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Bike deaths inspire vigils…and tickets

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Concern about cycling safety is at a high after four cyclists were killed by vehicles on rural Quebec roads over the past week. Tomorrow, fourteen communities around the province will hold a “tour de silence”, where cyclists take to the streets in silence to commemorate those have been victims of road accidents. The event aims to raise awareness about sharing the road among both cyclists and drivers.

But Montreal, where cycling and cycling accidents are at an all-time high, is not on the list. Vélo Québec said that this event is organized by municipalities and the logistics of closing streets for the tour are more complex in Montreal.

UPDATE May 19th: Montrealers have planned a tour, meeting at the corner of Chemin du Musée and Saint-Patrick near the Atwater market at 6:30 pm.  Nobody, including “Rouler à Vélo” blog where I saw it announced, seems to know who’s planned it or where the tour will go… très mystérieux! A facebook event has also popped up for a tour on the Gilles Vignault race track, at 6pm, although this dosen’t seem like a very good place to educate drivers about the dangers facing cyclists.

However, Montreal police are responding to the recent deaths by upping their presence in areas that get heavy bike traffic, handing out warnings and tickets to cyclists who do not follow the rules of the road.  In particular, cycling while listening to music was mentioned by police.

Cyclists are not exactly known for abiding the letter of the law in Montreal but this kind of campaign frustrates me to no end. Before picking on cyclists, the city has to realize how ambiguous, even contradictory, the rules are as they apply to cyclists. Case in point: last summer Fagstein ran an exposé showing that cyclists were given dozens of mixed signals along a single bike path. Sometimes they were required to cycle on the sidewalk, and they were expected to follow traffic or pedestrian signals at different intersections.

But in a twisted way, Montreal’s response makes sense.

This blame-the-victim attitude only reinforces what all cyclists already know: we are ultimately solely responsible for our own safety on the streets. No matter who is in the right, the cyclist will always suffer the brunt of a collision with a motorized vehicle. Cyclists will always have to be more careful than drivers because we don’t live in a little metal bubble.

Bike safe. Helmets are sexy.

Image: despite the “priorité aux cyclistes signs” I have seen a cyclist get hit by a car turning left on de Maisonneuve. How are drivers meant to give cyclists priority, but get where they’re going, when the stream of cyclists is non-stop at rush-hour?

UPDATE: j2 points out that a route for a Montreal Tour de Silence has been proposed on bikely:



  1. I just wish cyclists would understand that they are moving vehicles like cars. They so don’t care. They act like they can go anywhere and do whatever they want. They are so dangerous to cars and pedestrians. Many times I’ve called on them to do their stops or bike on the road or to not ride over a human walking and all I get are sneers. If I was the police I would be cracking really hard on cyclists. Tickets, tickets, tickets.

  2. ‘kay, my french isn’t perfect and I’m in a bit of a rush, but the lapresse article doesn’t mention the time, and the Vélo Québec article doesn’t even mention the montreal tour. At least the bikely link has the route.

    Am I missing it?

  3. Here is what I wrote on another forum, with an explanation of the traffic signalisation in front of the Jean-Talon Loblaws in Parc-Ex for non Montrealers:

    “The police are doing a clampdown blitz on cyclists. Now, of course cyclists must respect red lights and such, but I saw les flics DELIBERATELY targeting cyclists crossing a very short patch of wide sidewalk at the very edge of the public square in front of and beside the head Loblaws, on Jean-Talon where Parc disappears for a bit. This is simply self-preservation, as the righthand lane on Jean-Talon is TURN RIGHT ONLY, and there are many, many buses and trucks doing so as well as cars. I asked the policeperson what cyclists were supposed to do with such an unsafe configuration, and being a cop, he said we had to respect the law “just like cars”. Taken literally, that would mean riding in the left-hand lane, LEFT of all the cars, trucks and buses turning right; the larger vehicles could easily whomp us from behind as they turned.

    This blitz against cyclists is in response to a terrible accident in which three triathelon athletes were killed and others injured – the athletes were respecting all laws and in a proper “peloton”. Another cyclist was killed by a drunk driver the day after.

    I’m sure Cardinal Ouellet would approve on a blitz against scantily-clad women if there were a serial rapist, and Jean-Marie Le Pen and that idiot from Hérouxviille would definitely approve on a blitz againt overly-clad immigrant women in the wake of a racist murder.

    Once again, I think cyclists should obey traffic laws and even more than that, respect pedestrians and slower cyclists, but these blitzes are prime examples of victim blaming and discriminatory treatment”.

    So are bicycle helmets by the way – those campaigns are a car-centred means of AVOIDING the changes in laws and behaviour needed for cycling safety. Namely a burden of proof on drivers of polluting, killing vehicles. And cycling education from childhood.

