Viewpoint : April 2014

Highway Safety Code: An update is in order

A few weeks ago, a Superior Court judge set a precedent by fining a Longueuil cyclist $1,000 for conduct "endangering life or personal safety" — he had run a red light. This article of law had never been used to penalize a cyclist. The news triggered great indignation among the cycling community – and with good reason, given the fact that a motorist who hits a cyclist by carelessly opening a car door is subject to a $30 fine. If dooring does not endanger life or personal safety, then does one explain the deaths of two cyclists last summer in Montréal under similar circumstances!

Some time ago, Vélo Québec asked for a review of the Highway Safety Code in order to eliminate such aberrations. The Code has not been reviewed in depth since 1979, and it lacks precision regarding the urban space now occupied by bicycles. Under new legislation introduced in Ontario, the Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act, dooring is subject to a fine ranging from $300 to $1,000. In addition, drivers must maintain a distance of one meter when passing cyclists. These are exactly the types of improvement to the Highway Safety Code that Vélo Québec has been demanding for years.

With the arrival of spring, cyclists are reclaiming their freedom to circulate in the city. However this freedom doesn’t mean that anything goes on the street. In fact, ignoring the rules is the best way to destroy cyclists’ credibility, in addition to causing accidents. Vélo Québec agrees that it is necessary to penalize dangerous cycling behaviour, such as running a red light, but we remain vigilant in order to ensure that the police do not get carried away in enforcing outdated articles of law that don’t apply to the bicycles of today. Last year, it was a virtual vaudeville in Montréal, when police, in ambush, were intercepting cyclists for a host of reasons, like a bike not equipped with mandatory reflectors - without taking into account the active lighting and reflective tape used by the cyclist. It is high time that Québec updated its Highway Safety Code in order to provide a clear, accurate definition of what is actually dangerous to others.

Enjoy the beginning of the new season.

Suzanne Lareau
President and CEO