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Teen paralyzed after bike crash calls for better signage on Montreal-Laval bridge

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A Laval 18-year-old says his life has been forever changed after suffering a paralyzing accident on a bike path in September.

Jérémy Deguire says he was cycling north on the A-25 bridge from Montreal to Laval at night when it happened. He says it was dark on the bridge, and he didn't see where the lane shifts to the right.

"I didn't see the fence," he told CTV News. "I hit the fence and I fell off my bicycle. I lost consciousness for a couple of minutes."

He says he doesn't remember much, but "some people walking across the bridge found me and came to rescue me." They were the ones who called 911.

The next thing he remembers, he says, was the operating room -- medical personnel put him into a coma as they stabilized his vertebrae. Deguire says he suffered fractures in his face, ribs, and sternum. He says he also endured a perforated lung and had to be intubated.

"Everything was basically broken," he said. "It took me a solid three days to fully understand the extent of my injuries ... It took me a while to realize I was paralyzed."

Deguire was studying carpentry and had hoped for a career in construction. Following his accident, he says the life he thought he'd have is gone.

"Most of my dreams, I can't do them anymore," he told CTV News.

Jérémy Deguire says he hit the fence head first while cycling north on the A-25 bridge to Laval, Que. He wants more lighting and signage to warn cyclists of the change in the path. (Dave Touniou, CTV News)

MORE SIGNAGE?

Deguire says he wants more signage and lighting on the bike path so that other cyclists don't wind up in the same situation as him.

The bridge, part of a 7.2-kilometre toll route, is co-owned and managed by Quebec's transport ministry and private partners.

The ministry wrote in a statement "that it is saddened by the event that took place on Sept. 2 and that it sympathizes with the cyclist and his family."

"As soon as the Ministère became aware of the event, it requested an update from the infrastructure manager, Concession A25," the statement continued, adding a private partner is responsible for safety on the bridge. 

"The Ministry has confirmed its full cooperation with the Private Partner by participating in follow-up meetings to ensure that the premises are safe and user-friendly for cyclists.

The bike Jeremy Deguire says he was riding at the time of the crash. (Submitted photo)

"We are deeply saddened by the young cyclist who was involved in an accident on the multipurpose track. We have already had the opportunity to express our deepest sympathy to the parents," wrote Sylvie Godin, spokesperson for Transurban, which owns the A-25. 

Deguire and his family say they are considering legal action for his injuries. Godin said that as long as that's a possibility, she has to limit her responses to CTV's questions regarding the incident. 

She did say, however, that it was the first accident to occur on the path since it opened in 2011. The path has since closed for the winter, as it does every year. 

"The Vision Zero principle, which assumes that no one should be killed or seriously injured using the road transport system, also takes into account the fact that humans can make mistakes," said Stephanie Couillard, a spokesperson for Velo Quebec, a cyclists' advocacy group. 

"The road and cycle network must therefore be designed with this principle in mind," she said, adding there are mitigation measures available to make future accidents less likely.

"Measures such as the installation of bollards, better signage, and lighting could considerably reduce the risk of collision," she wrote in a statement to CTV News. 

SAAQ WON'T COVER WITHOUT VEHICLE INVOLVED

The family is trying to retrofit their house to make it accessible for Deguire's wheelchair. That could take some time, as they rely primarily on Quebec's Societe d'Habitation for compensation.

"It's about $50,000," said Deguire's mother, Stephanie. "An elevator costs $85,000, we've been told. So, it doesn't even cover that."

Plus, "it takes about six months minimum to actually get the money," she said.

The family lives in a three-storey house. Without accessibility adaptations, Deguire says his family members "basically have to lug me around."

"It would be faster if we had SAAQ," said Stephanie, referring to Quebec's automotive insurance board.

"But, because there were no cars involved, we don't have it," she said.

CTV News also reached out to the SAAQ, which confirmed that, even though the incident occurred on a Quebec road, because his accident didn't include a car, he's not eligible for compensation.

CTV News also asked the Societe d'Habitation to confirm wait times, but the office did not respond by deadline.

KEEPING OPTIMISM

While Deguire recovers and rethinks some of his career goals, he says he's already adapted his everyday routine and kept his humour through all of it.

"I used to go on walks and cycle to clear my thoughts," he said. "But now, I'm not going to say I'm walking, but I go rolling around in the wheelchair."

"That's him," said his mother, who sat beside him during his interview with CTV News.

"That was him before the accident, and that's him now," she added, smiling.  

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