A friend of mine was hit by a car last year, and because of her modest income, she refused an ambulance ride from the scene to the hospital, where she could be properly assessed for a head injury. Days later she wound up in Emergency anyway, suffering from the tell-tale signs of a concussion.

Setting aside the disturbing Canadian trend towards high user fees for ambulance care, the rub in this story is that my friend needn’t have worried about that ambulance fee at all. It was covered by the driver’s public liability insurance, which takes care of immediate medical expenses like ambulances (and even follow-up care such as physiotherapy) automatically, regardless of any future determination of fault, which can take months to be resolved.

But my friend didn’t know that, and so instead made the only choice she thought she could, refusing the care she needed at the scene.

The question of whether or not to get in an ambulance is only the first of many whose answers can elude us in the moments after a collision. Should you call the police? What number do you call? What information are you legally entitled to get from the driver? What about witnesses?

Kelsey Lane is hoping that a new Cycling Collision Card will help alleviate some of the confusion for people on bikes who find themselves in an accident.

The card is a collaborative project of Halifax’s bike advocacy triumvirate: the Halifax Cycling Coalition, Bicycle Nova Scotia, and the Dal Bike Centre. It’s a simple idea: a small card, folded to fit in a wallet, filled with instructions on what to do (including specific phone numbers to call) and a form to fill out, making it easy to gather the information you might need later on.

“You are vulnerable when you are in a collision,” says Lane, HCC’s executive director, “so having something that you can just point to and say okay, this is what I’m supposed to do, and to be able to show it to the other person in the collision — it’s a way of empowering someone in that position.”

“It’s one step forward while we are waiting for protected and safe networks of bicycle infrastructure,” adds Lane.

During the design phase for the card, Lane and HCC chair Eliza Jackson actually witnessed a vehicle-bike collision on North Park Street. “In that scenario,” says Lane, “if I hadn’t gone through this process of knowing what to do when you see something like that, I would have been way more underprepared. You are kind of flustered even though you’re not the one in the collision.”

So what exactly do you need to know if you’re in a collision? Here’s a peek at the Cycling Collision Card:


“It’s really important that people have the information before something happens,” says Eliza Jackson, “so that when a collision actually happens they are not scrambling to figure out how to navigate the situation. If they’ve read over the card, they hopefully have some sort of idea of what to do right away.”

The card was designed in collaboration with Bicycle Nova Scotia, who at the same time have launched an incident reporting feature on their website, designed to better track safety issues for cycling all over the province.

Riders who get in collisions are asked to fill in basic details (that correspond with the Cycling Collision Card), including pinpointing the location on a map. BNS will collect and analyze the data, looking for patterns. “Our hope is we’ll have a more effective way of showing trouble spots throughout the road network where you are getting a lot of conflict between bicycles and motorists,” says Ben Buckwold, in charge of bikeways and Blue Route implementation at BNS.

The BNS report will go above and beyond the collision data currently collected by the province to include near misses and harassing behaviour. The times that drivers cut you off or graze you as they pass?  BNS wants to hear about them, even if they are not reported to the police.

Buckwold says that he will be looking for trends in the data that could help direct BNS’s safety initiatives, be it education campaigns or calls for changes to infrastructure. “What we are dealing with now,” says Buckwold, “is we might hear from one or two people saying they had a negative experience on this roadway, and if it is something like failure to give a metre, it can be tough for people to evaluate…  So if we see a pattern we can put some credibility behind it.”

Both the collision card and the incident reporting system are strictly focussed on cyclists, but both would benefit from including pedestrians, the vulnerable road user group with the highest collision numbers.

Cycling Collision Cards are available at Bicycle Nova Scotia and Halifax Cycling Coalition offices, and will be available for wider distribution once a larger print run can be funded.

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  1. Here’s a safe practice not on the list. Don’t beat on people’s cars, cause $1400 damage and act like an asshole when you rear end them.

  2. There is an important issue raised here which is the deterrent to proper emergency health care created by the huge fees associated with ambulance response to incidents. We don’t’ get billed when the police are called, nor do fire departments send out bills for emergency response. Why do ambulances?
    Two winters ago, I witnessed the operator of a small sidewalk snow removal bobcat in the downtown get bashed into the window of his machine when it fetched up suddenly against a sidewalk while clearing a snow pile. He was injured. The first thing he started saying was “don’t call an ambulance. I can’t afford it”. Somebody called an ambulance anyway. When they arrived he was still in distress and could barely walk. He was waiting for a family member to get there to help him. The paramedics tried to help him and said they would get him to the hospital. He steadfastly refused and continually repeated he couldn’t afford their services. Something is very wrong with this system.

    1. That’s an especially strange scenario – he would have been covered by Workers Compensation, and should have known that due to OHS training.

      1. In terms of employee rights in this province, if there’s something less taught, protected, upheld or enforced than OHS laws and policy I don’t know about it.

      2. Unfortunately, most of the contract workers who do this kind of work are not informed of their rights or benefits. They work for contractors who have profit as a bottom line. I suspect that the chap was also docked pay for leaving work to go to the hospital.
        Furthermore, when the bill comes from the paramedics, it is due immediately. There is nothing in that about “workers compensation”.
        There needs to be some kind of provision for emergency response by paramedics which is waived when it is an accident or injury.