After being run over by a truck, Quebec cyclist calls for fewer heavy vehicles on city streets

Robert Robinson nearly died when he was run over by a truck last month in Greenfield Park. Now, as he struggles to recover from the accident, he wants the government to introduce stricter rules for heavy vehicles.

'I can't pick up my son, and that hurts the most,' says Robert Robinson, 1 month later

Robert Robinson, who was struck by a truck and dragged several metres on Aug. 28, is now unable to work and spends a lot of his time at medical appointments. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

Tire marks are still visible at the spot where Robert Robinson was hit by a truck, but they aren't the only lasting sign of the traumatic late-August accident in Longueuil, on Montreal's South Shore.

A month later, Robinson returned to the scene — his neck in a brace, his right arm supported by a sling — to reflect on the day his life changed forever.

"I could be sitting at my kitchen table, and suddenly, I see the truck again at the corner here — and I see myself go under it — remembering the face of the tires right before it went dark," said Robinson, 31.

Although it's difficult for Robinson to relive what happened, he decided to share his ordeal with CBC News — and call on local authorities to introduce stricter measures to protect cyclists from being hit by heavy trucks.

Extensive injuries

A report published by Quebec's Transport Ministry in 2015 showed that half of fatal accidents for cyclists happen at intersections.

Robinson says he almost became part of that statistic.

Robert Robinson was struck by a truck on Grande Allée Boulevard in Longueuil's Greenfield Park. (Radio-Canada)

He was riding along Adam Street in Longueuil's Greenfield Park neighbourhood when a truck turning right onto Grande Allée Boulevard struck him, dragged him several metres under the vehicle, and ran over his chest.

The driver apparently didn't see Robinson when he turned. No charges were laid in the case, and Robinson didn't want police to pursue the matter.

His injuries were extensive, keeping him in hospital for nine days.

His chest caved in, leading to a pierced lung that still makes it hard to breathe. His shoulder was dislocated. He has road rash on several parts of his body, and he suffers from severe headaches.

Although he's lucky to be alive, Robinson says he's in constant pain, and he faces a long journey to recovery.

Waiting for help from SAAQ

Unable to work, Robinson has no income and spends a lot of his time visiting three separate hospitals for medical appointments.

He has to see a physiotherapist for his shoulder and to help his damaged lung re-expand.

"I've been feeling humiliated ever since I woke up in the recovery room," Robinson said. "I can't do anything for myself."

"I can't pick up my son, and that hurts the most, because a 10-month-old baby, to explain to him that I'm hurt and I can't pick him up — it's really hard, because I know he won't understand."

Robert Robinson requires physiotherapy for his shoulder and to help his damaged lung re-expand. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

Robinson applied for compensation from Quebec's automobile insurance board, the SAAQ, to help cover medical expenses, the cost of transportation to his doctors' appointments and lost wages.

Robinson said he was forced to dip into his rent money to cover costs in the short-term, and he's had to visit food banks. He said he sorely needs financial help from the government to arrive soon.

"Without that, how am I going to feed my son?" Robinson asked. "If I can't pay my rent, where am I going to live?"

A few hours after he revisited the scene of the accident, Robinson called CBC News to say his application had been accepted by the SAAQ, and he should be getting money within a week.

There was relief in his voice, but it was countered in equal measure by uncertainty about the future and frustration that he had to wait a month for an answer.

Stricter rules for trucks?

As Robinson works towards his recovery, the City of Montreal is considering the phasing out of trucks with the worst blind spots from city streets.

Montreal's executive committee has said it's impressed by policies adopted in London, U.K.. That city introduced a safey scale in which trucks are rated based on a driver's ability to see other road users without mirrors or cameras.

By 2024, London plans on banning heavy trucks that don't meet its safety rating.

It's the kind of policy that Robinson supports, and he hopes the City of Longueuil looks at adopting something similar.

"Ten years from now, that could be my little boy," Robinson said. "I wouldn't want anybody else to go through what I went through."

CBC contacted the City of Longueuil to ask if it is considering phasing out certain trucks.

  In an email, spokesperson Louis-Pascal Cyr said there are no rule changes in the works.

Cyr added that Robinson could make a request with the city's infrastructure and traffic commission, and the issue would be studied.