Are cyclists pedestrians or traffic? Turns out it’s both

A couple of weeks ago, Max Harrold, who writes the Squeaky Wheels column in The Gazette, put out a piece that paraphrased the SPVM saying that cyclists should respect pedestrian walk signals.

The column was later corrected, though it was after it caused some ruckus online from those who knew that the statement was wrong. The column the next week included a clarification to set the record straight.

So cyclists are vehicles and should respect traffic rules. Case closed, right?

Not quite.

In fact, if you actually look at the traffic signals along Montreal’s most-used cycling routes, you see that the truth is far from that simple.

To demonstrate, I’ll take parts of La Route Verte #1, the island’s main north-south cycling axis and one of its most frequented routes.

Gouin at Christophe-Colomb

Gouin at Christophe-Colomb

We start from the top, at Gouin Blvd. and Christophe-Colomb Ave. Here, looking east, we see that cyclists are to make a right turn to get onto the Christophe-Colomb bike path. But is the light above red (indicating traffic on Gouin can’t proceed into the intersection) or green (indicating that pedestrians can cross the street)?

If you argue that cyclists are traffic, then logically you must conclude that they have to make a right turn from the left side of the road, and violate signs on the other side of the intersection that say the only direction you can go is straight.

Christophe Colomb at Gouin

Christophe Colomb at Gouin

In the other direction, the same issue. The lights and signs indicate only a right turn is allowed, while the Route Verte turns left from here.

Verdict: Here, cyclists are expected to act like pedestrians.

Christophe-Colomb at Henri-Bourassa

Christophe-Colomb at Henri-Bourassa

A block further south, we have a more regular-looking intersection, with traffic and pedestrian lights. The pedestrian walk signal comes on a few seconds before the green light, and cyclists usually take that to mean they’re clear to proceed. In the photo above, the woman on the right stopped at the red light, and her friend flew by, reassuring her that it was OK to proceed.

Considering there’s a concrete median separating the pedestrians/cyclists from the traffic, it might make sense to think of them as one and the same. But they’re not.

Verdict: Traffic, but everyone ignores that here

Christophe Colomb near Sauvé

Christophe Colomb near Sauvé

As Christophe Colomb Ave. passes under its first railway, the right of way becomes narrower, forcing cyclists onto the roadway or onto the sidewalk (in this case, it’s half and half). Most of the time, we’re told never to ride on the sidewalk, but here we’re being told to do exactly that.

Verdict: Pedestrians travelling south, traffic travelling north

Christophe Colomb at de Louvain

Christophe Colomb at de Louvain

This intersection is one of many with similar configurations between the tracks and Crémazie Blvd. The bicycle path converges with the sidewalk at the corner, and the cyclist is expected to cross using the same crosswalk used by pedestrians. You’ll also note that the path passes through the sidewalk at the very spot where pedestrians are most likely to be standing waiting for a green light. If there were more pedestrians and more cyclists around, this would be a recipe for trouble.

Verdict: Pedestrians.

Crémazie

Christophe Colomb at Crémazie

The Highway 40 underpass is interesting in that there are actually two bike paths side by side. Before it was on the sidewalk, but more recently it has been moved to the roadway. A traffic light is designed to be visible only to cyclists and not to the traffic on the right side of the street.

Verdict: Traffic.

Christophe Colomb at Jarry

Christophe Colomb at Jarry

Once again, cyclists are expected to cross with pedestrians and cross through a sidewalk at the corner. But there’s that extra traffic light which implies it’s for cyclist use.

Verdict: Could go either way.

Parc des Carrières approach to Christophe Colomb

Parc des Carrières approach to Christophe Colomb

The sign here indicates you’re about to enter an area that is shared between cyclists and pedestrians. And boy are you.

Christophe Colomb underpass at des Carrières

Christophe Colomb underpass at des Carrières

The path in question is a standard-sized unmarked sidewalk, expected to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists in both directions safely (the latter of which will be at high speed since this is an underpass). Imagine if pedestrians and other vehicles were just asked to share the road in a situation like this.

Verdict: Pedestrians.

Christophe Colomb at St. Grégoire

Christophe Colomb at St. Grégoire (looking south)

Here, you might assume that obeying the green light is the way to go, even though signs clearly indicate you can’t go straight. Of course, you’d be wrong to assume that, because looking in the other direction it’s clear that the pedestrian signal is that one that’s supposed to be obeyed.

