Tag Archives: driving

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 41

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 41

Where is this intersection, and why is it dangerous?

UPDATE: It is, of course, the corner of Brunswick Blvd. and Auto Plaza Ave. in Pointe-Claire, right outside the Fairview mall.

There are two main reasons it’s so dangerous (not including the fact that it’s the first intersection used by a lot of people in their brand new cars):

  • This intersection of a six-lane road and a four-lane road is controlled only by stop signs (and at one point in its history it didn’t even have that). The intersection is so large it’s hard to tell who has the right of way.
  • Only a few metres away from this intersection is the main entrance off Brunswick Blvd. to the Fairview shopping centre, the largest mall in the West Island. It is also the entrance and exit to the Fairview bus terminal, where 18 bus routes stop. This intersection is controlled by only a single stop sign at the exit to the mall.

This seems like a no-brainer for a traffic light, perhaps even a reorganization to ensure that car and bus traffic have a safer right-of-way, especially because the main way to access Fairview is by making a left turn as shown below.

This intersection has a lot of left-turning traffic who have to yield to oncoming vehicles from three different directions

This intersection has a lot of left-turning traffic who have to yield to oncoming vehicles from three different directions

Vehicles passing through the piece of pavement occupied by this grey car in the middle include:

  • Cars exiting the mall’s parking lot, turning left or right onto Brunswick Blvd.
  • Cars turning left from Brunswick Blvd. into the parking lot
  • Cars heading east on Brunswick Blvd.
  • Cars turning left onto Brunswick Blvd. from Auto Plaza Ave.
  • Buses exiting the terminal to head west on Brunswick Blvd.

And vehicles are expected to look at all this traffic and judge when it’s safe to cross.

Though it’s done safely thousands of times every day, it can take forever during the busy shopping season, and all it takes is one bad judgment to cause an accident.

These intersections need a set of traffic lights. Now.

Brownstein the auto warrior

On the left: Heroes. On the right: Terrorists.

On the left: Heroes. On the right: Terrorists.

The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein is on a driver’s rights binge this week. On Monday, he was on CFCF talking about how the city was “held hostage” by the Tour de l’Île, and repeating the anti-cyclist talking points:

  • The Tour de l’Île shut down the city and prevented people from getting to hospitals
  • Why can’t the Tour de l’Île be held on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve where it won’t bother anyone?
  • Cops never ticket cyclists and always ticket drivers
  • Drivers would like to walk and cycle everywhere, but it’s impossible in this city
  • Drivers are an oppressed majority, and having a handful of bike paths and Bixi stations scattered around the city is going way too far
  • Removable poles along bike paths are better than permanent concrete medians like we have on de Maisonneuve Blvd.

Of course, there are counter-arguments to all these. The tours’ routes were constructed to allow car traffic through wherever safely possible (and for crying out loud, it’s one weekend day a year), emergency vehicles were given priority, and holding it on another island would defeat the purpose of a Tour de l’Île, wouldn’t it?

When you consider how much space in this city is reserved solely for four-wheel transportation, and how many traffic rules are designed solely to prevent them from crashing into each other, you wonder if people who say drivers are oppressed aren’t on some crazy drug.

Sadly, Brownstein’s throwaway half-joking suggestion of a “car party” might very well come true if drivers’ limitless sense of entitlement continues to grow.

This tunnel under de Maisonneuve Blvd. will link Concordia's Hall and Library buildings with the Guy-Concordia metro station.

This tunnel under de Maisonneuve Blvd. will link Concordia's Hall and Library buildings with the Guy-Concordia metro station.

Today, in his newspaper column, Brownstein talks about the tunnel being constructed at Concordia’s downtown campus that would connect the two older buildings at de Maisonneuve and Mackay with the Guy-Concordia metro station (and, just as importantly, the two newer buildings):

Are you kidding me? The students can’t handle the two-block trek outside! Has this exercise really been worth it? Construction on that corner has done a marvellous job of crippling traffic for motorists and cyclists alike.

While this is true, consider what will happen once the tunnel is built. Students will no longer have to go outside to get between the metro and the Hall Building. They will no longer have to jaywalk across de Maisonneuve Blvd., and they’ll no longer be an annoying swarm for drivers to contend with on a daily basis. Not to mention how much easier it will be to transport equipment between buildings. This construction will actually be good for drivers.

Brownstein also talks about Old Montreal being closed to traffic and the horror that’s causing by forcing drivers to walk a couple of blocks to their overpriced restaurants overpriced hotels with their bags. (Bonus points if you notice the blatant hypocrisy here.)

Sorry Bill, you haven’t made a convert out of me.

CORRECTION (June 25): Brownstein was talking about Old Montreal hotels needing to send bellboys blocks away to pick up bags, not people needing to walk to overpriced restaurants. Fagstein regrets the error.

What’s wrong with this picture

De Maisonneuve Blvd. U-turn

This photo was taken on de Maisonneuve Blvd. downtown. I’ll give you a moment to study it.

