The bus and the cyclist

Wednesday, April 11, Sherbrooke St., heading east from Atwater Ave. A cyclist, riding in the right lane, is minding his business when suddenly an STM bus passes within inches of him in a dangerous pass. The cyclist catches up to the driver twice to argue with him, all caught on video. He posts it to YouTube and a day later some prominent local personalities (Dominic Arpin, Patrick Lagacé) share the video on social media.

The response from their followers is overwhelming: the cyclist is at fault. He should have been further to the side. He shouldn’t have been zigzagging around cars. He should have used the bicycle path on nearby de Maisonneuve Blvd. He shouldn’t have engaged the driver.

It’s disappointing that anti-cyclist mentality has reached this point. As an occasional cyclist myself, I’m well aware that there are some really dangerous cyclists out there. But nothing this cyclist did was dangerous, and yet he gains little sympathy from people.

Let’s analyze their arguments.

He shouldn’t have been in the middle of the lane

The bus makes its dangerous pass, inches from the parking lane.

The wide angle of the camera distorts it a bit, but I estimate about a metre, maybe a metre and a half, between the bus and the lane of parked cars as it passes the cyclist. That’s far less than there should be for any semblance of safety.

According to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, Article 487: “Every person on a bicycle must ride on the extreme right-hand side of the roadway in the same direction as traffic, except when about to make a left turn, when travel against the traffic is authorized or in cases of necessity.” What “extreme right-hand side” means isn’t clarified here, and this article has been criticized as being written assuming country roads with wide lanes, not city streets with street parking. In my mind there’s little doubt that the cyclist is as far right as he can be safely. Remember as he passes those cars he has to worry about being doored.

In any case, Article 341 is quite clear: “No driver of a road vehicle may pass a bicycle within the same traffic lane unless the driver may do so safely, after reducing the vehicle’s speed and ensuring that a reasonable distance can be kept between the vehicle and the bicycle during the manoeuvre. A reasonable distance is 1.5 m on a road where the maximum authorized speed limit is more than 50 km/h or 1 m on a road where the maximum authorized speed limit is 50 km/h or less.”

The driver of the bus clearly did not respect the code.

But let’s put that aside and assume the cyclist *was* in the middle of the lane. Is that legal? It’s hard to say. Is it safer? Absolutely. Because drivers do this kind of stuff all the time. They don’t care about what’s a safe distance. They don’t even care if they hit the cyclist, because they’re protected by their car. So if they can squeeze by in the same lane, they’ll give it a shot, no matter how dangerous it is for the cyclist. The only way a cyclist can protect himself is to stay in the centre of the lane.

I’ve been there many times. And believe me, if the lane was wide enough for both, I’d be more than happy to move over to the side. The last thing a cyclist wants is an angry and unpredictable driver right behind them.

The cyclist should have used the bicycle path

From where the video starts at the corner of Atwater Ave., de Maisonneuve Blvd. is about 200 metres away. That’s not far. But past Fort St., that distance starts to increase. By Berri St. it’s 500 metres. But more importantly, there’s a much larger difference in altitude between the two. So much so that at Hôtel-de-Ville Ave., the sidewalk is actually stairs.

Without knowing the cyclist’s origin or destination, it’s hard to say for sure whether it would have made more sense to use the path. But as someone who has cycled on Sherbrooke a lot, the height difference is the main reason why. I’d prefer to take side streets, but there aren’t many options for that downtown above Sherbrooke.

In any case, there’s no law that prevents a cyclist from using a street if another street nearby has a bicycle path.

Why was the cyclist filming this?

Because this kind of stuff happens all the time. Just like Russians have gotten into the habit of installing dashboard cameras in their cars, some cyclists have put cameras on their helmets and set them to record automatically, knowing it won’t be long before they catch some driver doing something dangerous.

Cyclists are all awful

There are a lot of dangerous cyclists out there. Those who run red lights, zig-zag dangerously through stopped (and sometimes not-so-stopped) traffic, go the wrong way on one-way streets, ride on sidewalks, and talk on their phones. We should definitely have more enforcement of safety laws. But that doesn’t mean we should endanger the life of a cyclist who has broken none of these laws.

