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Canada

Stats show Montreal bicycle and pedestrian safety is improving, police say at hearing

From reducing the height of plants on curb extensions to cracking down on motorists who text while driving, Montrealers had plenty of suggestions on how the city and its police force could improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists at a public hearing on the subject at city hall Monday evening.

The hearing was conducted by Montreal’s public security commission, with the objective of gathering suggestions and ideas for how Montreal could better achieve its goal of reducing to zero the number of serious injuries and deaths on roadways each year.

To kick off the discussion, Alex Norris, president of Montreal’s Public Security Commission, stressed the pertinence of reviewing efforts to curb traffic injuries and fatalities, given recent serious collisions involving pedestrians, the animated discussions around the city’s decision to temporarily stop through traffic over Mount Royal following the death of a cyclist, and the constant increases in the number of cars, pedestrians and cyclists in the city.

Sylvain Dubois, a commander in the traffic control department of the SPVM, then presented some statistics. He noted the number of motorized vehicles are increasing on the island of Montreal by one per cent per year, faster than the population is growing. In 2016, there were 952,528 motorized vehicles on the island; 15,000 more than in 2015.

Despite efforts to improve road safety, which have born fruit, Dubois said this constant increase in traffic poses a safety challenge, particularly for the most vulnerable users of the roads; cyclists and pedestrians, and especially seniors.

So far in 2018, fatal collisions have taken the lives of 15 pedestrians, three cyclists and three drivers. Last year, 11 pedestrians died in road collisions, as well as three cyclists and five drivers. He said the overall trend is in the right direction, since the number of cyclists and pedestrians deaths is down 15 per cent compared to the yearly average of the last decade.

Dubois noted the most commonly observed risky behaviours for which the SPVM regularly hands out fines to pedestrians and cyclists. For pedestrians, not respecting pedestrian crossing signals accounted for 58 per cent of fines emitted; jaywalking 15 per cent; standing in the roadway ten per cent; and six per cent for not respecting traffic lights where no pedestrian signals were present.

Meanwhile for cyclists, 27 per cent of fines were for not respecting traffic lights, 13 per cent for wearing earphones or earbuds while cycling, 10 per cent for cycling the wrong way and nine per cent for ignoring red lights.

In 2017, the SPVM issued 414,767 fines to drivers for violations of the road safety code, 12,644 to cyclists, and 23,861 to pedestrians.

Members of the public offered a number of suggestions to both the city and the SPVM. These included: basing the proportion of fines handed out to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers on their numbers as well as the level of danger posed by the mode of transportation, requiring cyclists be licensed, making use of helmets obligatory, reducing the height of vegetation on curb extensions, conducting a study on what other cities have done to reduce cyclist and pedestrian injuries and deaths, and using police officers on bicycles to monitor use of cell phones by drivers in city traffic.

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