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Quebec cyclist group seeking government funding for new safety campaign

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A group promoting the benefits of cycling wants to raise awareness among bike enthusiasts and is taking its message straight to the bike paths.

Esther Vininsky-Oakes doesn't mince her words as she describes her experience biking in Montreal.

"It's just sort of like every man for himself, whether car or cyclist, it's just sort of the culture," she told CTV News on Friday.

"I think cyclists here tend not to follow the rules as much. It gives cyclists a bad rap."

Vélo Québec is reminding cyclists that they, too, are subject to the province's Highway Safety Code, especially when it comes to the rights of pedestrians.

"Yield to pedestrians" is the message the group hopes to boost with the awareness campaign.

"Developing a message around, you know, the responsibility and the impact of our behaviour about the perceived safety of others is something that we think will be very useful," said Jean-François Rheault, CEO of Vélo Québec.

In order for the campaign to work, the group says it needs funding from the Ministry of Transport. It will be a few months before an answer comes, but already pedestrians' rights group Piétons Québec said it supports the idea.

"There's a need for awareness around those cyclists because with new cyclists on the road, they don't always know that they need to yield to pedestrians at pedestrian crosswalks," said Sandrine Cabana-Degani, Piétons Québec's executive director.

She explained that the same goes for a school bus that has its stop sign extended and flashing. The rules of the road were brought to the forefront in Montreal last week after a four-year-old girl was hit by a cyclist as she was crossing the street to catch her school bus. The cyclist turned herself in and received a $131 ticket

The cyclist failed to stop at least five metres from the bus, which is required under Quebec's road laws. The girl was left shaken but uninjured.

Rheault said with bike paths getting busier, "cohabitation is more of an issue."

If sharing roads is tough for some, so is following the rules, said two cyclists who spoke to CTV News.

"I will not wear the helmet and I will not make signs when I turn. Sometimes I do, but usually I don't," said Fernando Lopez Escriva.

"It's tricky. People don't really wear helmets much [including] me right now," said Esther Vininsky-Oakes.

That causes a rift with some pedestrians.

"I would say that it's quite scary sometimes. They can be very aggressive sometimes and it makes us feel like we are not the priority," said Patricia Da Cruz.

Vélo Québec hopes to release its awareness campaign by spring 2025 targeting cyclists across the province.

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