This morning while walking up Duluth past Coloniale in Montreal I witnessed the aftermath of an accident. An SUV had collided with a bicyclist in the intersection (an all way stop). The bicyclist was on the ground bloody and waiting for the ambulance, the bike was mangled and under the automobile. Very unfortunate, very messy.
I do not know who was at fault. I did not witness the accident itself.
I am, however, about to make myself highly unpopular amongst Montrealers. This city has a traffic problem. I do not mean the messy and screwed up road system, I’m talking about people following the rules of the road. I do not just mean the automobiles, I mean everyone: bikers, pedestrians and the car drivers. In almost every case everyone seems to think they know better than the laws which are put into place to protect us and protect others.
There is a reason for a red light. It means stop. Running the light whether you are in a car, legs or on a bike puts you at risk of getting hit, or worse hitting someone else. This is a bad thing. This is why you get fines if you are in a car and run a red light. The same goes for a stop sign. The sign says “Stop” for a reason.
Now, do not assume I am perfect. I jaywalk, I am like everyone else in Montreal. It is easy to jaywalk, it’s part of the culture, it’s expected and there is no feedback mechanism to prevent people from jaywalking. Laws are not acted upon.
The same goes for biking in Montreal.
Again I do not know what happened at that intersection this morning. But just today here is what I witnessed bicyclists do at that or around that intersection within a 5 minute period:
1. Run the intersection without stopping, glancing or even checking (3 bicyclists)
2. Run the intersection without stopping, glancing or even checking while wearing headphones (2 bicyclists)
3. Switch lanes crazily on St. Laurent while talking on a cell phone and handling the bike with one hand (1 bicyclist).
I personally believe that if you are in any vehicle, and a bicycle is a vehicle, you should be subject to the same laws. Running a stop sign or a red light in a bicycle is extremely dangerous. If I am driving a car I assume you will stop at a stop sign or red light if coming from the opposite direction. We all agree running red lights for cars is one of the worst driving mistakes. Why can we not fine someone who does it on a bicycle?
What would happen to an individual who is driving a car and wearing in-ear headphones? Answering a cellphone and driving with your knees while switching lanes of traffic?
I call on Montreal to actually set an example. Ticket bicyclists, jaywalkers and drivers alike, especially when it comes to running stop signs and red lights. I do not ever want to hit a bicyclist in a car driven by me, even if it is not my fault at the end of the day. A car does way more damage than a bicycle. It is to protect bicyclists that I even write this.
I challenge the police to go to that intersection and give out tickets to bicyclists.