Whenever we write about bike/car "interactions" we get a lot of complaints that cyclists bring much of this upon themselves by blowing through red lights and stop signs, and generally cycling aggressively.
While convalescing after being hit by a truck, Dr. Chris Cavacuiti of the University of Toronto had some time to study the statistics and concluded otherwise. He is interviewed by Bet McIlroy in the U of T's Experience Research:
Another U of T Professor was not so lucky.
Who causes accidents—cyclists or drivers?
While there is a public perception that cyclists are usually the cause of accidents between cars and bikes, an analysis of Toronto police collision reports shows otherwise: The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection and either failing to stop properly or proceeding before it was safe to do so. The second most common crash type involved a motorist overtaking unsafely. The third involved a motorist opening a door onto an oncoming cyclist. The study concluded that cyclists are the cause of less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents in this study.
The available evidence suggests that collisions have far more to do with aggressive driving than aggressive cycling.
So what can we do to reduce bike-car accidents?
There is a wide variety of effective strategies that can reduce motorist/cyclist collisions. Many European countries have far lower rates of cycling fatalities than we do in Canada, despite having roads that are narrower and more crowded than ours. They have managed this through a combination of rigorous driver education and training as well as strong law enforcement policies that place the burden of responsibility with driver—not cyclists—when it comes to collisions. The Europeans have also done a far better job investing in cycling infrastructure to keep cyclists safe.