Christophe Colomb at St. Grégoire (looking north)

Christophe Colomb at St. Grégoire (looking north)

It’s clear because that’s the only option available in that direction. There simply is no traffic light for cyclists to obey.

Verdict: Pedestrians.

Brébeuf at Laurier

Brébeuf at Laurier

The next intersection down, you might have gotten the idea that the hand signals are the ones to be respected. Once again here there is no traffic light because the street is one-way in the opposite direction, only a small cyclist-specific light which for some reason remains red in this case. In this photo, three cyclists gleefully cross the street on the pedestrian walk signal, assuming that the red cyclist light is either malfunctioning or is delayed for no particular reason.

Brébeuf at Laurier: 4-way walk signal

Brébeuf at Laurier: 4-way walk signal

Except that kind of logic is liable to cause an accident. The pedestrian walk signal at Brébeuf and Laurier is a four-way signal, and cyclists crossing north-south on it could hit pedestrians crossing east-west, not realizing their error until it’s too late.

Verdict: Traffic.

Brébeuf at St. Joseph

Brébeuf at St. Joseph

Another block down, we’re back to the traffic-only signal. Since Brébeuf is one-way, this green light above could only be directed at cyclists and pedestrians, who each have thir own clearly marked lanes through the intersection.

Verdict: Traffic.

Brébeuf at Mont-Royal

Brébeuf at Mont-Royal

At Mont-Royal, there’s no traffic light. Like at St. Grégoire, only the direction with traffic has a traffic light, and the other is left with only the pedestrian signal, forced to obey it even though they’ve been told they’re real grown-up traffic and shouldn’t be following pedestrian signals.

Verdict: Pedestrians.

Brébeuf at Rachel

Brébeuf at Rachel

Same deal at Rachel, the entrance to Lafontaine Park and a major intersection for bike traffic with dedicated lanes heading off in four directions. Again, cyclists have no choice here but to pretend they’re pedestrians.

Verdict: Pedestrians.

Fix the route before blaming cyclists

Cycling is a mode of transportation that few use more than occasionally. For that reason alone the rules must be made clear and simple. But they’re not, which led to misinformation getting into a newspaper article.

I chose this particular stretch of bicycle route because it’s not just something that was installed yesterday. It’s La Route Verte, a highly-trafficked route and one that many inexperienced riders are more likely to take. If rules are changing by the intersection, how can we expect them to be followed properly?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is some simple logic to this that I don’t get.

Or maybe the police and the city really don’t know what rules cyclists should follow, because there are no rules.

41 thoughts on “Are cyclists pedestrians or traffic? Turns out it’s both

  1. Simon

    Great post Steve. I use to take daily this path from Fleury down to De La Commune and I’ve also noticed the inconsistencies.

    Reply
  2. Alanah

    Thanks for this article.
    I once got a police warning when turning right on red on my bike. But I was an inch from the curb the whole time, there were no pedestrians crossing and it was clearly not dangerous.
    On the other hand, I often avoid turning left in a large intersection on a green light, even though according to the rules of the road a cyclist should be allowed to do this (eg: heading east on sherbrooke, then turning up Saint-Laurent). Instead, I act as a pedestrian and wait for 2 lights, because this just seems safer than getting into the turning lane, crossing oncoming traffic, and they trying to swerve back into the far right where cyclists are meant to stay.

    Clearly cycling in this city requires a lot of judgement rather than blind following of rules. I honestly don’t mind having to think about it and decide what feels safe. I just don’t like the idea that cops can enforce rules that were not designed for cyclists and may be dangerous – or nonsense – from a cycling perspective.

    Reply
  3. Tux

    Montreal definitely needs to get its head on straight about bicycles.

    We have a fairly good network of paths in theory. It looks great if you look at the cycle map. But we need to fill in the gaps. There are far too many places where traffic and bikes are mixed unsafely, and the city is not helping by painting bike paths on heavily trafficked roads. Most motorists couldn’t give a damn about bikes painted on the road. In plenty of places people just park on the path. When actually on the road, cars in our city act like bikes are invisible too. We need to physically isolate bikes from cars in order for our paths to be safe and usable by everyone. We need to fill in the gaps in the network, and we need to extend the paths more places. If I could cycle safely from NDG to DDO, I’d bike to work every day. Forget buying a car, and forget the notoriously unreliable STM (at least for the summer) !