    The safest places for cycling in the world also have the lowest helmet use rates (for daily cyclists commuting – of course althletes going as fast as cars in pelotons wear kit). for some very safe and sexy cyclists of both sexes and all ages. for the archives of Le Monde à bicyclette right here and our many struggles for a safe and sexy cycling city, and current vélorutionnaire, walkable and carfree news.

  4. I know several motorists who like to “pretend” to run down cyclists and pedestrians in some sort of twisted sense of humour. Granted, I know more people like this in rural British Columbia, but I know a couple of people here in Montreal who do the same thing.

    However, most cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road, so I guess I understand why this would upset motorists. And pedestrians, for that matter. I hate when cyclists cycle down the sidewalk when the road is plainly car-free.

  5. Very insensitive timing by the Montreal cops. This is called “ignoring the bull”.

  6. Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign: $37 and three demerit points.
    Failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian: $37 and two demerit points.
    Failing to ride on the right-hand side of the road or in the same direction as traffic: $37
    Riding while wearing earphones: $52
    Riding on a sidewalk or failing to use a bike path: $37
    Riding at night without reflectors or a light: $37

    This is just as absurd. 3 demerit points on what? Most people who bike often don’t carry wallets with them (so no ID), nor do they have driver licenses.

    And how are you encouraging the use of bikes if you have to risk your life going with the traffic during rush hour. You have no idea what’s coming at you from behind! All the FATAL accidents that occurred recently were all due to the fact that the cyclists had no idea what was going on behind them. Had they seen the idiots, who can’t drive like responsible individuals, they could have swerved or jumped out of the way before the impact.

  7. @ Anonymous, 1st post: The only times that, as a cyclist, I have had serious conflict (ie. Collision!) with pedestrians is when they absentmindedly jaywalk into the de Maisonneuve bicycle track or Rue Ste-Cath. It seems that the ones at fault in those situations are the pedestrians for crossing when and where they are not permitted.
    To me, it seems that it is the idea to separate disparate modes of transportation into different streams with little regard for sharing which creates this mess on the roads.
    Regardless, you will continue to get your so-called “sneers” when you act like a self-entitled douche and step into my designated path. Get out of my way.

  8. The Quebec Code Routier is in urgent need of updating to reflect the fact that bicycles are a legitimate mode of transportation which require appropriate attention. Bicycles are NOT cars! They have completely different operating characteristics and need to be treated accordingly.

    Yes there are bicyclists who are disrespectful and behave as if they have the right to do whatever they want. These people should be “punished”, just as any driver should be who does similarly irresponsible actions. But many cyclists disobey various laws simply because they are not practical for bicycles or because it may in fact be safer not to “follow the rules”.

    Why exactly should a bicycle come to a full-stop at a stop sign if there is no reason to stop? Of course cyclists should always cede the right of way to anyone who has it, and especially to pedestrians (and to any other vehicle for that matter – they always win in a conflict), but a cyclist can do all of that without necessarily coming to a full stop. This is very different from blowing through an intersection at high speed without so much as glancing in any direction!

    Similarly for riding on the sidewalk: of course it is not something that should be done if there are appropriate alternatives. But there are many situations where it is the most reasonable option. Perhaps applying a 5 km/hr speed limit to cyclists riding on the sidewalk (ie the speed of a pedestrian) would be a more appropriate rule? If a cyclist is riding significantly faster than pedestrians on a sidewalk, then clearly this merits action. If a cyclist is not bothering anyone and is riding by themselves on the sidewalk (for example against traffic on the service road of the Decarie – something I do on a daily basis), then clearly this does not merit a ticket.

    And mandatory helmet laws are a diversion from the real issue of how to provide safe and secure access to bicyclists.

  9. In answer to Jack who wonders what the demerit points are for:

    – if you ARE carrying ID and you are ticketed, and you have a driver’s license, that’s where the demerit points come off.

    – if you ARE carrying ID when you are ticketed, and you later apply for a driver’s license, you will have demerit points on getting your license.

    as for the amounts you quoted, I had thought they were actually higher for some infractions…

    Why would “most people who bike” not carry ID? I would think that would cause nothing but problems if urgences santé had to scrape you off the roadway…

    A man a few summers ago went for a ride and fell or was hit, and hit his head. He was reported missing for several days, as he had no ID… but was lying dead in the morgue.

  10. There’s no need for yet another day, there is is the perfectly useful
    International Bicycling Day, the first Sunday of June.

    There was a time in Montreal when it was a day for a demonstration, with everyone on bikes rather than walking A large crowd of riders, expecting their right to the street, and even then some car drivers would try to push their way through.

    I’m not sure which year it began in Montreal, I don’t think it existed before Le Monde a Bicyclette began in 1975. But, it was eventually usurped by the Tour de l’Isle. The first year that fun ride was in the fall, but then the next it moved to the first Sunday of June. I remember how forlorn Bob Silverman looked that first June, and pretty soon the demonstration disappeared. A day no longer about making change, claiming the right to the street, but about having fun, and being a consumer.

