Highway Safety Code fails to protect cyclists, Quebec coroners say

The Quebec coroner’s office says the Quebec Highway Safety Code is outdated and unrealistic in light of the recent deaths of three cyclists.

Coroners say $30 'dooring' fines should be higher following investigation into cyclists' deaths

Cyclist Christian Brulotte died in April after he fell underneath a tractor-trailer in Montreal's Griffintown district. (CBC)

The Quebec coroner’s office says the Quebec Highway Safety Code is outdated and unrealistic in light of the recent deaths of three cyclists.

The coroner’s report was released today after an investigation into the deaths of three cyclists — Christian Brulotte, Marc-André Fontaine and Suzanne Châtelain — who all died on Montreal roads between April and July 2013.

The deaths of both Fontaine, 35, and Châtelain, 55, were both linked to instances of "dooring" — when drivers open their doors without looking.

Châtelain swerved into the path of a bus while trying to avoid a van door that had been suddenly opened in her path and Fontaine ran into a car door that had been suddenly swung open in front of him.

After investigating those cases, the coroner’s office is recommending tougher penalties for drivers who fail to check before opening their doors.

The current fine is $30 — far too low for a mistake that could cost a life, the coroner's office said.

“Taking the responsibility away from drivers [when it comes to watching out for cyclists] and promoting the idea that the cyclists just need to protect themselves when they go out on the open road constitutes an aberration and a dangerous illusion,” said coroner Jean Brochu.

Over the course of their investigation, the coroners also determined that the Highway Safety Code fails to protect cyclists. They said it sets out unrealistic requirements, such as remaining seated at all times while cycling, and banning biking on sidewalks, even if it means avoiding dangerous roads.

“Certain provisions of the Highway Safety Code do not reflect the reality of 2013. They are unrealistic, don’t protect cyclists, and are downright impossible to respect,” the report states.

The coroner's office set out several other recommendations, including an awareness campaign for sharing the road and a revision of the Highway Safety Code. 

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