    Reply
  4. Zvi Leve

    Excellent coverage of a very relevant issue. As the City of Montreal ramps up it’s bicycle lane coverage, it is still quite clear that the city engineers do not yet understand the way that bicycles use infrastructure. Bicyclists are not pedestrians, nor are they motorized vehicles either: they are another class of vehicle which should be considered in the design of all roads now! This is particularly problematic at intersections. As the number of cyclists increases, it is becoming more and more common to find bicycle congestion spilling over onto the road and other areas (see for example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zvileve/2780005010/ ). There are still very few dedicated bicycle signals in use along the bike lanes, and those that exist are not well timed for bicycle movements (ie bicycles cross a street significantly faster than a pedestrian).

    The Quebec Code Routier needs to be updated to include proper design standards for bicycles. This will take time, but I sincerely hope that someone is working on this important task!

    Reply
  5. Marc-O

    Excellent analysis Fagstein, and thanks for spotting the two places I hate the most.

    The Christophe-Colomb underpass (at des carrieres and railroad track) feels pretty dangerous, especially when pedestrians use it. Whenever I have to walk through there, I use the opposite sidewalk.

    The Brebeuf/Laurier 4-way pedestrian light makes little sense to me. First, having a cycling light that is not in sync with pedestrian and/or car light is very annoying, as most of the time, it is. Also, it often the case that green lights one way mean they’re red on the crossing way.

    this is a route I take everyday, and the lack of cohesion of traffic signals for cyclists is ridiculous.

    There are some places too where cyclists will have a stop sign (largely ignored) while the crossing traffic doesn’t have to stop (Everett, Marianne, Villeneuve). However, bikes there usually need to slow down to see if traffic is coming on the crossing street, which is often not easy to see, due to trees/buildings/parked cars.

    Final result: cyclists are “trained” to use whatever green light they can (bike/pedestrian/traffic), whenever they have a choice. Well, they often end up using the red lights too (well, just like pedestrians).

    Reply
  6. xkr

    Ah bravo!
    Cette superbe démonstration devrait servir de point de départ à un blogue qui recenserait toutes les incongruités des intersections des rues montréalaises… Avec la somme de celles-ci, peut-être arriverait-on à tisser un réseau cohérent?

    Reply
  7. Kahn

    The Highway Safety Code states that all cyclists must comply with all traffic signs and signals, ride in road lanes, etc, as if they were motor vehicles.

    But in the provisions for crosswalks and intersections, for example, it reads that cars must yield the right of way to pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection, and that cyclists may cross a street whenever a signal permits them to. They can also use sidewalks where it is “necessary” for safety.

    So it’s as if cyclists have to follow traffic but can act as pedestrians too, and have to be treated as pedestrians by cars. Just use common sense.

    What annoys me are cyclists who plow through red lights when pedestrians are crossing the street.

    Reply
  8. Jean Naimard

    Bike paths are just oxdung. The traffic rules allow for bikes to go on the road, and they provide for all cases, except obviously when you do such a bad hack of having contraflow bike paths. They separate the bikes from the cars, and neither has a sense of “sharing” like they should be.
    This is why I avoid them like the plague*; I’ve been biking in the city for more than 35 years and big traffic (like turning north on St-Laurent from Sherbrooke at 17:30) does not scare me the least. I must say that I also dress super-flashy (day-glo orange safety vest, gray / white / royal blue / day-glo bike pants†), and I’ve had far more close calls on bike paths than on streets.
    The double-way bike paths such as on Christophe-Colomb is a good example of a bad thing. Cars who park on the side can be expected to open their doors straight into the paths, because being on the side away from the street, one inconsciously assumes that no traffic will be coming. The row of parked cars also hides the bikes from turning motorists.
    * Except the new Maisonneuve bike path; it has plenty of opportunities to give hell to motorists who don’t respect the bikes’ priority — I love to give hell to motorists, especially to a frais-chié who turns on Crescent in his BMW, blocking MY holy way to my girlfriend’s.
    † Yeah. Day-glo spandex. Any motorist who say didn’t see me is blind and should not drive. Yes, once I caused an accident (fender bender): a woman hit a truck, and I heard her tell the truck driver “I was looking at the guy on the bike”…

    Reply
  9. Maria Gatti

    I wouldn’t be caught dead dressing super-flashy – that is so fucking American: cyclists have the right to look like civilised human beings. Dayglo spandex makes me want to vomit. Your girlfriend puts up with that?

