Montreal police crack down on jaywalkers, cyclists in effort to prevent more deaths

​Montreal police say they are ramping up education, prevention and enforcement measures in an attempt to reduce the number of cyclist or pedestrian and vehicle collisions after a string of deadly accidents last week.

The City of Montreal will release its plan to make roads safer for pedestrians, bikes by the end of 2018

A total of four cyclists and 16 pedestrians died as a result of vehicle collisions in 2017. (Charles Contant/CBC)

​Montreal police are ramping up education, prevention and enforcement measures in what they say is an effort to reduce the number of cyclist and pedestrian vehicle collisions in the city, after a string of deadly accidents last week.

But advocates for pedestrian and cycling safety say the city should focus on making its infrastructure better instead of punishing vulnerable road users.

"The question is not: whose fault is this?" said Laurent Deslauriers, who speaks for Ghost Bikes Montreal, the group that memorializes cyclists killed in vehicle accidents by erecting bikes painted white at the site of their deaths. "Is it the pedestrian or the cyclist who didn't stop, or is it the truck driver who didn't watch?" 

"Everyone can make a mistake," Deslauriers said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "We have to avoid the possibility of mistakes: we have to change trucks and intersections."

Deslauriers said trucks have to take measures to reduce their blind spots; the city needs to do more to make intersections safer, and police need to concentrate on penalizing motorists who drive dangerously.

The City of Montreal has said it will release a new plan to make roads safer by the end of the year.

"Whether it's the design of roadways and intersections, the type of traffic light priority given to different modes of transport, or how long people have to cross the street ... we're looking at it across the board," said Coun. Alex Norris, who chairs the city's public security committee, at a committee meeting Monday evening.

More pedestrians hit

So far in 2018, 15 pedestrians have been killed while crossing or waiting to cross Montreal roads — four more than than this time last year.

Since 2011, the rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities has remained fairly consistent: between 1,000 and 1,200 people are injured, and between 13 and 19 pedestrians are killed.

The number of cyclist injuries and deaths has fallen over the years. At its peak, 765 cyclists were injured in traffic accidents. The number of fatalities reached a high of six in 2013 and a low of two in 2016.

Police say the top risk factors for pedestrians are jaywalking, crossing against traffic lights and standing too close to the curb.

For cyclists, the risk factors include failure to signal, wearing headphones, cycling the wrong way down one-way streets and running red lights.

Police said they are increasing their presence in key areas and issuing tickets as a result. They also said they will advertise what rules pedestrians and cyclists must respect.

A new ghost bike was installed over the weekend to commemorate cyclist Valérie Bertrand Desrochers, 30, who was hit by a heavy truck turning right in Rosemont last June. (François Démontagne/Radio-Canada)

Ticketing not the answer, bike advocate says

Norris acknowledged there has been an increase in tickets issued to people walking and biking, "partly, I think, in response to changes to the Quebec Highway Code recently."

Those changes became law last spring,  and at the start of summer, police conducted a series of blitzes and awareness campaigns about the new rules.

Some cycling advocates say officers have used a heavy hand, enforcing the new rules as well as old ones with higher fines.

Deslauriers believes the heavy ticketing is discouraging people from cycling to commute in the city.

Police argued Monday that it had issued more than 400,000 infractions to motorists last year, compared to just 12,600 for cyclists and 24,000 for pedestrians.

"They contend that it is proportionate," Norris said. "Others disagree. I think we had a full and frank discussion, and I think that members of the public and the SPVM learned a lot from these exchanges."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and CBC's Navneet Pall


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