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MPs Lobby for National Safety Measures on City Streets to Protect Cyclists

by John Symon

October 04, 2016 (Ottawa, ON) – A rash of bicycle accidents in late summer, some fatal, is putting pressure on Canada’s Parliament to take action and make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Two Members of Parliament (MPs) are putting forward private members’ bills to address the problem; one of those same MPs now reveals that he was lucky to escape without major injuries after a car struck him while he was riding his bike this summer.

 ©  Andre Quenneville

In Montreal, three out of five serious accidents in August involved heavy trucks. Lobby group Vélo Québec points out that some 31 percent of all fatal bike accidents in Quebec involve heavy trucks; the pattern seems similar elsewhere. A frequent scenario is a heavy truck making a left turn in dense traffic and crushing cyclists or pedestrians under its wheels.

 ©  Andre Quenneville
In Europe, truck side guard rails (also called “protective skirts”) around base of the trucks are mandatory, precisely because of safety concerns like those listed above. But trucking associations in Canada have been resisting similar measures being implemented here.

 ©  Matthew Clark

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie) is presenting a private member’s bill to make such side guard rails mandatory in Canada, as well. Private member’s bills, typically presented by opposition MPs, usually fail to garner enough votes to pass into law.

Cyclists riding on College Street  ©  Toronto.ca
Previously, former Toronto area MP Olivia Chow, Jack Layton’s widow, tabled a very similar private member’s bill, but was out-voted by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. However, one of those who voted in favour of Chow’s motion was Liberal Marc Garneau (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount). Since the Trudeau and the Liberals came to power in late 2015, Garneau has been named the federal minister of Transport. This gives hope that the current government will not block the bill.

Boulerice also told La Presse that as a cyclist, he barely escaped with his life from a collision with a car this summer. “I was hit by an automobile while crossing Sherbrooke Street and rolled over the car hood without sustaining too much damage. My bike, however, was good for the scrap yard.”

 ©  Ontario by Bike

Another private member’s bill is being presented by fellow New Democrat Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni) and also touches on bicycle safety reports The Ottawa Citizen. Because most issues governing roads are provincial or municipal jurisdiction, Johns’ bill is limited to general terms such as “bringing stakeholders together” and “encouraging cycling-friendly infrastructure.”

In reaction to the rash of bike accidents, the Sept. 16 Montreal Gazette’s editorial page read: “It’s time for bolder action. The city should connect the missing links in bike paths. It should create efficient north-south and east-west corridors within the busy core where cyclists get priority over cars, something that would help keep bikes off busy arteries…” That editorial criticized Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre for not doing enough for bicycle safety. It also calls for fundamental changes to street design and to the attitudes of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Flat Iron Building in downtown Toronto  ©  Ontario by Bike

Canada is not the only country where such issues are being debated. In England, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is proposing to ban some 35,000 heavy trucks based on the lack of vision they afford drivers reports BBC. Khan points out how 23% of pedestrian fatalities and 58% of cyclist deaths in London are caused by heavy trucks. The local Road Haulage Association accuses Khan of “demonizing” trucks and drivers. England, of course, has adopted the truck guard rails mandatory in Europe.

College and Spadina in Toronto  ©  toronto.ca
Meanwhile, a Montreal cyclist Nick Olas equipped with a GoPro Camera on his helmet recently filmed a car driver passing too fast and too close to him. Olas then presented the video to local police asking if the driver could be fined for reckless driving.

According to Olas, an email response from the police on Sept 28 said that a ticket was being sent to the driver by bailiff. “If the driver contests this ticket, you will be asked to present yourself in court in perhaps six months time. If possible, conserve the video (as evidence in court).. Have a good day.” Check out Olas’ posts to the Vélo d’hiver – Montréal Facebook page here. Pedal believes this action may set a legal precedent in Canada.

La Presse (French) here.
Ottawa Citizen here.
The Gazette here.
BBC here.

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