    I do have headlamps front and rear after dark. But I dress like an urban person. American dayglo culture disgusts me. I’m actually surprised at you wearing such crap.

    That said, this is a brilliant post. I got yelled at by a cretin (man about ten years older than I am escorting his elderly mum – I presume – across the crosswalk at Hutchison and Ogilvy – just north of Loblaws – because he accused nice middle-aged non-dayglo me of “crossing against the light”. I had been scrupulously waiting for the four-way stop, and was certainly not endangering any pedestrians, let alone an ancient Greek lady. 60-something macho reads the Gazette too much.

    Cyclists should always give way to pedestrians, as motorists to cyclists, but the problem is that in practice this does not occur.

    This is an example of many anomalies – another is the tunnels such as between Bernard and Bellechasse. The only safe route is on the pavement – no way am I going to go down in that death tunnel.

    Reply
    1. Jean Naimard

      I wouldn’t be caught dead dressing super-flashy – that is so fucking American: cyclists have the right to look like civilised human beings.

      With the blind motorists we have nowadays, you don’t take any chances. How many people did you see running red lights 30 years ago? You saw something like 2 per year. Nowadays, I see that twice per DAY. Well, earlier tonight, when I crossed a bike path, I got yelled by some dope roller-skating. He was totally dressed in black. Way to go, skating at night all in black. Very smart. That guy is begging to be hit by a car.

      Dayglo spandex makes me want to vomit. Your girlfriend puts up with that?

      Not only my girlfriend, but my cow-orkers, my parents and my in-laws, too. They have no choice, and after some 20 years, they got accustomed to it. I really love to go to the bank dressed like that; whenever I can, I even go at the head-office on St-Jacques street.
      Do you think I’m annoying only online? I strive to annoy in real life too. :)

      I do have headlamps front and rear after dark. But I dress like an urban person. American dayglo culture disgusts me. I’m actually surprised at you wearing such crap.

      Because I have culture doesn’t mean I’m european… I dress first and foremost to be comfortable; and when I went to the world naked bike ride, I found out that riding a bike naked is also very comfortable; wearing spandex is the next best thing to be naked (I was carefully raised without any christian oxdung — now that’s more like an european…).
      Spandex means that, after riding 40 kilometers (like I just did earlier tonite), you are baby-fresh, instead of being irritated and chafed and being a Ozonol basket case. I cannot believe that when I was a kid, I rode my bike in jeans. But I recall having a lot of chafing problems back then and running through cans and cans of baby powder.

      That said, this is a brilliant post.

      Thank-you. We ought to ride together sometimes… :)

      I got yelled at by a cretin (man about ten years older than I am escorting his elderly mum – I presume – across the crosswalk at Hutchison and Ogilvy – just north of Loblaws – because he accused nice middle-aged non-dayglo me of “crossing against the light”. I had been scrupulously waiting for the four-way stop, and was certainly not endangering any pedestrians, let alone an ancient Greek lady. 60-something macho reads the Gazette too much.

      Yeah, that Gazoo paper, it’s a menace! ;)
      Interesting. Last shouting match I had was on O’Gilvy street with a moron who actually called the police because I gave him shit for nearly giving me a door prize (the cops must have told him to fuck-off because he looked very disappointed when he hung up his phone — and I have said that I would have waited for the fuzz).

      Cyclists should always give way to pedestrians, as motorists to cyclists, but the problem is that in practice this does not occur.

      Oh I’m very scrupulous with bipeds. I (almost) never ride on sidewalks; when I do (because I want to avoid a 10 mile detour), it’s at a walking pace.

      This is an example of many anomalies – another is the tunnels such as between Bernard and Bellechasse. The only safe route is on the pavement – no way am I going to go down in that death tunnel.

      You mean on the sidewalk? (I think that in Britain, “pavement” means the sidewalk — you’re british?).

      Reply
  10. Maria Gatti

    I’m not British, but I’ve spent a considerable part of my life in Europe. Including Amsterdam, where nobody wears dayglo unless they are neon queens in an lgbt pride parade. And I work for European clients a lot. Yes, I meant sidewalk.