UPDATE: So plenty of you are smarter than this driver, pointing out that de Maisonneuve is a one-way street and he’s going the wrong way. The driver was heading west (the right way) toward a construction zone that narrowed the roadway, and inexplicably pulled a U-turn and headed east. Fortunately traffic was low and he turned down Bleury. Not sure if it ever occurred to him he was going the wrong way.

Important person in an accident

Hugo Dumas has the details of the car accident that sent TVA host Pénélope McQuade to hospital over the weekend on Sunday.

The short version is that she was driving down the highway when she tried to connect her iPod to her car audio system, and her car drove off the road, ejecting her through the sunroof. She’ll need months to recover.

This kind of non-fatal accident happens regularly on Quebec roads. Usually it’s only the ones that result in fatalities that make it into the paper, and even then it’s only a brief.

But McQuade is on TV, and that makes her more important.

On the positive side, hopefully her experience will convince other drivers to pull over before doing something as boneheadedly dangerous as fiddling around in the glovebox.

The report is that her face, arms and neck (those things visible when you’re on TV) are all in good shape. Let’s see her on some SAAQ ads when she’s better.

Entrée interdite

St. Marc exit at René Lévesque Blvd.

St. Marc exit at René Lévesque Blvd.

If you’ve ever passed by St. Marc and René Lévesque, you’ve no doubt noticed this road and the signage that surronds it. In this picture, you see four no entry symbols, two straight arrows with red crosses through them, and the words “Entrée interdite” appear three times. The message is crystal clear: Do not drive down this road.

The overprotectiveness is for a good reason: this is a highway exit, and driving down it will have you going thr wrong way down one of Montreal’s busiest expressways.

But, also compared to other highway exits, its design doesn’t make it obvious that this is a dangerous road. You don’t see the highway in the background, and half the time (especially at low-traffic times) you don’t see the traffic in the other direction.

In addition, even those familiar with this area could easily confuse it for the Fort St. entrance a block away:

Fort St. entrance to Highway 720

Fort St. entrance to Highway 720

The same turn to the left, the same endless void beyond.

Many drivers, I think, have made the mistake of turning left at St. Marc when they meant to turn at Fort, realizing halfway through that they’d made the wrong turn. Embarrassed, they abort the turn and continue on René Lévesque.

Unfortunately for Diana Clarke, she wasn’t one of those people. The 45-year-old, for reasons that are not entirely clear yet, entered the St. Marc exit, drove along the Ville-Marie Expressway and crashed head-on into an incoming vehicle which was coming off the Decarie Expressway. The crash killed her, while the other driver had minor injuries.

There were mitigating factors. For one, it was just after midnight, making it more difficult to see some of the signs. The other factor is that the largest, electronic sign was partially burned out, and instead of reading “ENTREE INTERDITE” was reading “ENTREE II”. CTV has a picture of what it looked like before it was fixed. (UPDATE: A picture from October also shows the same thing)

The coroner’s office is investigating the death. Though police appear to have ruled out alcohol, it’s too early to say if signage was a factor or if the bad electronic display led to the crash (there were plenty of other signs that made it very clear this road is not to be driven down)

Don't turn right

Don't turn right

I’m unconvinced no-fault insurance has to go

The Gazette’s Max Harrold has an interesting feature today on Quebec’s no-fault driving insurance system. He asks whether or not we should consider eliminating it and allowing victims of vehicular injuries to sue in cases where negligence or recklessness directly leads to serious injury or death. It features three interviews with grieving family members (the third is the mother of Jessica Holman-Price, who was killed by a dump truck turning a corner). All three want the law changed so the guilty pay the innocent instead of getting compensation from the government. (See comment below)

The no-fault system is pretty simple: Everyone’s a part of it, drivers can’t sue each other even if one is clearly at fault, and anyone who sustains an injury gets compensated. In exchange, Quebec has Canada’s lowest insurance premium rates.

But the problem, as the article points out, is that even in cases of dangerous driving (speeding) and impaired driving (drunk driving), perpetrator and victim are treated the same, both compensated based on their level of injury. Only criminal charges can be brought, which then result in probation or light sentences.

Despite the opinions of the families (and really, it’s kind of hard to argue with a grieving widow or mother), I remain unconvinced. It’s not that there isn’t a problem of justice here, but I think other methods are more likely to solve it:

  1. Impose stiffer sentences for drunk driving and dangerous driving, especially when such actions result in death. Speed racing that causes death, for example, should be considered homicide. Make license suspensions longer or even permanent in extreme cases.
  2. Use Manitoba’s system where drivers convicted of criminal charges related to an accident have to pay back any compensation they’ve been given as a result.
  3. Increase the number of police cars on the road so these accidents don’t happen in the first place.
  4. Find some way of forcing those found guilty of criminal offenses to pay the innocent, either by imposing a fine or by allowing lawsuits only when serious convictions have taken place.

Nobody wants to get into a car accident. Even those who are insanely reckless don’t expect to crash. So nothing will seriously act as a deterrent to accidents causing injury (though there are ways to attack the causes of those accidents).
In the end, no-fault insurance isn’t always perfectly fair, but it’s a compromise that keeps lawyers from sucking out all our money after we’ve already been hurt.