Following Vancouver’s lead, Victoria will require its city and contractor trucks to be equipped with side guards in an attempt to bring greater protection for cyclists and pedestrians.
But amid calls for the requirements to come from upper levels of government, Transport Canada says it’s exploring other safety solutions.
Side guards block the space between front and back tires as they’re meant to prevent the rear wheels of larger vehicles from running over pedestrians or cyclists once a collision has occurred.
Victoria’s new requirement for its city-owned and contractor vehicles was pushed by Coun. Stephen Andrew in an approved motion last month. He cited a cyclist being hit near the Johnson Street bridge in July, and a recent crash in Vancouver that killed cyclist Agustin Beltran, 28. The two cities are also asking for the feds to make side guards mandatory on large, heavy and semi-trailer trucks in urban areas.
“I think it’s another place where municipalities are demonstrating leadership by moving along on things where senior governments are maybe a little slow to move on,” said Corey Burger, Capital Bike’s policy and infrastructure chair.
He said Transport Canada had the chance to require side guards after a spate of fatal collisions a decade ago, but didn’t. After initial collisions, it’s the wheels of vehicles running over cyclists or pedestrians that turn incidents fatal, he added.
Transport Canada told Black Press Media it has extensively researched side guards over the last decade and found limited benefit for vulnerable street users. The agency said it’s working with all levels of government and industry to strengthen safety and reduce the risks.
It is also looking at proposing regulations in the coming years requiring automatic emergency braking and advanced driver assistance systems.
Victoria’s physical infrastructure changes – including those near the Johnson Street bridge – have increased safety, Burger said, adding that the feds changing vehicle design requirements would be another important tool.
“We can reduce collisions as much as possible through driver education, through infrastructure, but (side guards) are the last ditch thing between somebody getting injured and somebody getting killed.”
More cities following Victoria and Vancouver’s direction could lead to many of the province’s contractors installing side the guards, Burger said, as they’ll want to keep the business of those communities.
He recognizes mandating side guards on trucks nationwide would be costly, but said saving lives is worth it.
“I’m hopeful this is the last time we have to ask for this, but if it isn’t we’ll just keep asking and we’ll keep hoping that we don’t have to have another fatality before Transport Canada takes action.”
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