    The first Sunday of June always comes close to the day Cicely Yalden was killed, June 7th, 1990. This year marks the 20th anniversary of her death, killed at the corner of Rachel and Clark. Accounts vary, but either someone was parked on the bike path, forcing her off to be hit by a car, or someone was illegally parked too close to the intersection, blocking her view, or the view of the car driver that hit her.

    The thing is, exactly six weeks before she was killed at that intersection, I found a delivery truck (for a Big Chain, the outlet is still there) parked at that intersection, parked on the bike path and thus blocking it, and sticking out into the intersection, creating danger for pedestrians. I made a fuss, thus being maybe the only person who tried to save Cicely Yalden’s life, even though I had no idea she existed until six weeks later. The driver gave the usual spiel about his need to park there, and how it wasn’t unsafe. I should have punched that truck out.

    Going home, I found Westmount Public Security illegally parked in an intersection, the laws are clear and there were also no parking sighs there. Memory says there were other cars in that intersection too. They created the very situation we were warned about as children, don’t step out into the street from between parked cars. There was a crosswalk there, there was a traffic light that was seeing sporadic use at the time, but all the Westmount Public Security guy could think of was getting his donuts.

    On my way to the post office the next day to mail a letter of complaint to the Big Chain that owned the truck from the previous day, I find a truck illegally parked on the sidewalk. His excuse was that there was a no-parking sigh, as if parking on the sidewalk was less illegal than staying on the street.

    There’s the problem right there. People who don’t know the rules, and at the very least don’t understand why they are important. People too lazy to park where it’s safe or too lazy to follow the rules, people who think the laws don’t count for them, and law enforcement that doesn’t enforce the law.

    The minute I read that Cicely Yalden had been killed, I knew I hadn’t done enough.

    I should also point out that she died at the most vulnerable place, an intersection. Bike paths can never fix that situation.


  11. concerning bike safety more than a few things are wrong in montreal. here are just a few:

    – there is a severe lack of pedestrian/cyclist/automobilist etiquette when it comes to sharing street-space. when i was in san francisco, there seemed to be a lot of education going in that direction, and teaching cyclists ride safe in the city. still it seems that i get honked at too much when i try to take-up a safe amount of road while riding my bike, i’d like to think it’s just dumb guys honking cause i’m wearing a skirt, but i have a feeling it comes from the frustration of cars having to slow down or change lanes to pass me by.

    – signalisation makes it really unclear how we should all be interacting together or when we should be especially careful of each other’s presence (ei: why isn’t there anything to signify the bike path to pedestrians when they exit the alexis-nihon mall on maisonneuve? inserting some kind of bollards would seem like an adequate response).

    some examples of where things get a bit unfair :

    cops are really are busting cyclists’ asses for trivial things. i got a ticket that averaged 200$ for riding on the bike path with earphones on last summer. when i asked why it was illegal, i got no answer other than: it is illegal. now of course i know that it’s not a safe practice, and then when talking to cops, i really ought to bite my tongue and swallow my words.

    i got hit by a car while driving on the maisonneuve bike path. while i was bleeding in the middle of the street, the driver of the car got out to scream at me for having broken his windshield with my head.

    and yes, helmets are sexy! much more so than uniforms…

  12. It’s simple, bike paths along the side of regular roads are not bike paths. That the city claims they are is nothing short of ridiculous. I’ve been biking around Montreal my whole life. I’m sure it’s fine if you’re careful but I’ve never felt comfortable in the immediate area of Decarie/Maisonneuve. I walk my bike there. You can’t trust motorists in this town, they act like cyclists are invisible. Also, I’m not sure what a police crackdown on cycle safety really accomplishes. It just seems like the cops are using the tragedy of these deaths as an excuse for a cash grab. We need to educate cyclists, and especially motorists who act like cyclists are invisible on the road. Ticketing cyclists accomplishes neither.

  13. Michael, I remember International Bicycling Day and our ragtag parades. Nothing like the helmeted and lycraed suburbanites some years later on Le Tour de l’île, often coming with their bicycles affixed to their (@#$%) cars.

    Places where helmets are superfluous are sexy.

  14. Re. what happens if you do not have ID but are a license holder.
    The officer will request you address and name with which they will retrieve your license number on their portable computer and hand you the ticket with demerits.

    At least that is what happened last year

    I suppose you could give a false name and address, but…

  15. I was ticketed for listening to my mp3 player today – i was so angry that i am sure my riding put me more at risk thanks to be being stopped on my way to work than the music ever has. I see car drivers on the phone, not checking blind spots, turning before looking back, not using mirrors; i see bike lanes full of dangerous cracks and potholes, very narrow and dangerous. I saw a construction truck spill a heavy pole onto two riders.. all riding, safely, with helmets on a bike lane! I am extremely angry and feel as if the police are not peace keepers or out for our safety but idiotic bullies..

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