Montreal needs to become more bicycle friendly and safer all at the same time. Recent tragic accidents in the city have cyclists, politicians and urban planners scrambling to find safe solutions for cyclists on roadways and underpasses that were designed many decades ago. No easy task to be sure. But not impossible either.
Priority #1: Helmets should be mandatory for all cyclists
I have advocated for the last 25 years for the Quebec government to require helmets for all cyclists as has been the case in Côte Saint-Luc since I introduced the first municipal legislation in Canada in 1992. There is an 80 percent risk reduction in traumatic brain injury for a helmeted cyclist. Simply put, helmets save lives.
Priority #2: More bike paths and bike lanes
Creating paths that are physically removed or separated from traffic are best. Painted lines on the road are better than no separation at all. Bicycles need their own physical space to safely traverse our urban road network. In our own municipality, we have begun creating lanes on main streets as more and more bikes take to the road each year.
Priority #3: Allow cyclists to use sidewalks where the roadway is dangerous
In many spots the road is simply to narrow, too busy or unsafe due to a tunnel or dark underpass. If we cannot make them safer then allow bikes on the sidewalk until we find a way to improve the situation. In Cote Saint-Luc this has been our policy for the last few years. Signs are posted at all three underpasses advising cyclist to get off their bikes if pedestrians are present. So far so good.
The new Minister of Transport announced yesterday that he will look to amend the law that prohibits cyclists on sidewalks. Here in Cote Saint-Luc we’ve instructed our security and police to disregard this provincial law at underpasses for the safety of cyclists.
Priority #4: Train drivers to keep an eye out for cyclists and pedestrians
Quebecers are notorious for being cowboys on the road. While reducing municipal speed limits to 40 km/h has helped make our streets safer it isn’t enough. Police enforcement of safety rules for pedestrians using crosswalks is a farce – non-existent. Cote Saint-Luc has adopted US style warning signs to alert drivers of their obligation to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Police must make this a high priority.
We need better signs, street markings and traffic signals for bikes and pedestrians alike. There is no need to reinvent the (bicycle) wheel here. Many jurisdictions around the world have created safe, and enjoyable, urban cycling experiences and so should Montreal.