MONTREAL – Vehicles can’t turn right on red on the Island of Montreal but if the Plante administration has its way, cyclists would get the green light to do so.
It is one of various proposed amendments by Montreal lawmakers to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, which is currently being reworked at the legislature for the first time since 1986.
City officials recently outlined a number of would-be changes to the province’s plan, including the right-turn option and rolling stops at stop signs.
Treating a stop sign as a yield — known as an Idaho stop — would require cyclists to slow down and yield to others at the intersection, but permit them to continue without coming to a full stop. The measure is used elsewhere, including some European cities.
Cycling advocates say it is all about safety.
“A cyclist at an intersection is the moment at which they are at their most vulnerable and there are the most accidents,” said Suzanne Lareau of Velo Quebec. “Getting away from that intersection (by turning on a red light) means an added measure of security.”
Not being able to turn right on red has been a longstanding grievance for Montreal drivers.
Montreal and New York City are believed to be the last jurisdictions in North America to prohibit right turns on red.
Montreal has routinely balked at giving its blessing, with the safety of pedestrians and cyclists cited as the main reason for not allowing it. The rest of Quebec has permitted it since 2003.
A coalition of 15 Montreal island mayors failed to persuade the city’s former administration to consider a change a little more than a year ago.
Groups representing motorists like the CAA-Quebec said allowing right turns for cyclists and allowing the Idaho stop would be risky for everyone involved.
“There is a lot of activity on the roads — in Montreal, there’s never been so much activity, there’s never been so many vehicles, there’s never been so many distractions,” said spokeswoman Annie Gauthier.
“There’s never been so many situations that put us at risk, regardless of the type of road user we’re talking about.”
One resident, Alexandre Laflamme, recently complained to Mayor Valerie Plante, with media present, that she is pushing Montreal’s reputation as a bicycle-friendly metropolis at the detriment of everything else.
He said cyclists already don’t follow the rules.
But Lareau dismisses the notion that cyclists are the only ones to blame.
“What I always say is that there are people who don’t follow the rules — and some are on foot, some are cyclists and some are drivers,” Lareau said. “It’s not just cyclists who have a monopoly on bad behaviour on the roads.”
For the city, it’s about striking a balance that would put all road users on an equal footing, including the million or so Montrealers who opt for the bicycle as their preferred mode of transport.
The city also wants the province to consider a number of other measures including sideguards on heavy trucks and allowing cyclists to use pedestrian lights to cross, to be able to avoid vehicles.