    There is nothing wrong with wearing black if that is what you normally wear, but if you are on the roads, you should have a light after dark. Most people in Montréal do wear black or dark colours, except perhaps in the summer. No way I’ll dress like a clown under any circumstances.

    You can wear lycra UNDER normal clothes, you know. I know men who do that. I do as well, if I’m cycling a long way, but that means lycra shorts or leggings under a skirt. The thought of middle-aged people of either sex in visible lycra is not very appealing, unless they are pro athletes. World naked bike ride – not even going there. This is not a matter of prudery (my immediate family were heathen lapsed Catholics too) but of aesthetics.

    Reply
    1. Jean Naimard

      I’m not British, but I’ve spent a considerable part of my life in Europe. Including Amsterdam, where nobody wears dayglo unless they are neon queens in an lgbt pride parade. And I work for European clients a lot. Yes, I meant sidewalk.

       

      Well, having been hit by a car in daylight long ago, anything that makes me more visible is desirable.

      There is nothing wrong with wearing black if that is what you normally wear, but if you are on the roads, you should have a light after dark. Most people in Montréal do wear black or dark colours, except perhaps in the summer. No way I’ll dress like a clown under any circumstances.

      Here, in north-America, we do not have european hangups about appearance; we’re concerned with the results. I bike without wasting energy though inefficient clothing, I come back home without the wounds improper clothing inflict and I don’t get hit by cars. That’s a worthy result in my book. Black is woefully inefficient as a garment colour.

      You can wear lycra UNDER normal clothes, you know. I know men who do that. I do as well, if I’m cycling a long way, but that means lycra shorts or leggings under a skirt. The thought of middle-aged people of either sex in visible lycra is not very appealing, unless they are pro athletes. World naked bike ride – not even going there. This is not a matter of prudery (my immediate family were heathen lapsed Catholics too) but of aesthetics.

      Well, I don’t have hangups over people æsthetics, and I’m glad I don’t have them.

      Reply
  11. Maria Gatti

    I do not see aesthetics as a hangup, but as an integral component of culture. We’ll just have to disagree about that. Most Montréalais do disagree with you about black.

    I got doored once too, during the day, decades ago. I think that since there were fewer bicycles at the time motorists literally did not see us, though I was doing nothing reckless or illegal.

    The way to make cycling safer is to increase the number of cyclists, and this means not stigmatising urban cycling as something done in circus apparel.

    I do NOT think Québécois and certainly not Québécoises are unconcerned with aesthetics or see clothing as something merely functional.

    Reply
    1. Jean Naimard

      The way to make cycling safer is to increase the number of cyclists, and this means not stigmatising urban cycling as something done in circus apparel.

      The idea is to be visible, and what better way to do that than be shockingly flashy? And if you can be comfortable, so much the better. The idea is 100% function.

      I do NOT think Québécois and certainly not Québécoises are unconcerned with aesthetics or see clothing as something merely functional.

      Well, that’s normal for the run-of-the-mill sheeple who will blindingly follow fashion. Myself, I cannot fathom why dressing like a funeral director is appealing.

      Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Rachel is two ways, so there are regular traffic lights to guide cyclists. I don’t recall any specific instances where this causes problems, though there could be some.

      Reply
  12. Aolis

    What really bothers me is the buses. They race past you on the left, only to cut you off at a stop. Then you have to decide if it is worth the risk to pass them because they could be stopped for awhile or they could spontanously start pulling out again.

    This could happen three or four times if you happen to be travelling along a bus route during rush hour.

    Reply
    1. Jean Naimard

      Buses can be a pain, especially that their average speed is at par with a nonstop bike.
      Best proof of it is a while back, when the newfangled low floor buses arrived, I was on Ste-Catherine at the same time as a bus, and I caught to it at every red light. Then I noticed that the driver sits much lower than on the oldfangled bus, and I pointed that out to the driver. Well, we kept our chatting at each red light for the 4-5 next red lights…

      Reply
  13. Marie Marcil

    Hi Fagstein (I don’t know your real name, sorry),

    I just want to let you know that I refer your blog to quantity of people (which is SPVM, Conseil d’arrondissement du Plateau de Montréal, Vélo Québec and la COUR MUNICIPALE de Montréal).

