Tag Archives: cycling

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.

No safe option for cyclists through Plateau/Rosemont underpasses

Which of these options is safer: Sharing a narrow lane with a car, or a narrow sidewalk with pedestrians?

Which of these options is safer: Sharing a narrow lane with a car, or a narrow sidewalk with pedestrians?

The accidental death of a cyclist riding a Bixi through an underpass on Saint-Denis St. got to me. Because I’ve ridden a Bixi through that underpass (under Des Carrières St. and a railway line) many times going to and from work, and I’m aware of how dangerous it is.

We don’t know the details of the accident yet. Did she fall off and then get hit? Was there a collision? Did she veer into the truck or did it hit her from behind? It’s important to figure this out not so much to assign blame, but to determine what safety measures are at issue.

Flowers and other objects mark a memorial to a cyclist killed at a St-Denis underpass.

Flowers and other objects mark a memorial to a cyclist killed at a St-Denis underpass.

The death was controversial because right next to the accident scene was a sidewalk with bollards preventing cyclists from using the sidewalk. In this case, at least, had the cyclist used the sidewalk, she probably would have lived.

So in response, elected officials acted quickly, removing the bollards and announcing plans to allow cyclists to use the sidewalk through these underpasses. The mayor of the Rosemont borough announced that new signs were installed Friday morning allowing cyclists to share the sidewalk with pedestrians.


This applies not only at St-Denis, but at similar underpasses below that rail line where there is no bicycle path, underpasses that have been described as “tunnels de la mort”.

But is that really a better solution? To find out, I grabbed a tape measure and headed down to the underpass to measure the width of the sidewalks. (I ended up running into a guy doing the exact same thing while I was there.)

Continue reading

AMT allows bicycles on more trains

Central Station is no longer off-limits to bicycles

It didn’t get much attention, but the Agence métropolitaine de transport has loosened its restrictions for carrying bicycles aboard commuter trains, opening them up for the first time on all five lines instead of just two.

Previously, bicycles were only allowed outside rush hours (meaning midday or late night on weekdays, and on weekends), only on the Deux-Montagnes and Vaudreuil-Hudson lines, and even then not at all stations (Central Station was the most prominent to now not allow bicycles, presumably because of the difficulty of navigating them through staircases and through the underground malls).

Under the new rules, which took effect May 1, bicycles are now allowed on all five lines, and are allowed on all trains except those during rush hour in the direction of the rush (so bicycles are allowed on morning trains toward the suburbs, and afternoon trains toward downtown).

They’re also allowed at all stations except three: Hudson (which is moot because it’s only served by rush-hour trains), Île Perrot and Candiac (the latter two probably because of platform issues).

Central Station has a few specific rules: Bicycles are only allowed to enter and exit the platform through the central staircase and the elevators, and are only permitted to enter and leave Central Station through the de la Gauchetière exit (so bicycles can’t be walked through the underground city or toward Place Ville-Marie).

Rush hours, according to the schedules, are:

  • Deux-Montagnes-Montreal: Trains up to 9am. Trains at 9:55am and after are permitted
  • Montreal-Deux-Montagnes: Trains from 3pm to 6:20pm, inclusive
  • Vaudreuil-Montreal: Trains up to the 8:10am departure from Vaudreuil
  • Montreal-Vaudreuil: Trains from 3:15pm to 6pm, inclusive
  • Blainville-Montreal: Trains up to the 7:25am departure from Saint-Jérôme (note that no trains leaving Saint-Jérôme allow bicycles because they’re all during rush hour)
  • Montreal-Saint-Jérôme: Lucien L’Allier departures from 3:35pm to 5:30pm, inclusive (the final departure at 6:45pm allows bicycles, and goes to Saint-Jérôme)
  • Delson-Montreal: Departures before and including 8:05am
  • Montreal-Delson: Lucien L’Allier departures from 3:40pm to 5:15pm, inclusive
  • Saint-Hilaire-Montreal: All morning departures (1:45pm and 7pm allow bicycles)
  • Montreal-Saint-Hilaire: Central Station departures from 4:30pm to 6pm, inclusive

White guys rap about Bixi

This song has been making the rounds on local CBC radio in the past day. The song itself has been out for a little over a month, but the video for it is new.

I don’t know about their “it’s a free ride” line, though, considering the number of dollar signs I see on this page. In an interview Wednesday with CBC radio’s Jeanette Kelly, two members of the band – called Da Gryptions – say that’s actually a “metaphor” for something. Like, free as in freedom, or like … uhh … something like that.