Anyway, the STM says the driver is going to be spoken to, and the actions were unacceptable. (They should also talk to him about driving with headphones on, which is also against the safety code.) Hopefully he learns his lesson before a decision to risk someone else’s life leads to a mistake with more lasting consequences.

UPDATE (April 24): La Presse reports the bus driver has been suspended five days.

31 thoughts on “The bus and the cyclist

  1. Lance Campeau

    After riding a moped 7 years I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for cyclists. Its always “me, me, me” while at the same time, none of them follow the rules of the road. They expect everyone around them to bend to their will.

    In those 7 years, I had my health seriously jeopardized 3 times by cyclists cutting me off or passing me on the right while they were blowing through a stop sign. With Plante the bike-hugger in charge we can expect more SJW jerk-offs like this to infect our streets.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      After riding a moped 7 years I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for cyclists.

      You should probably not be on the road if you show such disregard for safety.

      Its always “me, me, me” while at the same time, none of them follow the rules of the road.

      I do.

      Reply
  2. Dolores Huard

    From what I saw the bus driver is right. As he said the cyclist was riding in the middle of the street. It must be hard enough trying to drive a bus on a busy street like Sherbrooke without having to worry about these cyclists.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      From what I saw the bus driver is right. As he said the cyclist was riding in the middle of the street.

      He wasn’t. He was riding in the right lane about a metre away from parked cars.

      Reply
  3. Dolores Huard

    And BTW last week I thanked a cyclist for actually being the first one who ever stopped for me at a pedestrian crossing. He laughed! But as a pedestrian I have to say I`m more afraid of cyclists than I am of cars or buses. I`ve ridden buses all my adult life and have always found them to be courteous on the road. (I don`t know how they do it with the cars and cyclists many times not respecting the rules of the road!).

    Reply
    1. Pefder Magfrok

      I and an un-related woman waited to cross at the marked & visible pedestrian crosswalk on boul, St-Laurent near Schwartzes while about 40 cars passed us and exactly zero of them stopped for us to cross and one of those was a cop car.

      And bikes are the problem.

      Reply
  4. Michael Black

    Bike pats were never meant as segregation, and that goes back to 1970.

    They were a reaction to the way drivers treated bicyclists. They were not invented to make things easier for drivers, “to get those pesky bikes off the streets”.

    This expectation that cyclist must use bike paths is relatively new, I’m not sure where it comes from but seems to be the same mentality that exists in the first place, bikes don’t belong on the road.

    The thing about bike paths is that they are something tangible, something cyclists can fight for, and something municipalities can provide. “See, we treat cyclists okay, we have this great network of bike paths”. But look at Milton and University. It doesn’t work, bikes end up going through red lights. Bike paths get vague around PdA, I gather, and there re other ill placed paths, existing more to make the network look larger than to make things safe.

    But most of all, bike paths were a false end. They were an easy reaction for two ten year olds in 1970 who knew they shouldn’t ride on the sidewalk, but thy never addressed the drivers nit wanting them on the roads or the careless driving of drivers. Bike paths were easy to take up since 1970, so thy got all the attention.

    We’re stuck with more and more bike paths because they don’t fix the real problem, which is still there away from the bike paths. Cicely Yalden was killed in early June 1990 at the corner of Rachel and Clark, the stories vary but either something was parked too close to the intersection so she or the car never saw each other until too late, or a vehicle was blocking the bike path, forcing her off it. Exactly six weeks before, I saw a delivery truck parked in the bike path at that corner, and sticking out into Clark, two offenses. I spoke up, the driver shrugged it off.

    Intersections will always be the unsafest place, and bike paths never fix that.

    The things that need fixing are way harder to fix, but everyone benefits.

    Michael

    Reply
  5. Dimi Koutsoufis

    I’ve been cycling in Mtl for most of my life. For the most part, I find motorists here tolerant and respectful. In the past 5 years, I have observed a frustration from bus drivers (way more bicycles) who have to constantly be aware of cyclists. It really is an obstacle course for both of them. The drivers don’t want to hurt anybody, and the cyclists have to maneuver around motorists who don’t see them (and getting doored). It’s all about common sense. I’m inclined to give more consideration to buses (with 50 passengers), than someone on a bicycle who’s taking more space than necessary. It would seem to me that this cyclist was nit-picking and looking for an excuse to make trouble.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Bus driver 100%. I fail to see what exactly he did wrong.