    I received a ticket of 37$ + 3 demerits points last month for passed on the pedestrian light with my bike, corner Laurier and Brébeuf. We were 5 persons to be trapped on this corner at the same time … and by the time we received the ticket, we observed that 90% of bikers were passing on the pedestrian light. Who as to be blame ? Population who are ignorant of the security code (the police said it to me), SAAQ who are not sensibilizing population or the police who just simply apply the law ?

    I’m am contesting the ticket, and I am using the contain of your blog as a proof (I was in process of taking pictures of all intersections on Route Verte 1 … and I finally found your blog. You did a very great job, and that is why I refer lots of people there).

    I really hope that my work will change something … or at least will ”cancel” my ticket. But I really want to demonstrate that something is very wrong about the bike’s signalisation.

    I’ll try to keep an update of my case on this blog, otherwise if you want to contact me for more details: mcmarcil@hotmail.com.

    NB: By the way, have you receive a ticket for that ? Otherwise, why have you done all this work of taking pictures and explain all the intersections ?

    Thank you,

    Marie-Christine Marcil

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      You might have a tough time arguing your case, if only because that intersection has a specific light for cyclists. Arguing that others also break the law isn’t guaranteed to sway the judge.

      I haven’t yet gotten a ticket for cycling anywhere. But trying to make sense of the rules led me to realize that in some places they don’t always make sense.

      Reply
      1. Marie Marcil

        I want to argue the point that the actual signalisation is making a lot of confusion because it is not constant. (By the way … what could happen with the arrival of new bikers like Bixi users ? Very confusing for them … )

        I went at the ”Conseil d’arrondissement du plateau” last week. All municipal advisors told me to contest the ticket.

        Does meen I’ll win … but if I finally have to pay the ticket, they won’t have my money for free. So, that is why I knock everywhere I can.

        Thanks,

        MC

        Reply
  14. Zvi Leve

    Fagstein (also don’t know your name) is right about arguing your case. Definitely do *not* claim that you should get off because everyone else was also breaking the law! On the other hand, I think that you probably have grounds for arguing that you were confused and did not understand which signal applied to you. Even if there is a bicycle signal, which I assume was not green at the time of the infraction, you could still legitimately claim that you did not understand the signalization at the intersection. Bring photographs as evidence, particularly what you saw from your perspective as a bicyclist!

    In such cases, usually the judge will rule that “technically you should have been familiar with the security code, but there are also reasonable grounds for your confusion and lack of understanding.”

    Reply
    1. M Marcil

      Today was judgment day (this morning, 9h30).

      Verdict: Guilty

      I have brought the pictures and explanations of that blog to argue my case. They refuse to see the document because it wasn’t ”mine”(I am not the one who make that document).

      According to the law, I have past on a red light.

      That close the case (”In a way …”) and Montreal signalisation will still be deficient.

      MC

      Reply
          1. Jean Naimard

            The cop wasn’t there.

            You could have just said “this is simply not true, there must have been a mistake made somewhere”, and since the cop wasn’t there, the city had no witness to defend the contention that, perhaps, you might have possibly violated the law and therefore you would have been off scott-free.

            Well, let’s say this has been an expensive lesson for you: don’t agree in court if the cop is not there.

            Reply
          2. Zvi Leve

            Marie-Christine, sorry to hear that you lost your case. I hope that they at least did not charge you any admistrative fees. They are very ‘particular’ about the supporting documentation that you can bring in as evidence, although sometimes they will offer you the opportunity to reschedule the case so that you can bring the “proper” documentation. Your case was a tough one – you needed to “prove” why you thought that the red-bicycle light did not apply to you! If it had been a normal traffic signal, I think that you would have had a good chance of getting off.

            Jean, getting off because the cop is not there only happens in the movies! The city provides a representative to act on their behalf, and the court has the complete ‘violation report’.

            Reply
          3. Jean Naimard

            Nevertheless, you have the right to face your accuser, and you can demand his presence for questions that do not figure in the “complete violation report”, which they cannot do comprehensively for every single chickenshit infraction, as there would not be enough time in the whole universe to do so.

            Reply
  15. E. T.-B.

