I care to count. Usually, it’s walking through a crosswalk, when I have the green light and the right of way. Drivers who should be stopped at the red often aren’t being cautious enough, and rush through a right turn, narrowly avoiding bowling me over. "
Toronto’s gridlock traffic has many drivers on edge, but that’s no excuse for rushing through intersections. Rather than trying to beat the crowd, give yourself an extra few minutes to reach your destination. Things happen, and people may move through traffic differently than you do. That’s where it is important to allow for enough reaction time – from all road users.
Near misses are an important way to learn how to be better. They may leave your heart pounding, blaming the other party for their poor decisions, but it is a good time to check in with your own behaviour – how could you have been better in the situation? Could you have double-checked a blind spot, or been more patient and waited your turn?
If you've had a near miss, talk about it with friends and family – they may learn from your experience, and become better road users at the same time.