Warning: This story contains a video that some may find disturbing
The City of Guelph is adding safety infrastructure to the bike lane in front of the McDonald’s on Gordon Street, which has been the site of a number of collisions and near misses.
A Guelph man who broke his hip when he was cut off while biking by a driver turning into the restaurant parking lot says he hopes the change will prevent others from going through the same ordeal.
The portion of the bike lane on Gordon Street that passes in front of the McDonald’s has been a hot spot for interactions between cyclists and motor vehicles, said Jennifer Juste, manager of transportation planning for the City of Guelph.
“We have been monitoring the conditions at that site for a while now,” said Juste. “We have tried a couple of different interventions, from signage and road painting perspective to try to improve the visibility along Gordon Street, because we have had reported collisions, but also near misses.”
Within the next few weeks the city is installing additional safety infrastructure to the Gordon Street bike lane in the area between Fountain Street and Wellington Street.
The bike lane in that area of Gordon Street will be fitted with a raised curb stop and bollards — poles with reflective markings. Juste said the hope is to raise the visibility of the bike lane so drivers are more aware there may be cyclists using them.
Part of the problem is that the drive thru has space for only a few cars, so during busy times cars are often lined up waiting on Gordon Street.
“We can’t prohibit the left turn into the McDonald’s because legally they have the right to have full-turn movements into their property, but we hope with the added visibility and physical presence of the bollards and the curb stop that it reminds people to look,” she said.
One of the reported collisions occurred in October of 2019, when Jay Wilson was travelling by bicycle southbound on Gordon.
As Wilson passed the McDonald’s restaurant, a man in a motor vehicle entered Gordon Street travelling westbound from Surrey Street, crossed four lanes of traffic and entered the parking lot, colliding with the cyclist.
A spokesperson for Guelph police told GuelphToday the driver, a 38-year-old Rockwood man, was charged with failing to yield the right of way.
“He went straight across four lanes and into the drive-thru,” said Wilson. “It’s impossible to do what he did, so it never should have been attempted in the first place and that is why I was hit.”
Wilson was left helpless on his back after the collision with a broken hip. He said it could have been even worse.
“Thank God I had my helmet, because I know it kissed the back of his van and I went down on my head on the side,” he said.
A video of the incident can be seen below (double click to enlarge).
Wilson said he is disappointed his broken hip was not considered when the man was charged.
“He was given a small fine for an illegal lane change. No mention of me being hit or having a life-long physical injury,” he said. “I posted on my social media when I was angry that this guy wanted his Happy Meal — that takes priority over my safety.”
The matter is currently making its way through civil court.
“I am not the kind of person to sue but I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do,” said Wilson. “I know I can’t be compensated to get my hip back, so what am I going to do? But it’s the only system we have.”
Wilson hired David Shellnutt, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in representing clients who are cyclists.
Shellnutt grew up in Guelph and is familiar with issues cyclists face in the Royal City.
“We know that my client’s crash has not been the only one here,” said Shellnutt of injuries in front of the McDonald’s. “The pattern and frequency of past and perhaps future crashes in this exact spot should give the City of Guelph and McDonald’s pause to consider their own liability and a well thought out response.”
Shellnutt said he would like to see the company change the configuration of the drive thru to make it safer.
“Minor inconveniences for motorists should not trump public safety,” said Shellnutt.
Wilson said he is thrilled to see the city adding bollards and a raised curb on the bike lane at that section of Gordon.
“But I am a little leery as to how that will really help. People who are cautious and careful will pay attention. People who aren’t — it’s not going to change them at all,” he said.
Two years after the collision Wilson is still recovering and has regular physiotherapy. He received a hip replacement and will have to do regular exercises to remain mobile.
“I think it’s something I will have for the rest of my life, in terms of the stiffness,” he said.
Wilson said he has gotten back into the saddle and started cycling again, but not on the roads, only in car-free places like the Arboretum.
Jennifer Antolin, owner of the McDonald’s restaurant, said in an emailed statement they worked closely with the city to add signage to the drive-thru area asking drivers to be mindful of the bike lane.
“We are in constant communication with the City of Guelph and hoping to see changes coming soon. In the meantime, we encourage guests, drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians to remain aware, alert, and courteous to each other,” said Antolin.
Wilson said McDonald’s has been helpful, supplying him with the surveillance video and even offering assistance at the time of the collision.
“Somebody came out with orange pylons and placed them all around me — I think it was McDonald’s employees. What is interesting is that they have the pylons ready,” he said.
Wilson said he has not been able to watch the surveillance video of the collision.
“That has been a choice because I don’t want to go through it again,” he said. “I would just like the area to be safer — for me and for other cyclists.”