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: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Id-e-tour-silence-Mtl