Still, considering the success of the system, it certainly seems worthy of a song or two.

The band tells CBC they’re planning other Montreal-themed songs, including one about the Expos.

The Bixi Anthem is available on iTunes, in case you want to listen to it more than once.

The cyclist’s left-turn dilemma solved?

These police officers are acting legally

These police officers are acting legally

The Gazette’s Max Harrold looks into an issue I’ve wondered about since I started urban cycling: If a cyclist is always supposed to keep to the right, how do you make a left turn on a multi-lane road?

Either go to the next intersection and cross there or, if and only if there aren’t many cars around, signal you are shifting lanes with your left arm and move into the left lane and then turn at an intersection, like a vehicle would, said Suzanne Lareau, head of the cycling advocacy group Vélo-Québec.

Vélo-Québec is an advocacy group, so its interpretation isn’t legal, but it seems to indicate that when it comes to left turns, cyclists should act like drivers and move into a left lane (except when there are lots of cars around, making multiple lane changes more difficult). Which means that the police officers on bicycles above that I spotted earlier this summer on Côte Vertu Blvd. were making a legal turn.

Of course, that doesn’t stop drivers from honking at you.

No bikes on Summit Circle … path

No cycling on Summit Circle?

No cycling on Summit Circle?

A little over a month ago, I noticed a post at Berri-UQAM.ca with the title “pas de bicyclette à Westmount?” – two pictures without commentary suggesting that bicycles had been completely banned from the city.

I decided to take a look for myself. The pictures looked like they might have been taken near Summit Park, so I headed up there with my camera (“up” being the operative word, it’s quite a hike from the bus stop on Côte des Neiges). Sure enough, at the corner of Summit Circle and Oakland Avenue, a small “no bicycles” sign.

The same no bicycles sign from the other side

The same no bicycles sign from the other side

I couldn’t quite make out its intent. Is cycling banned on Summit Circle? If so, why? And why aren’t there other signs saying that? Was it put up in error?

A bit down the street, I spotted another, similar sign:

No cycling, but where?

No parking, no cycling?

Being one of those curious journalist-y types, I emailed the city of Westmount asking what this was all about. After a few days, and with a standard template for answering citizens’ questions, this email reached my inbox:

In reference to your question, the “no bicycle” sign is not meant for Summit Circle but only for the Jogging path along Summit Circle. The Jogging Path begins at the corner of Oakland and Summit Circle.

I hope that this information is helpful.


The jogging path is that dirt path you see in the second and third photos. It runs along Summit Circle on the north side of the park.

Though it makes sense to ban bikes from this narrow pedestrian path, the signage isn’t at all clear. No words, not even an arrow pointing to the path to give some indication where exactly the bicycles are forbidden. A cyclist passing by there would only look on in confusion, and perhaps go away with the impression that the summit neighbourhood of Westmount is filled with rich, bicycle-hating luxury SUV drivers who want to exclude those who don’t fit on their better-than-thou pedestal.

Because that impression would be false, right?

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.

Continue reading

Where’s a cop when you need one?

A row of cars parked in the middle of a high-traffic bike path on Boyer St.

A row of cars parked in the middle of a high-traffic bike lane on Boyer St.

It’s bad enough when a car ignores the signs and painted lines and decides to park in the middle of a bicycle lane – actually, straddling both bicycle lanes – but it’s even more annoying when other drivers follow the lead and park there too. Here we see at least half a dozen cars and vans parked on Boyer St., which is part of the Route Verte.

There were some mitigating circumstances here. There was construction in this area and the bikes were being detoured on to St. Hubert St. That also meant those green poles that normally separate the lane from the roadway were removed.

Still, there was no indication that the lane had been cancelled or that parking was allowed on it. So I wondered, where’s a cop – or a parking enforcement officer – when you need one?

A parking enforcement officer surveys the scene and chats with an errant driver

A parking enforcement officer surveys the scene and chats with an errant driver

A police officer on his bike leaves the scene without giving tickets or ensuring the vehicles are moved.

A police officer on his bike leaves the scene without giving tickets or ensuring the vehicles are moved.

Oh, there they are. They didn’t end up giving any tickets that I could see. The drivers agreed to move their cars, and the two officers left while most were still parked in the lane.

Still, it felt good to know that occasionally the authorities do notice these things.

Oh, cadets

Yesterday I saw a cyclist breeze through a red light, turn right from the left lane to go the wrong way down a high-traffic one-way street, all at an intersection with two police cadets on each corner.

