Quebec cyclists could see fines jump by more than 400% under proposed bill

Fines for cyclists caught without reflectors or running through red lights would start at $80, up from the current $15 minimum if changes to the Highway Safety Code are adopted.

Changes to the Quebec Highway Safety Code could see some fines bumped up from $15 to $80

Fines for cyclists who don't stop at red lights or don't have enough reflectors on their bikes could increase by 433 per cent. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Quebec cyclists could soon face much heftier fines for breaking the rules of the road, thanks to some amendments to the province's Highway Safety Code.

Under Bill 165, fines for cyclists caught without reflectors or running red lights would start at $80, up from the current $15 minimum.

The bill, which also aims to crack down on dangerous driving, was tabled at Quebec's National Assembly in December and contains 86 proposed measures.

Members of the National Assembly are expected to vote on the latest version of the bill soon.

The fines for cyclists would apply to infractions like not halting at stop signs and not having enough reflectors on your bike.

For Alain Deschamps, a member of the cyclist safety advocacy group Ghost Bikes Montreal, the 433 per cent increase in some of the fines is a drastic measure.

"If we're going to assign greater responsibility to drivers because they cause the most accidents on our roads, then why are we punishing cyclists in a disproportionate fashion? It doesn't make any sense to me," Deschamps said.

Making streets safer

Cyclist Nicholas Godard said biking is a convenient way to get around Montreal. He said increasing fines may make the streets safer for cyclists.

Nicholas Godard says he doesn't see a problem with rolling through a traffic signal if it's safe. (CBC)

But, he said, it's hard to respect all the rules — especially if crossing against a light can be done safely.

"Now I'm going to have to be extra careful," he said. 

Motorist Janet Macdonald welcomed the heftier fines, saying she hoped they would lead to increased safety for everyone on the roads.

"I think we all should obey the rules of the road and if we all did, so it'd be a much safer place," she said.

'Exaggerated' fines?

Last month, the City of Montreal made its own recommendations for the province's plan to amend the code.

Among several suggestions, Montreal said cyclists should be allowed to yield at stop signs instead of making a full stop and receive fines on a sliding scale based on the gravity of the infraction.

It also said cyclists should be permitted to cross on pedestrian signals in order to move freely and avoid "conflict with motorized vehicles."

On Thursday, Montreal Coun. Marianne Giguère, who is responsible for cycling issues, said the proposed fines are "exaggerated in terms of the dangerousness of the offence."

"The City of Montreal asked that the cost of the fines be reduced," she wrote on Twitter.

Cyclist Claude Cusson agreed, saying the fines were going up by too much.

But Cusson said he was already taking precautions to stay safe — and avoid hefty fines.

"I have a reflector in the back; I'm missing one in the front. I'm going to buy one," he said.

With files from Matt D'Amours