      Violated Article 341 of the Highway Safety Code, and in so doing intentionally put the life of a cyclist in unnecessary danger.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I watched this report on local news. My response is as follows.

    1 – I’m a Driver. When I’m driving in my car, and a Semi-Truck is beside me, or any other large vehicle, I take extra care so that an accident doesn’t happen. I will allow that vehicle to pass me. In this situation, the large vehicle will win out in any accident. And no amount of complaining about your rights will matter if you’re dead. They only right you have in a situation like that is to use your head properly.

    2 – Some cyclist seem to think they can act recklessly, and bully anybody else on the road. They have no respect for pedestrians, nor drivers. This is pure and simple childish behaviour. It’s all about them and their stupid bikes. And their BS logic as if there saving the environment. They’re saving nothing.

    3 – There are bike paths for cyclists, and they need to use them. Else they get ticketed. If a Pedestrian, decides to walk in the street, when there is a sidewalk, will they get a warning or ticket! So, why the double standard? They have complained they want bike paths. Public funds have been spent for them. Yet they refuse to use them. The cost of those bike paths will be paid very fast. Ticket Cyclist when they don’t use the paths they are suppose to use.

    4 – The Bus driver situation. That Bus driver has to worry about the safety of his passengers, the safety of people, and other vehicles outside his bus. And follow his work regulations, and both city, and provincial road regulations. That guy has a lot on his shoulders. What does the cyclist have on his shoulders? Doing whatever the hell they want. And then complaining that they didn’t get their way. How about the STM uses that recording he made to show he was being aggressive against one of its employees, and in consequence, may have risked the safety of the buses passengers.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      There are bike paths for cyclists, and they need to use them. Else they get ticketed.

      That’s not what the law says. And there are reasons for that. I would love nothing better than to use separated bicycle paths for my entire commute to work. But they’re not everywhere and not always convenient or practical. So I also have to use streets, like Sherbrooke St.

      Public funds have been spent for them. Yet they refuse to use them.

      The statistics suggest otherwise. The busiest intersection, Berri St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd., where two separated bike paths meet, sees more than a million bicycles pass through it a year, and up to 10,000 a day, according to Vélo-Québec. Anecdotally, I can confirm that there are far more bicycles on bike paths than elsewhere.

      What does the cyclist have on his shoulders? Doing whatever the hell they want.

      Well, that and the constant possibility that a driver, out of anger or recklessness, will suddenly run into them and kill them. About a half-dozen cyclists every year are killed by vehicles in Montreal. Exactly zero car, bus or truck drivers are killed when their vehicles collide with cyclists.

      How about the STM uses that recording he made to show he was being aggressive against one of its employees, and in consequence, may have risked the safety of the buses passengers.

      How, exactly, was he being aggressive? What action did he take that could have risked the safety of the passengers?

      Reply
      1. dilbert

        “How, exactly, was he being aggressive? What action did he take that could have risked the safety of the passengers?”

        If a cyclist suddenly shifts towards the middle, causes the bus to have to rapidly change lanes, or come to a sudden stop, then it is very easy for the cyclist to put others in danger. Many traffic accidents do not involve the party that caused it, Often people involved in an accident are taking evasive action for the failings of a third party.

        Cyclists (and I ride thanks) are generally not responsible, ignoring traffic signals, signs, and direction restrictions, while at the same time expecting everyone else to follow the rules and getting pissy when they don’t. The number of times as a driver I have had to stop short or suddenly slow because a cyclist decides to pull out in front, take a corner without stopping, or the line is insane.

        There is enough blame to go around. I am guessing a longer look on the video will find the cyclist breaking plenty of rules as well!

        Reply
        1. dilbert

          IN fact, a quick review of the video sees the rider changing lanes rapidly, weaving between cars, and generally not obeying the rules of the road.

          There is also no discussion of the SUV that was very close, mostly because the cyclist pulled out without warning. Ahh well!

          Reply
          1. Fagstein Post author

            IN fact, a quick review of the video sees the rider changing lanes rapidly, weaving between cars, and generally not obeying the rules of the road.

