Montreal says no to bike helmets, yes to stopping drunk riders
Published Monday, September 21, 2015 11:55AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 22, 2015 8:36AM EDT
The city of Montreal doesn't think bicyclists must wear helmets, but does want police to stop more riders who are violating the rules of the road.
The provincial government has spent the past year and a half re-evaluating the Highway Safety Code with a particular eye on bicycle riders.
Mayor Denis Coderre, along with municipal transportation committee members Aref Salem and Marc-André Gadoury, say the Highway Safety Code was drawn up when bicycling as a means of urban transportation was not as popular as it is today.
Currently more than 50 per cent of Montrealers ride a bicycle to commute on an occasional basis.
To that end the city's committee is proposing 20 recommendations. Among them, it does not think helmet use by bicycle riders should be mandatory. They cited studies taken in other Canadian cities that created mandatory helmet laws showing the number of bicyclists drops precipitously when those laws came into effect.
Alberta, for example, saw a 40 per cent drop in cyclists on the road after enacting a helmet law.
Coderre said he instead wants to encourage more people to cycle.
“At the end of the day, it's a matter also of quality of life. If you use a bicycle, you're in better health and you save in social costs for other purposes,” he said.
However Coderre et al say that police should be stricter in their enforcement of the rules of the road when it comes to cyclists, and stop riders who are drunk, using cell phones, or running red lights.
The city's committee does not think that bicyclists should be allowed to treat red lights as if they are stop signs, believing that would lead to an increase in collisions.
It does recommend that bicyclists be allowed to turn right on red, and that they do not have to come to a complete stop at stop signs if no other traffic is present.
Municipal politicians think that bicyclists should be allowed to ride on sidewalks in many instances, pointing to the deadly collision that happened last year while a woman was riding under the St. Denis St. viaduct.
The committee also recommends a change in provincial law so cyclists are not required to ride on the extreme right of a lane, saying this puts them at risk of being hit by a car door opened by a driver who failed to look backward.
The best way to deal with it is to inform drivers it’s not illegal, said Coderre.
“If it's done, we would recognize it and focus on more safety and make sure that from the both sides, they understand the reality on the field,” said Coderre.
Cycling activists call the mayor's plan a good start, but they say if he really wants to make things safer, the city needs to build more bike paths.
“The main way that cyclists get killed or injured is in collisions with motor vehicles. Cyclists don't have to share the roads with motor vehicles,” said Dan Lambert of the Montreal Bike Coalition.
So far, more bike paths are not part of the city’s plan.
The city will be presenting its recommendations to Provincial Transportation Minister Robert Poeti shortly.
Poeti is expected to table his legislation changing the Safety Code this autumn.