    Montreal has the most absurd bicycling infrastructure of any city I’ve lived in, and that includes Pittsburgh (which, when I lived there, had exactly one bike lane, which had been established simply by painting “BIKE LANE” in the parking spaces; cars were still allowed to park in the “BIKE LANE”).

    Don’t all of the problems you document result from two-way and one-way contraflow (like Milton) bike lanes? Without them, bicyclists can consistently use vehicle signals, except where an off-road path (e.g. Lachine Canal) connects to an ordinary road.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Yes, this is only really an issue on bike lanes, but the bike lane network is expanding, and bike lanes are where beginner cyclists are going to go before they take to the streets.

      There are issues on regular roads as well. Can cars pass cyclists in the same lane? Can cyclists use the left lane of a multi-lane road if they’re going to make a left turn?

      Reply
      1. Jean Naimard

        Yes, this is only really an issue on bike lanes, but the bike lane network is expanding, and bike lanes are where beginner cyclists are going to go before they take to the streets.

        When I was a kid, there were **NO** bike lanes. Drapeau sure made sure the autodoxy was safe. <curmudgeon mode ON>Back then, you went biking in the streets, with the traffic, uphill both ways. Bicycles were **NOT** allowed in the parks; that included the Mountain.<curmudgeon mode OFF> Remember Bob Silverman and how he got in Drapeau’s hair whenever he could? Remember the epic bike demonstrations back then???

        There are issues on regular roads as well. Can cars pass cyclists in the same lane?

        Officially, no, but no car will ever be ticketted, unless he really clips the bike badly. It helps to dangle a 5 pound padlock from the extremity of the left handlebar…

        Can cyclists use the left lane of a multi-lane road if they’re going to make a left turn?

        Most definitely yes. I do it all the time. Here is the most memorable time I did that (yes, in real life, I am just as bad as on the intarwebs).

        Reply
      2. Zvi Leve

        bike lanes are where beginner cyclists are going to go before they take to the streets

        I do not agree with that. I am a life-long urban bicyclist (rode downtown without telling anyone when I was seven years old and got brought home by the police!), and I am willing to use bicycle lanes if it makes my ride faster and more comfortable. Bicyclists are just like everyone else – they want safe and convenient routes to their destinations!

        I definitely am not a fan of bi-directional bike lanes because they make things much more complicated (and stressful). On the other hand, if there are not too many people using them, and not much cross-traffic (like on Cote Ste. Catherine) they can be OK. Given Montreal’s extensive network of one-way streets (which is a good thing), it is only logical that there will be contra-flow bike lanes in many locations. If a bicycle wants to go North from Mount Royal, why should the only options be Ave du Parc or St. Laurent? Keep the cars on the main arteries, but create an unobstructed direct path for cyclists!

        I am very happy with all of the painted lanes which has been put down in the last few weeks (we are in the run-up to an election!), but there needs to be much more systematic thought about how bicycles interact with other vehicles and pedestrians AT INTERSECTIONS. Bicyclists need safe spaces to wait to make their turning movements and the there need to be dedicated bicycle signals which are actually set to bicycle operating characteristics.

        As for whether or not paint constitutes a valid bike lane – I have used St. Urbain to go from Mile End to downtown both before and after the paint went down. Sure nothing has physically changed, but I find that with the bike lane my path is blocked far less frequently. On the other hand, it is possible that cars do pass closer to the bike lane than they would to a bicycle which was not occupying a well-defined space.

        Reply
        1. Jean Naimard

          I am willing to use bicycle lanes if it makes my ride faster and more comfortable. Bicyclists are just like everyone else – they want safe and convenient routes to their destinations!

          True. I will take some bike paths if I do not feel they are dangerous. I will gladly take the Lachine Canal path if it’s late at night.

          I definitely am not a fan of bi-directional bike lanes because they make things much more complicated (and stressful). On the other hand, if there are not too many people using them, and not much cross-traffic (like on Cote Ste. Catherine) they can be OK.

          I will only take the bidirectional ones that have parking besides them in the direction near the sidewalk, so I don’t get a door prize from someone who did not expect a bicycle coming from the side near the sidewalk (parking should be prohibited next to a bike lane, especially if it’s separated from the street by a curb, for this very reason). As of the Maisonneuve bike lane, which does not allow parking, the westbound direction has the very redeeming value of giving a lot of potential for giving hell to motorists (I love giving hell to motorists). The eastbound direction, on the other hand, is unattractive. I’d rather go on La Catherine instead…

          Given Montreal’s extensive network of one-way streets (which is a good thing), it is only logical that there will be contra-flow bike lanes in many locations. If a bicycle wants to go North from Mount Royal, why should the only options be Ave du Parc or St. Laurent? Keep the cars on the main arteries, but create an unobstructed direct path for cyclists!