            The cyclist changes lanes once, at the end to pass two stopped vehicles and catch up to the bus again. The legality of this manoeuvre is arguable, but it wasn’t rapid, and saying he was “weaving” between cars is a stretch. I also don’t get where “generally” rules of the road are being disobeyed here by the cyclist.

            Reply
            1. dilbert

              Please recheck the video around 45-50 second mark.

              The cyclist fails to maintain his lane (He was on the left of the bus, but in the intersection pulled way to the right) and then pulled back into the lane almost having a collision with an SUV that was certainly less than 1.5M away. This would be an avoidable accident causes by the cyclist weaving and not maintaining his lane position.

              The cyclist isn’t pure as the driven snow. He looks way more like someone looking for a fight.

              Reply
              1. Fagstein Post author

                Please recheck the video around 45-50 second mark.

                The cyclist remains in the right lane throughout this interaction as traffic continues to pass on the left. He does veer to the right in the intersection. It’s unclear why this happens, but he corrects this before the SUV passes him. It’s the passing driver’s responsibility to keep a metre away from the cyclist.

                The cyclist isn’t pure as the driven snow. He looks way more like someone looking for a fight.

                Your contention is that the cyclist wants to be seriously injured by having a large vehicle strike him from behind? That seems … unlikely.

              2. dilbert

                ” but he corrects this before the SUV passes him. It’s the passing driver’s responsibility to keep a metre away from the cyclist.”

                That move alone is a problem. The SUV had no choice, the cyclist looked like he was heading for the sidewalk or about to turn and go right down the side street. Suddenly, poof, he’s back into the lane. He does this at both intersections that he shows.

                “Your contention is that the cyclist wants to be seriously injured by having a large vehicle strike him from behind?”

                No, my assertion is that he didn’t consider the risk of injury, but instead is riding with a camera in no small part to try to capture someone with what is a pretty aggressive full lane takeover, especially considering he’s not exactly rolling very quickly until the bus goes around he.

                The bus driver overdid it, no argument. Did the cyclist sort of suck him into it? Perhaps. I rarely find these “see, bad thing” videos to be compelling, mostly because we don’t know if the driver and the rider have had past interactions, either right before the part we see, or on previous days. We don’t know if the cyclist previously blocked the bus or cut across in front of him or gave him the random finger. We just don’t know.

                Drawing conclusions based on what one side presents only is, well, presumptuous.

        2. Fagstein Post author

          If a cyclist suddenly shifts towards the middle, causes the bus to have to rapidly change lanes, or come to a sudden stop, then it is very easy for the cyclist to put others in danger.

          I suppose, none of those things happened in this case.

          Reply
  7. Telso

    It seems like such a basic truism that no human should put another human’s life in serious danger except in exceptional and unavoidable circumstances. Convenience of moving a large hunk of steel faster is not exceptional and given there was another lane available to pass and that it seems the bus’s brakes were functional, this was not unavoidable.

    Driving a bus is not easy, and there are lots of issues here and elsewhere, but it would be great if everyone could just start by agreeing that people shouldn’t have to die or get seriously injured just trying to get around and go about their day.

    Reply
  8. Dimi Koutsoufis

    We have here some sensible reactions to your post Fagstein.

    I’ve been saying for years now, and I will say it over and over again: “See and be seen”. If on a bike you can’t see the driver (car, truck, or bus), then the driver can’t see you. It’s that simple. Too many cyclists seem oblivious to the fact that all it takes is one thoughtless mistake to become toast. They wear dark clothing, no reflectors, or they have a new LED headlight that shines in the face of oncoming traffic.

    When I’m in my car, I’m very conscious of cyclists and pedestrians. When I’m on my bike, I’m totally aware of the fact that a vehicle can do some serious damage to the human body, so even if the driver’s in the wrong, I carefully opt out of any mishap. If I’m at a light and there’s no one crossing, I don’t bother to wait for the green light. In the car I can’t do that. I also go down one-way streets, but the bottom line for me is that no one is in jeopardy. If I’m riding on the sidewalk, I make sure to go slow around people. I wish everyone was as good a driver and cyclist as me, but I’m not holding my breath. It hurts me to hear about cyclists who get killed. If I’m approaching an underpass, there’s no way I’m taking it if there’s a sidewalk instead. It’s common sense. There are idiots on both sides. BTW, I only use my car when I have to.

