Keeping cyclists safe: 4 coroners' recommendations and what happened with them
Coroners have recommended higher fines for dooring, mandatory helmets — CBC looks at what happened next
CBC News has taken an in-depth look at cyclist deaths on Montreal streets, after obtaining coroner reports for 59 deaths going back to 2005. A fifth of all cycling deaths in the city are the result of collisions with trucks.
But trucks aren't the only safety issue cyclists face. Quebec's coroner's office has made a number of recommendations over the years to keep cyclists safer, some of which have been adopted and some have not.
Below, a closer look at some of those recommendations — and what's happened since then.
Truck side guards
In October of 2005, cyclist Camille Marcotte-Gravel was killed when she fell under the wheels of a tractor-trailer on Papineau Avenue. Marcotte-Gravel was sandwiched between the truck and a row of parked cars, without enough space for her handlebars, turned her bike towards the row of parked cars, fell and was killed. Coroner Jacques Ramsay, after some investigation, recommended truck side guards to protect cyclists from being swept under the wheels of trucks, and he also emphasized possible fuel savings. Finally, Ramsay called on Transport Québec and Transport Canada to harmonize rules on truck side guards.
What happened: Partial adoption
The borough of Saint-Laurent became the first in Montreal to put side guards on city trucks. The City of Montreal has since followed suit, and most trucks now have guards.
However, privately-owned trucks aren't mandated to have side guards — that decision falls to the federal government. In September of 2016, Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced a task force to deal with safety issues around pedestrians, cyclists and interactions with heavy trucks. The recommendations of that task force are expected to be presented in the spring of 2018.
Mandatory helmet use
Emil Kozak, 83, was riding his bicycle west on Beaubien Street in 2009 when he turned left to cross the road and was then hit by a car. A witness said Kozak didn't signal his turn, and Jean Brochu, the coroner, wrote that even though the car was travelling at a "reduced speed" the driver wouldn't have been able to avoid the collision. An accident reconstruction showed that the speed of both the bike and the car was low. Kozak ended up with significant head injuries. Brochu said the accident was a "perfect example" of where a bike helmet would've had a "major impact on avoiding severe injuries."
Bike helmets are not mandatory in Quebec, unless you are riding an electric bicycle.
The province's Transportation Ministry considered it as it made upgrades to the Highway Safety Code, but ultimately did not move to make helmets mandatory.
In 2015, then-Transportation Minister Robert Poëti said that it would be hard to enforce.
"What would police do if they find an eight-year-old without a helmet. Give him a ticket? Take him to his parents' house?" Poëti told CBC in April of that year.
Higher fine for dooring
In three deaths, coroners recommended a higher provincial fine for dooring, when a driver opens the door of a parked vehicle without checking if it is safe to do so, and hits a cyclist.
On June 28, 2013, Marc-André Fontaine was cycling on Rosemount Boulevard when the driver of a restaurant delivery vehicle suddenly opened the vehicle's door. Fontaine was wearing a helmet, according to the report, but didn't mention to EMS that he had severe asthma. By the time Fontaine got to the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest. He was revived but died in hospital July 6, due to a lack of oxygen to his brain.
Later that month, on July 18, Suzanne Châtelain was riding her bike north on Parc Avenue when a driver suddenly opened the door of a minivan. Châtelain swerved into the center of the road and fell. Then she was hit by a bus. She suffered severe head injuries, and was taken to hospital for treatment. Châtelain died on July 25.
On August 22, 2015, Bernard Carignan was riding south on Saint-Denis Street when a driver opened the door of a vehicle, and Carignan hit the door and fell. Carignan was then hit by a Mazda Tribute SUV. Paramedics attempted to revive him, as did hospital emergency room staff, but they were unable to.
In all three cases, coroners cited Section 430 of Quebec's Highway Safety Act, which specified that drivers must first check to make sure it is safe to open their door before they do so. At the time, the fine for opening a door was just $30. The coroners called on Quebec to increase that fine.
The province raised the fine for dooring from $30 to between $200 to $300 when it amended the Highway Safety Code in 2016.
Wider passing distance
In April of 2014, Mathilde Blais was killed after she was hit by a truck in an underpass on Saint-Denis Street. Blais was crushed by the truck's right wheels.
Coroner Paul Dionne wrote that Blais was not in any way at fault, and that the truck driver could have shared the road better. He recommended that the Quebec Highway Code be rewritten to ensure a mandatory safe passing distance, to better protect cyclists from cars and trucks.
Quebec's highway code was amended to include mandatory passing distances. They are:
- 1 metre in zones of 50 km/h or less
- 1.5 metres in zones of more than 50 km/h
Drivers who don't allow enough distance or who don't slow down when passing cyclists will face fines of $200 to $300, and two demerit points.