Quebec Highway Safety Code bike-friendly changes delayed, cycling groups complain

Cycling groups in Quebec say they're worried the province has relegated to the back burner "badly needed" legislative changes to improve road safety for cyclists, promised for the spring of 2015.

Quebec's outdated road laws 'not designed for cyclists' but no word on when they'll be updated as promised

Quebec vowed to update the Highway Safety Code to make it more cycling-friendly, but bike groups say they're still waiting for those revisions, promised for the spring of 2015. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Cycling groups in Quebec say they're worried the province has relegated to the back burner "badly needed" legislative changes to improve the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users. 

The Montreal Bike Coalition, along with Accès transports viables and the Université de Laval bike co-operative Roue-Libre, said the Quebec government promised two years ago to modernize the Highway Safety Code, but it has yet to deliver. 

"The Highway Safety Code was passed many years ago when there weren't very many people using their bikes to get around in the city as a means of transportation," Montreal Bike Coalition spokesman Daniel Lambert told CBC.

The code "is it's not really designed for cyclists," Lambert said.

Lambert said the government consulted with several cycling organizations a few years ago to come up with a list of recommended revisions to improve cyclists' safety. The revisions were initially promised for the spring of 2015.

Still working on a draft, bike groups told

"Unfortunately, with the change of [transport] minister and change of legislative priorities, that whole modernization has been delayed and appears to have been put on the back burner," said Lambert.

Lambert said the government told cycling groups months ago that it was still working on a draft of the new law, and it hasn't given them a progress report since.

Cycling groups are now urging the government to complete the revisions by summer 2016.

The recommended improvements include:

  • Introducing an overall precautionary principle for motorists to watch out for more vulnerable forms of transportation, including cyclists.
  • No longer requiring cyclists to stay to the far right of a lane, to reduce cases of "dooring" – when the door of a parked vehicle is opened in the path of a passing cyclist.
  • Lowering speed limits for cars and introducing heftier fines for surpassing speed limits.
  • Requiring passing cars to give cyclists at least one metre's berth.
  • Allowing cyclists to proceed when an advanced light for pedestrians turns green (where safe).

Outdated safety code

Lambert said the current Highway Safety Code does not reflect the growing trend of urban cycling nor meet cyclists' needs. 

"The biggest concern for somebody wanting to get on their bike is getting hit by a motor vehicle — that's where they risk serious injury or death," Lambert said.

Lambert said Montreal is transitioning towards becoming a more bike-friendly city, but the share of people cycling as a mode of transportation is only 2.5 to three per cent.

"That compares with up to 40 per cent in cities which fully embrace cycling and offer a complete, thorough network of protected bike paths separated from motor vehicles," Lambert said. 

"If the city and if the province want more people to be using active transportation – or bikes in particular – to get around to reduce congestion, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, [improve] public health... then they have to put a safe infrastructure in place," he added.

The City of Montreal has already expressed support for about 20 of the key proposed revisions to the Highway Safety Code.


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