    A person who wants to drive a car has to pass driving exams. There ought to be tests for cyclists too. On top of that, a driver has to pay for registration, insurance, taxes and permit. What contribution do cyclists make for upkeep of the road infrastructure?

    There’s no denying that bicycles will increase on our roads, and that’s a good thing, for people and the environment. What we are witnessing today is a kind of growing pain. Debates such as this one will help the transition. I’m a proud people-loving environmentalist who drives and cycles, (but don’t tell that to the Projet Montreal crew).

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      “See and be seen”. If on a bike you can’t see the driver (car, truck, or bus), then the driver can’t see you.

      See and be seen is a good strategy to avoid collisions in general. But when a cyclist is going down a street, that cyclist can’t see vehicles overtaking them from behind. So the responsibility lies with the overtaking vehicle to keep their distance.

      A person who wants to drive a car has to pass driving exams. There ought to be tests for cyclists too.

      Besides how much of a bureaucracy that would require, and the fact that it would mean children can’t have bikes anymore, I don’t see what problem this would solve. Bicycles are far less dangerous than motor vehicles. And safety issues caused by unsafe cycling aren’t because people don’t know how to operate a bicycle. Increased enforcement of regulations would be a better option.

      On top of that, a driver has to pay for registration, insurance, taxes and permit. What contribution do cyclists make for upkeep of the road infrastructure?

      Property taxes. Municipal roads are maintained by the city, which is funded 68% by property taxes. The province, which collects registration and permit fees, maintains highways, where cyclists are prohibited.

      Reply
      1. dilbert

        Property taxes are also paid by car owners. It’s not an excuse for bike owners to get off for free.

        If you believe bikes are a valid transport option, and somehow merit bother special bike paths / lanes and the right to use a full lane on the road, then they need to step up to be full contributors as well. That would mean plates and at minimum liability insurance.

        Full lane, you say? Well, with a standard lane width of around 3.5m, and a requirement to give the rider 1.5 meters when you pass, you are already down to 2 meters. The bike is say 50-75cm wide, and the rider is 1.25m from the parked cars or sidewalk. Boom, full lane.

        If you want a full lane, you pay the full price.

        Plates and insurance could be on the current model of car plates, and a liability pool created that all bike plate holders would be part of. Let the SAAQ administer it.

        For children’s bike, have a lesser play (equal to an off road plate) that would be valid only for riders under 16, and could face limitations like not being allow on anything other than a residential street or bike path.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If you believe bikes are a valid transport option, and somehow merit bother special bike paths / lanes and the right to use a full lane on the road, then they need to step up to be full contributors as well.

          You pay the same municipal property taxes whether you’re a cyclist or a driver (or both).

          Well, with a standard lane width of around 3.5m, and a requirement to give the rider 1.5 meters when you pass, you are already down to 2 meters. The bike is say 50-75cm wide, and the rider is 1.25m from the parked cars or sidewalk. Boom, full lane.

          The standard lane width in a city is closer to 3m, and the minimum distance for a vehicle in a city is 1m, but the calculations here are about right. There is no way a passenger vehicle, let alone a bus, has enough clearance to pass a cyclist safely in the same lane regardless of the cyclist’s position in that lane (unless the lane is much larger than normal).

          Reply
          1. dilbert

            “There is no way a passenger vehicle, let alone a bus, has enough clearance to pass a cyclist safely in the same lane regardless of the cyclist’s position in that lane (unless the lane is much larger than normal).”

            So why mess around with a regulation based on some kind of measurement? If the cyclist is going to take a full lane, then respect them in same manner as a motorcycle or moped.

            “You pay the same municipal property taxes whether you’re a cyclist or a driver (or both).”

            yes, but cars also pay license and mandatory insurance to operate on those roads. If a bike is going to take up the same amount of space on the road as a car, should they not be held to the same standards?

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              So why mess around with a regulation based on some kind of measurement?

