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Traffic Signals on the Scale of Cyclists in Montreal, Canada

Traffic Signals on the Scale of Cyclists in Montreal, Canada

As a part of its plans to invest in sustainable transportation, Montreal has built several bicycle lanes over the years. However, traffic signals for bicycles have yet to follow in many neighbourhoods. Although there are traffic lights directed towards drivers and pedestrians, traffic signals on many streets do not “speak” to cyclists. While traditionally cyclists

As a part of its plans to invest in sustainable transportation, Montreal has built several bicycle lanes over the years. However, traffic signals for bicycles have yet to follow in many neighbourhoods. Although there are traffic lights directed towards drivers and pedestrians, traffic signals on many streets do not “speak” to cyclists.

While traditionally cyclists are expected to follow the same road rules as drivers, it is not always safe for cyclists to proceed through an intersection on a green light. At times drivers are turning and stand the chance of cutting off or hitting cyclists. Further, these lights are designed at the “scale” of cars, looming high overhead. Traffic lights designed for cyclists assure cyclists that it is safe to cross and can make cycling faster by giving cyclists priority.

Among other intersections in Montreal, the corner of Esplanade and Mt-Royal needs traffic signals for bicycles. A bicycle path ends abruptly at this intersection which has heavy traffic during rush hour.  The only provision helping cyclists cross safely is a sign with the image of a bicycle and an arrow pointing down at a faded series of bicycles painted across the intersection. The sign and bicycles are intended to show priority for cyclists. Nonetheless, cars usually proceed without slowing down through the intersection. When cyclists do try to cross, they risk being hit by oncoming traffic from both directions.

Corner of Esplanade and Mt-Royal: Lack of traffic signals for cyclists' safety

There are places where traffic signals have already been installed. Just several blocks south of this problematic intersection there are a series of bicycle traffic lights where cyclists may proceed with assurance that it is “their turn.”

Example of a bicycle traffic signal in Montreal

Vancouver has taken traffic signals that favour bicycles one step further, prioritizing cyclists on certain residential axes, called bikeways. Cyclists may proceed through intersections even if the light is red as long as there are no cars. Further, there are buttons that cyclists can press, easily reached by cyclists on the bikeway without requiring them to dismount, that change the light to green for cyclists.

What do you think urban planners can do to increase cycling safety in your city?

Credits: Images by Devon Willis. Data linked to sources.

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Devon Paige Willis is a native Montrealer and recent graduate of McGill University where she did her B.A. in Environment and Political Science. She discovered a passion for urban and transportation planning in her final year, during which time she at...

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