Phase out unsafe trucks on Montreal streets, says cyclist group

Trucks should be rated on a safety scale, and dangerous trucks should be eventually removed from Montreal's streets in order to reduce collisions with pedestrian and cyclists, according to the cycling group, Ghost Bikes Montreal.

Trucks would be rated based on how much a driver can see and unsafe trucks eventually phased out

A ghost bike at a fatal accident in an underpass on St-Denis Street. Gabrielle Anctil, the founder of Ghost Bikes Montreal, says the city should rate trucks on safety and phase out unsafe trucks in order to reduce pedestrian and cyclist collisions. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)

Unsafe trucks should eventually be removed from city streets in order to reduce pedestrian and cycling deaths, says the founder of a Montreal cycling advocacy group.

Gabrielle Anctil, the founder of Ghost Bikes Montreal, suggested that the city should use a safety scale established by the city of London that rates trucks on how well a driver can see other road users directly, without the use of mirrors or cameras. 

Trucks with a lower rating, on a scale between zero and five, would eventually be phased off city streets. 

Anctil's proposal comes a few days after a 44-year-old cyclist died after a collision with a truck in Montreal North.

"Trucks are unfortunately over-represented in cycling and pedestrian deaths in Montreal. They represent I believe only three percent of traffic on the roads, but are represented in over 30 per cent of deaths," Anctil told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Wednesday.

"Obviously they are a big dangerous machine, and obviously truck drivers are doing their best to drive safely on our streets, but there's just like so much they cannot see, so that kind of system could improve their lives and everyone else's lives." 

Eliminate blind spots

Transport for London, the transportation authority for the English capital, is working on a direct vision standard for truck drivers.

It found that heavy trucks make up less than four per cent of miles driven in the city, but in 2015, were involved in around 78 per cent of cyclist fatalities and 20 per cent of pedestrian fatalities, according to a consultation report.

Transport for London's report gives examples of direct vision on two different types of trucks. The bottom truck gives the driver wider angles of direct vision, which could help avoid collisions. (Transport for London)
The standard would evaluate trucks and the city aims to ban the most dangerous trucks, those with a zero stars, by 2020. Only trucks with three star ratings or higher would be allowed on London roads by 2024. 

"The thinking is that, you only are safe if you can see people directly, the blind spots are truly gone," said Anctil. "We're better used to seeing with our eyes than seeing through a mirror, so it's safer if you can see directly."

'Everyone shares the road'

Pierre Aubin, vice-president of the Quebec Trucking Association, says that banning dangerous trucks won't solve the problem.

"Whether it's a truck or a car, accidents can happen. Everyone who shares the road needs to be more cautious," he said.

Pierre Aubin, vice-president of the Quebec Trucking Association, added two blind-spot mirrors to the front of his truck. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)
Aubin said that while most truckers put blind-spot mirrors on the side fenders, but he places them on the front of the nose of the truck.

"The biggest thing is about the mirrors. I've added two blind-spot mirrors on the front with a curve, so I see all around the front of my truck."

City considering proposal

Ghost Bikes Montreal proposed truck ratings to the city's transport and public works committee. 

Marc-André Gadoury, the councillor for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, sits on that committee, and also heads the city's cycling committee. He said currently the executive committee is considering the idea. 

​He cautioned that visibility rules may need to be amended because, "as Gabrielle mentioned, the trucks are different in North America, so we've looked at [the] London example," he said, adding they'd also looked at Portland and New Orleans.

But the possibility exists for Montreal to work with other Canadian cities to set the standard.

"When Mayor Coderre announced Vision Zero as an objective, of zero deaths, zero collisions with serious injury, he has mentioned that we are creating a Canadian network of vision zero cities and yes, we have to work together to implement better safety, it's the same problem in other cities," he said. 

'I'm sure proper training would help the police force be able to become truck geeks.'- Gabrielle Anctil, founder of Ghost Bikes Montreal, on helping police spot unsafe trucks.

The executive committee will consider the idea, and has until the end of August to decide whether to pursue the plan.

"I have full confidence in the police to enforce what bylaws we would come up with. I know they've looked a lot into trucking route this spring, they're out there ticketing truckers that are not on their designated route," said Gadoury. 

"If we come up with such a rating we will help our [police] to implement the bylaw and come with the fines when needed."

Gadoury said the city's proposal to lower speed limits on many city streets in 2018 was a good start, and an example of how the city is improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

"The main goal is safety, our utmost objective is safety. That's what Vision Zero is all about, we'll find other routes," he said. "Me on my bike, I'm faster than in a car or on the subway, so we'll find better ways, safer ways to move around the city." 

with files from Daybreak's Marilla Steuter-Martin


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?