              That’s a question for the government. But the regulation makes more sense on country and suburban roads without multiple lane markers (and without streetside parking).

              cars also pay license and mandatory insurance to operate on those roads. If a bike is going to take up the same amount of space on the road as a car, should they not be held to the same standards?

              Not if we want to encourage people to use bicycles. Bicycles do much less damage to roads than motor vehicles, they take up much less space when parked, they don’t spew gas fumes, cause little noise and are much less of a danger to pedestrians and other cyclists, not to mention the health benefits to the riders. Licenses and insurance serve specific functions that are not necessary for cyclists, and won’t solve the problem of enforcement of traffic laws.

              Reply
        2. Kevin

          Can you please learn the existing laws of the road?
          In most of your posts it is evident that you would fail a driver’s license test if you took it today

          Reply
  9. Yi

    Can’t agree more…
    Being myself a cyclist, STM user and driver, I have to say that bus drivers are generally the nicest on theroad. But in this case, the bus driver did pass too close, used unfriendly language toward the cyclist and the cyclist wasn’t on the extreme side of the road to prevent being doored. Let’s be honest: I live in CSL and when I go to downtown I don’t take Maissoneuve. Why? Because Maissoneuve is a one-way street for car, all the traffic lights are synchronized to the auto traffic, if you’re on a bike you’ll have to stop at every single block. It will take about 3x longer to get to the destination.
    I’m extremely upset seeing those anti cyclists comments on social networks.

    Reply
  10. Dimi Koutsoufis

    I’ve taken another look at the video.

    At the very moment the bus passes, there are no parked cars on the right of the cyclist. It wasn’t like he was hemmed in dangerously between the bus and cars. He could have (should have) veered to the right out of respect, but he obstinately stays in the lane expecting the bus to change lanes for him (or else). The bus driver may have been (wrongly) trying to teach him a lesson, but the cyclist’s attitude that he has every right to take up space unnecessarily even if a busload of people were involved, is also very wrong. I would have most certainly given the bus more room out of courtesy.

    That cyclists can’t see drivers overtaking them from behind? Well, they can certainly hear them, especially a noisier bus. Also, 99.9% of the bicycles on the road do not have rear view mirrors?

    Judging by his actions, I have little doubt that this cyclist was ready and willing to make trouble (with a camera ready) to anyone who stepped on his opportunistic toes. Maybe he aspires to be a YouTube celebrity, which is a cheap shot.

    I have a car, take the bus and metro, but I use my bike far more often. The bottom line is that we all have to get along. Actions like this are not helping.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      At the very moment the bus passes, there are no parked cars on the right of the cyclist. It wasn’t like he was hemmed in dangerously between the bus and cars. He could have (should have) veered to the right out of respect

      The problem with doing that is that just a few feet later, he would have to veer left to get away from another pack of parked cars. That manoeuvre is dangerous when you can’t see vehicles behind you.

      he obstinately stays in the lane expecting the bus to change lanes for him (or else).

      You’re making the assumption that the cyclist was aware of the bus before it passed him. Also if you look at the video, you’ll notice that the bus *did* change lanes and was in between lanes as it passed the cyclist.

      That cyclists can’t see drivers overtaking them from behind? Well, they can certainly hear them, especially a noisier bus.

      Sure, but it’s not that easy to distinguish the sound of a bus from any other large vehicle, and it’s impossible to tell what lane the vehicle is in when you can’t see it.

      Also, 99.9% of the bicycles on the road do not have rear view mirrors?

      I’m not sure where that statistic comes from, but it’s true that the vast majority of bicycles do not have rear-view mirrors.

      Judging by his actions, I have little doubt that this cyclist was ready and willing to make trouble (with a camera ready) to anyone who stepped on his opportunistic toes.

      Wouldn’t knowing that the interaction is being filmed make the cyclist more likely to want to behave?

      Reply
  11. Yan

    Most of the comments here are just mind boggling. I’ll start by saying that there should be more repression (tickets) towards cyclists not respecting the code. But otherwise, cyclists pay the same as everyone else for these roads (through taxes) so the argument that they should only use bike lanes/path/markings is frivolous.

    And what is the minimum speed on city roads anyway? On the highway it’s pretty clear.

    Reply

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