You know the heart-stopping feeling you get watching a cyclist fly through a red light, forcing drivers slam on their brakes.
And you know the feeling you get watching a car speed by a schoolyard as a kid chases a ball towards the road.
But which is worse?
The City Matters survey, conducted for Metro by MQO Research, asked Torontonians questions about city life, including “Which is more of a safety hazard: a cyclist who disobeys signs or traffic lights or a speeding car in a school zone?” Slightly more than half of respondents — 53 per cent — said the car speeding in the school zone is more dangerous, and 42 per cent of Torontonians chose the cyclist who disobeys signs or traffic lights. Five per cent weren’t sure.
Driver Naveed Rathore, who commutes to Etobicoke from Scarborough, said he sees both sides.
“If a car is going five or 10 kilometres over I wouldn’t see it as dangerous as the cyclist, but if it’s a madman driving 50 over the limit, of course it’s the unsafe driver,” he said. “Driving in Toronto, I see (cyclists) going on a one-way in the wrong direction, disobeying red lights and it can lead to cars getting into accidents.”
Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, seemed surprised at the results. “Wow,” he responded. “Wow, wow.”
“A one-tonne motor vehicle travelling through a school zone at a high speed, based on physics alone, is more dangerous than a 20-pound bicycle pushing through a traffic light or stop sign,” he said.
Toronto Police Traffic Services spokesman Const. Clinton Stibbe said both scenarios are dangerous, but a pedestrian or cyclist will always lose in a collision with a vehicle.
“I would say that’s an unfair question to ask: it would say you’re valuing one life over another,” he said. “Whether it’s a child in a school zone or a cyclist disobeying a light, or a pedestrian crosses where they shouldn’t, it’s a tragic loss for the community.”
Speeding is always dangerous, but school zones have the added risk from kids who don’t always pay attention, he said.
“The faster a vehicle travels, the longer it takes to stop and if that child comes out and those precious few seconds you have are eaten up because you’re going too fast, there’s no way the child’s going to survive a collision. If a child is struck by a car going 40 km/h, it’s almost guaranteed to be fatal.”
Both cyclists and pedestrians have died in the city by disobeying lights, he said.
“In the vast majority of cases, it’s not the speed of the cars involved it’s that the cyclists have come out of a road or street when they shouldn’t have and been struck.”