Don’t share the road

As police redirect traffic, ambulances are parked in the middle of the street with somebody strapped to a stretcher. A bike is laying in the middle of the street. This was the scene on a  Wednesday night on the corner of St. Laurent and Sherbrooke Streets. It is not yet clear what happened and who is to blame but it is, unfortunately, a familiar scene in Montreal. Two cyclists were killed in back-to-back accidents that took place the second week of August.
Montreal police’s “share the road” campaign was launched last year and aims to crack down on Highway Safety Code violations made by both cyclists and motorists. The goal is to reduce the number of fatalities and accidents, despite the perceived increase in the number of bicycles on the road.
While enforcing cyclists to follow traffic rules and fining those who do not will improve safety, the best way to ensure cyclist safety is by not allowing them and drivers to share the road.
Cycling fatalities and injuries are surprisingly low in Germany and the Netherlands, even though bicycles are a widespread mode of transportation in these countries. What are they doing differently? A Rutgers University study showed that the answer lies in infrastructure. Extensive bicycle paths and lanes, special traffic lights for cyclists that give them priority at intersections, and designated bicycle stop areas that allow cyclists to stay in front of cars at intersections.
This month, Montreal has taken a step in the right direction by setting up its first bicycle box. The green-painted patch of pavement on the corner of Milton and University marks the space where bicycles can wait ahead of cars, giving them priority at the intersection. The bike box is just a pilot project for the moment, but its location is perfect for a test run as the intersection gets approximately 5,000 cyclists and 700 cars each day.
Although pricey – the bike box’s non-skid plastic that won’t come off during snow clearing has a price tag of $10,000 – it is the most effective long-term solution for the city’s bicycle accident problem.
Regardless of who is responsible in each individual case, the city should make sure it protects its cyclists as much as possible. In combination with cautious cyclists and motorists, these measures should dramatically cut down on the fatalities and accidents that have been so prevalent this month.


1 comment

  1. nice article, miss gravota.  it is shocking to me that major cities have not made a big push towards developing their bicycle traffic infrastructure. it is a matter of public health, not only for injury prevention but also for health promotion.  
    it takes one ride from the plateau to downtown to see that most roads and preexisting systems can make biking to work an extreme sport and death defying experience.   cyclists regularly need to deal with car doors flying open, formula-1-type overtakings on narrow roads and blind truck drivers turning into intersections.   i haven’t seen the bike box in action yet, but it sounds interesting.  i’m all for not sharing the road, but i hope that montreal continues on the route of bike commuting promotion.  bixis, tough traffic rule enforcement and a few bike paths are a great start, but man, there is so much work to be done.   look around at the general health of the folks in amsterdam and copenhagen as they whiz by in their suits and skirts on the way to work, and it’s hard not to imagine that there is causal association between these fit-non-obese-smiling-clean-air-breathing folks and their city’s amazing biking infrastructure.  these places have cycling integrated into the core of their traffic and commuter plans, and just by doing do so, have also integrated into their communities a massively accessible health promotion, pollution-reducing-tool for all socio economic stripes to safely enjoy. 

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