Viewpoint : August 2015

For pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to coexist peacefully, the principle of caution must prevail


On the road, it stands to reason that pedestrians, cyclists and motorists must look out for one another. However, some days I wonder how far our collective irresponsibility will go. By violating traffic regulations and acting as if we own the road, we all seem to be putting the blame on others.
 
Of course, cyclists who don’t respect the Highway Safety Code are just as blameworthy as motorists, with the small difference that reckless cyclists — unlike reckless motorists — do not endanger the lives of others - or at least very rarely, according to statistics.  Hence, the relevance of the principle of caution, where the heavier and faster users must, for obvious reasons, show increased caution toward the more vulnerable users.
 
Article 327 of the Québec Highway Safety Code prohibits any rate of speed or any action that can endanger human life and safety or property. This begs the question why the police rarely apply this regulation in the event of serious accidents involving cyclists and motorists – particularly when the latter have endangered the life or safety of cyclists. Recently, journalist Isabelle Richer was mowed down by a motorist who had clearly behaved dangerously — he overtook a farm vehicle on a country road without taking into account two oncoming cyclists. However, to my knowledge, the motorist never received a fine. This is quite bewildering, given the fact that last year, the Québec Superior Court fined a Longueuil cyclist $1,000 for conduct “endangering human life and safety” when the latter had run a red light - without hitting anyone!
 
We feel it is important to take advantage of the reform of the Highway Safety Code to collectively recognize the principle of caution on the road, since there is a big difference between an honest mistake and a dangerous manoeuvre. A motorist who overtakes a cyclist without giving him the necessary space is making a dangerous manoeuvre, for which - most often - the cyclist pays the price. It is high time that this changes and that everyone assumes full responsibility when driving a vehicle.  The era of “I didn’t see him” is over.
 
 
Suzanne Lareau
President and CEO
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