Reflections on Ontario’s first #SafetyRide



Joel Harden
MPP Ottawa Centre

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From September 21 to 24, my team and I were on the road for our #SafetyRide to Toronto. It was a remarkable experience.
The goal was to get from Ottawa to Toronto by bicycle in four days, and I’m proud to say we made it, with the support of colleagues and friends along the way.

Massive thanks to Erica Braunovan, Ethan Smith-Johnson, Sharon Lee and John Purkis for their support on the road. Thanks go out as well to the friends who met us along the way, taking time to tell us about safety issues in their communities.

We stopped in Kingston, Brighton, Oshawa and Scarborough, then finished on the front lawn of the Ontario Legislature. We heard from vulnerable road users, and we discussed Bill 40, The Moving Ontarians Safely Act.

Bill 40, if it is passed, would apply penalties to all driving offences under the Highway Traffic Act that result in the death or serious injury of a vulnerable road user. Judges would be able to sentence offenders with community service hours, license suspension or driver re-education training.
I will never forget the stories we heard.

I spoke to Anita Armstrong, mother of Serene Armstrong who was critically injured when a driver hit her as she crossed Meadowlands Drive. The driver stopped, backed up and then fled the scene. He later tried to sell his car to avoid responsibility.
Serene was in hospital for months and will live the rest of her life with a brain injury. For his reckless act, the driver was fined $2,000 and given a one-year license suspension, but only because he failed to remain at the scene. It is more typical for reckless drivers to get modest fines and retain the right to drive.
That’s what happened to Jess Spieker, who joined us in Oshawa, Scarborough and Queen’s Park to tell her story. She was hit in 2015 on her bicycle by an SUV driver, who was later fined $300. The crash threw Jess off her bike and left her with a broken spine, brain injury and extensive soft tissue damage. The tissue damage in turn caused serious blood clot-related complications that nearly killed her. The driver who hit Jess appealed the fine and retained the right to drive.

In Scarborough, I met Chris, a former paramedic, whose ambulance was hit by a reckless driver as he responded to a roadside accident. The impact caused significant damage to the ambulance, shifting the vehicle several feet as they attempted to load a patient. The driver fled the scene.
The reality is that the number of vulnerable road users being hurt or killed is not going down. Research suggests that at least 20 vulnerable road users will be brought into hospital emergency departments in Ontario today after being struck by a reckless driver. Until we have the technology and the infrastructure to stop this, we need laws that deter reckless driving and help turn bad drivers into good drivers. There are countries that have done so, and we should be following their example.

That’s what Bill 40 is about, and I am pleased to work with a growing community to help it pass second reading at the Ontario Legislature in November. Stay tuned for details on that important work, and please send me an email at to tell me about your own experiences with road safety.

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