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In Montreal, Bus Drivers Demand a Law Prohibiting Bicycl...

In Montreal, Bus Drivers Demand a Law Prohibiting Bicyclists in Protected Lanes

Exasperated by the presence of cyclists in the streets’ protected lanes, the bus drivers of Montreal denounce the “inaction” of police officers in a petition. They demand the creation of a law that expressly forbids bikers to ride in lanes reserved for buses during peak hours. Driver Jency Mercier, who works for the Transportation Society

Exasperated by the presence of cyclists in the streets’ protected lanes, the bus drivers of Montreal denounce the “inaction” of police officers in a petition. They demand the creation of a law that expressly forbids bikers to ride in lanes reserved for buses during peak hours.

Driver Jency Mercier, who works for the Transportation Society of Montreal (STM), is the creator of this petition. The first version, which counted 122 names, was given to the National Assembly last June, but a second version has been in circulation all summer and counts “several hundred” signatures, according to Ms. Mercier.  She worries equally about the safety of cyclists and bus passengers.  “Everyone does whatever they want in the reserved lanes,” she explains,”...And it is irritating that the police don’t do anything about it.”

The Police Department of the City of Montreal (SPVM) did confirm that they are rather permissive of cyclists who ride in the bus lanes, but say that this is because of a certain “confusion.”

“Cyclists aren’t allowed to ride in the reserved lane in Montreal,” explains Nathalie Valois, head of bike safety at the SPVM.  “But at the same time, the Road Safety Code requires cyclists to ride on the extreme right side of the road.  Therefore, that sometimes ends up being in the reserved lane.”

Biking on Piste Claire Morrisette in Montreal, Canada

Therefore, the SPVM does not systematically hand out the $42 fine for not respecting the road signs. But the only solution for avoiding an infraction is to ride down different streets, indicates Ms. Valois. The cyclist who ventures into a reserved lane is not assured of receiving leniency from police officers.

“Sometimes, the STM requests that we do operations in certain areas ... it all depends on the context and the receptivity of the cyclists. If we ask that they change streets and they refuse, they risk receiving a fine,” explains Ms. Valois. But we don’t want to start rigorously applying the rule.” 

Worried Drivers

Bus drivers hope that the Minister of Transportation, Robert Poëti, will respond to their petition, especially as the STM plans on significantly increasing its network of reserved lanes.

Montreal, Canada

Already, a pilot project of reserved lanes for buses, taxis, and bikes on Viau Street was put in place last August. According to Ms. Mercier, several drivers worry that this project will only open the door to authorizing cyclists in all of the city’s reserved lanes.

The spokesperson of the STM, Isabelle Tremblay, insisted that the society continues to work towards the cohabitation and awareness of buses, bikes, and taxis. She is of the opinion that Ms. Mercier’s petition is only an isolated action and that it does not represent the opinion of the majority of bus drivers.  

The STM’s syndicate of bus drivers did not respond to requests for an interview. On the other hand, the Provincial Council of Ground Transportation for the Sector of Quebec (CPSTT), which notably unites the bus drivers of Montreal, Longueuil, Laval, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, and Saguenay, confirmed that the drivers are very preoccupied with this matter and even worry that the next revision of the Road Security Code will authorize bikes to ride in the bus lanes.

“If cyclists are accepted in the reserved lanes, syndicate’s response will be that the buses will no longer drive in those lanes,” affirms Richard Ouimet, president of the CPSTT. “It is not true that cyclists are going to be allowed in the reserved lanes. That doesn’t make any sense; it would be dangerous.”

From his perspective, the Minister of Transportation, Robert Poëti affirms that it would be premature at this point to launch into modifications to the Road Safety Code.  The group in charge of making recommendations to the minister met for the first time in July and will present its suggestions for improving cyclists’ safety this autumn.

Who has the right to be on the road? How can cities use urban planning to peacefully resolve this question while protecting the safety of bikers and automobilists alike?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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