Viewpoint : July 2013

Celebrate biking rather than punishing cyclists…

We greatly appreciated the article by Christian Rioux that recently appeared on the front page of Le Devoir and begins as follows: “Instead of giving pedestrians and cyclists tickets, as is increasingly the case in Montreal, the City of Paris decided to give them space […]“.

Montreal cyclists have been feeling the pressure over the past few weeks with the intensification of police controls aimed at improving road safety. While their intent to restore civility to the streets of Montreal is commendable, there is a fine line that must not be crossed.

First of all, a bicycle is not a car! Cars kill. The facts bear this out. Bicycles may annoy certain people, but they do not kill. This also is well-documented. We feel that motorists and cyclists who behave dangerously on the road should be punished. Running a red light at top speed, riding in the opposite direction on a two-way street and biking at full tilt on a sidewalk are behaviours that exasperate everyone and may injure others. We believe that police controls should focus on these types of behaviour.

In this debate, it is important to take stock of the facts. Cyclists are more numerous and yet this group has shown the most notable improvement in terms of road safety. Something must have gotten better! Yes, behaviours still have to change and yes, the City has not adapted adequately to today’s reality. Let’s be frank: a city stands to benefit when it is invaded by cyclists. The more there are, the better it functions! Can the same be said about motorists?

In light of the events of the past few weeks, Vélo Québec will promote, in as many forums as possible, three types of action:

1. Make the city even more bicycle-friendly. Many improvements have been made, but evidently, things are not progressing fast enough to keep pace with the growing number of urban cyclists. Being forced to ride on a sidewalk under a viaduct to save one’s skin tells us that there are problems with urban development and that quick action is needed..

2. Put pressure on the Ministre des Transports to adapt the Highway Safety Code to the new realities of urban mobility. The articles of the Code must be revised in order to give clear priority to pedestrians and cyclists based on the principles conveyed by the Code de la rue approach being tested by France, Switzerland and Belgium.

3. Bring the police department into the loop regarding the progressive vision shown by Montreal in 2008 with the adoption of its Plan de transport.

We will never support cyclists who behave dangerously and ride as if they own the road (each of us has a role to play in politely calling attention to their unacceptable behaviour). But we will not have the police pursuing cyclists in the same way they do drunken or speeding motorists.  A bit of discernment and moderation will make us all feel better.