Police cadets wait until the last second before clearing pedestrian traffic for a speeding ambulance

Police cadets wait until the last second before clearing pedestrian traffic for a speeding ambulance

And when an ambulance needed to get through, it was telling that eight police cadets weren’t enough to clear an intersection for it in advance.

Cadets stop pedestrians from crossing on a flashing hand (in one direction only)

Cadets stop pedestrians from crossing on a flashing hand (in one direction only)

But thanks for making sure people didn’t accidentally cross the street on a green light. That might have been dangerous.

Scenes from the Tour la Nuit

Even though I was working early Saturday morning, I passed by the Tour de Nuit on Friday night out of curiosity. And because it happened to be on the way home and I figured I might as well take advantage of the closed streets. I’d never been to either annual tour before, so I wasn’t really prepared for just how many cyclists take part.

The Bixi stand was almost full. The Tour extended into Ahuntsic and St. Michel, where stands aren't available.

The Bixi stand at Mont-Royal and Garnier was almost full. The Tour extended into Ahuntsic and St. Michel, where stands aren't available.

Here’s what I saw. For more pictures from the Tour la Nuit and Tour de l’Ile, see photo galleries from The Gazette and its cycling blog, as well as lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of pictures on Flickr.

Continue reading

CDN/NDG bike paths just lipstick on asphalt

De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. at Decarie Blvd.

De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. at Decarie Blvd.

You’d think that Côte des Neiges and Notre Dame de Grâce, being so young, urban, working-class and eco-friendly, would have lots of bike paths spread across its huge territory. And yet, when you look at a map, you see only one, along de Maisonneuve Blvd. next to the tracks.

So I’m sure plenty of people got excited when they heard last Friday that the borough is working to vastly improve its bike path network, adding a new east-west corridor on the north side, about where the 51 bus travels. It would start from the western end of the de Maisonneuve path, go up West Broadway, east along Fielding and Isabella, then along Lacombe and Édouard-Montpetit until it reaches the Outremont town limit, where it will link up with the new path along Côte-Sainte-Catherine Rd.

Well, almost.

Continue reading

What part of “bicycle path” don’t you understand?


Dear jogger douchebags,

I know it’s a beautiful day and you want to take a nice jog around the park, but you must have realized by now that you’re jogging in the middle of a bicycle path. For various reasons, most notably the speed difference between you and the cyclists who would pass you, it is dangerous for you and those cyclists for you to be jogging in our path. Acknowledging this by shifting to the side when you see us coming doesn’t mitigate that, if only because you don’t see us coming behind you.

It’s not like there aren’t enough places to jog in this city. Most streets have sidewalks on both sides, but even with this city’s stellar reputation as a bike-friendly town, the bicycle path network is a patchy, disconnected mess. This is one of the few isolated bike paths in town, and you’re standing in the middle of it.

I know there’s something about the asphalt winding through the grass that is just so irresistible. If we could give you your own asphalt path to walk on we could.

Oh wait, there’s one ten feet to your left. Your own special lane. There are even little icons painted onto the ground at regular intervals to make clear that there’s a walking path and a bicycle path. Using our path when you have one of your own, that’s just being a douchebag.

Continue reading

Loblaws could do better

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ve noticed Loblaw’s’s new ad campaign promoting locally-grown fruits as part of a green strategy. I applaud Loblaw for embracing greener policies, but there’s still a way to go.

Take, for example, this bike rack outside the Loblaws at Jean-Talon and Park. Notice anything odd about it? The fact that no bikes are attached to it? The fact that it’s at an odd angle? Well, that’s because there’s nothing anchoring this bike rack to the ground. Seriously. Go there right now and just walk off with it.

Instead, everyone hooks their bikes up to the solid railings nearby. Although that keeps the bikes relatively secure, it also interferes with anyone wanting to use the railings to help them up the stairs.

This has been going on for weeks now, which means Loblaws is either lazy or just doesn’t care.

Underground, meanwhile, is a large parking lot that can hold over 250 cars. It’s free for shoppers up to two hours.

I was surprised to find, at the far end, parking spaces for bicycles. No signage exists anywhere else to point cyclists here, which is probably why it’s empty in the middle of the day (while bikes are locked to railings outside).

For a store so close to Park Extension, Villeray, Rosemont, Mile End and the Plateau, areas where bicycles are perhaps the most popular in Montreal, this store could make even a small effort to make cyclists feel more welcome.