          There is already one: all the streets not named Parc nor St-Laurent… :)

          I am very happy with all of the painted lanes which has been put down in the last few weeks (we are in the run-up to an election!), but there needs to be much more systematic thought about how bicycles interact with other vehicles and pedestrians AT INTERSECTIONS. Bicyclists need safe spaces to wait to make their turning movements and the there need to be dedicated bicycle signals which are actually set to bicycle operating characteristics.

          Bicycles can be very safe at intersections. This is simply dont by not being unobtrusive. By being as flashy as possible and very assertive towards motorists (that includes eye contact), a bicycle can do many things safely. Extra points are granted by infuriating motorists. Bonus points are awarded if this is done legally.

          As for whether or not paint constitutes a valid bike lane – I have used St. Urbain to go from Mile End to downtown both before and after the paint went down. Sure nothing has physically changed, but I find that with the bike lane my path is blocked far less frequently. On the other hand, it is possible that cars do pass closer to the bike lane than they would to a bicycle which was not occupying a well-defined space.

          That people would bike on big busy streets is beyond me. I’ve been biking in the city for more than 35 years (I didn’t start at 7, though), and although traffic does not annoy me, I avoid big fast streets; the quiet small streets are much nicer for biking if only for the scenery.

          Reply
  16. Zvi Leve

    Jean, the residential streets North of Jean Mance Park are all oriented South, so a cyclist must go against the traffic. There is a contra-sense bike lane on Esplanade which is very nice, but at Villeneuve one is directed to turn either West to go up to Cote Ste Catherine or East over to the Clarke bike lane. But the Clarke bike lane does not have any signalized crossings at St. Joseph, Laurier, or Fairmount, and it is not always comfortable crossing those streets. Note that stop signs have been added on Clarke at the intersections of St. Viateur and Bernard, and that is a HUGE improvement for the bike lane. It would be very nice to be able to go from Mont Royal all the way up to Van Horne in a straight line.

    As for busy streets versus quiet ones, it depends what one is doing. The busy streets tend to be faster, for cyclists as well. Note that the few times when I have had serious altercations with drivers (as in them actually trying to run me off the road) have almost always been on quiet residential streets. Go figure.

    Reply
  17. cynicroute

    Average adult weight: 150 lbs
    Average adult weight, plus bike: 180 lbs
    Average automobile weight: 2800 lbs

    Politics and policy aside, cyclists are foot-powered and therefore pedestrian; as such, they belong on sidewalks and pathways with walkers and runners – not on streets and roadways. The collision between a walker and a cyclist is far less injurious than the collision between a cyclist and an automobile. The cyclist in me avoids streets as much as possbile out of personal safety and common sense. The driver in me is frustrated by the cyclists that think they’re motorbikes and monopolise roadways. I know it was once fun to put a baseball card in your spokes and pretend, but let’s grow up here. Then there is the group that follows pedestrian rules when convenient, and road rules the rest of the time.

    The bottom line is that automobiles are not going anywhere anytime soon. Being self-righteous about cycling does not entitle one to disrupting traffic. Traffic congestion in major centres is bad enough without being speed-limited by the one cyclist pretending to be Streethawk. Vrrrm Vrrrrm.

    Reply
  18. mike

    This is still pretty relevant. It mainly comes down to the old bike paths being poorly planned which causes confusion. However, some of the new ones are being properly integrated with car traffic to include lights for cyclists (Park and des Pins). It’s a start

    Reply
    1. Zvi

      Mike, even the new bike lanes which include bike signals are a long way from being properly ‘integrated’. Pins/Parc is a perfect example – there is a cycle signal phase, but it is not at all timed for bicycle riders! First it followed the pedestrian phase, which was absurd, and now it follows the car phase which is little better. Bicycles have fundamentally different ‘operating characteristics’ and need to be planned for accordingly.

      Until that happens, we will continue to see cyclists ‘ignoring’ the signals!

      Reply

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