Viewpoint : August 2017

Difficulty of cohabitation between trucks and bikes

The tragedy that took the life of Meryem Anoun, a 41-year-old mother on July 14, at the intersection of Bélanger Street and 6th Avenue, once again raises the issue of cohabitation between bicycles and heavy vehicles on our streets. Trucks and buses are involved in just 4% of collisions with cyclists, but 31% of cycling deaths result from a collision with a truck! And according to Santé publique de Montréal, 15% of truck collisions cause the serious injury or death of the cyclist, versus 5% of collisions involving light vehicles. We know that these trucks have many blind spots and are still rarely equipped with side guards or parabolic mirrors. In our densely populated rural areas, this presents a real problem.
Last winter, Vélo Québec made its viewpoint known during the public consultations of the Commission sur les transports de la Ville de Montréal on cohabitation between vulnerable road users and heavy vehicles. Of course, we discussed the importance of infrastructures that allow cyclists to get around safely. We also talked about the equipment that should be mandatory for trucks circulating in the neighbourhoods where we walk, pedal or our children play. This consultation generated a series of 30 recommendations, which the City of Montréal’s Executive Committee has six months to implement as part of its Vision Zéro approach to accidents. However, odds are that these changes won’t happen overnight. It will also take awareness-raising campaigns and dialogue with unions and other organizations that influence the heavy vehicle drivers who invite themselves into our cities each day.
Perhaps it is time that we gradually migrate toward trucks that are better designed for the urban environment, such as those found in all European cities. This would include delivery vehicles and all emergency vehicles.

While awaiting the systematic changes that will help larger vehicles better monitor the safety of more vulnerable road users, we are unfortunately obliged to reiterate a few self-defence tips: when biking, never position yourself beside a truck or bus. If you cannot establish eye contact with the driver, remain behind the vehicle - keeping your distance in case it backs up. Assume that the driver of the heavy vehicle cannot see you and that you have to think for two.

Suzanne Lareau
President and CEO