Latest cycling death in Montreal puts spotlight back on truck safety

·4 min read
A 66-year-old cyclist was killed on Tuesday in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood after a truck turned right. (Kolya Hubacek-Guilbault/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A 66-year-old cyclist was killed on Tuesday in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood after a truck turned right. (Kolya Hubacek-Guilbault/Radio-Canada - image credit)

After years of calling for more to be done to protect cyclists and pedestrians from heavy trucks, advocates say governments in Quebec and Ottawa are not taking the issue seriously enough, and they're hoping the death of a cyclist in Montreal this week will serve as a wake-up call.

On Tuesday, a 66-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed after being hit by a dump truck in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood.

The victim was heading south on Saint-Laurent Boulevard — the same direction as the truck — and the collision happened after the driver turned right on de Liège Street.

Magali Bebronne, the program director for Vélo Québec called the latest fatal collision "devastating" but said that "sadly it's not surprising."

"I would say, at this point, it's even predictable," she said.

According to Bebronne, an analysis of public data from the province's automobile insurance board (SAAQ) carried out by local cycling advocates revealed that 47 per cent of cycling deaths between 2011 and 2019 involved heavy vehicles.

"[This is] despite the fact that these trucks represent only four per cent of the vehicles on our road," Bebronne said.

In 2020, one cyclist was killed in a collision in Montreal. Tuesday's victim was the fifth of this year.

Her group has urged elected officials to follow the lead of the city of London, which bans heavy trucks from circulating in certain areas if they do not meet a set of security standards.

"As long as we'll have trucks and vulnerable users with no protection riding the same streets with huge blind spots, we can expect these collisions to keep happening unfortunately."

Sarah Leavitt/CBC
Sarah Leavitt/CBC

'There's no leadership'

Bebronne and others have repeatedly said the way trucks are built should be regulated to make sure they are a better fit for dense, urban areas. She says these kinds of changes are major overhauls that take time.

"Yet we are doing nothing to change what will be on our roads a decade or two from now," she said.

"We are not working on this. There's no leadership from Transports Quebec and Transport Canada that are in charge of setting the standards.

It gets you wondering about how many deaths it will take."

Severine Lepage, a spokesperson for Ghost Bike Montreal, agrees that rules in Montreal should mirror what's being done in the city of London, but she also says existing rules that prevent trucks from circulating on certain streets are rarely enforced.

"If we can get inspired by London and follow through and enforce the rules that Montreal does have...It would also be added protection for everyone," Lepage said.

A spokesperson for the city of Montreal said Mayor Valérie Plante's administration will consider possible changes to the intersection where Tuesday's collision took place.

"A post-collision team is analyzing the intersection in order to evaluate different types of quick interventions allowing [us] to secure the area," the statement said.

"We will continue the work of securing our streets by making the safety of the most vulnerable users our priority."

Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada
Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada

Funding for cycling infrastructure

Sarah Bensadoun, a spokesperson for Transports Quebec, acknowledged that only a few roads in Montreal have been "adapted for the presence of vulnerable users".

However, that can change, the spokesperson said, thanks to funding for road infrastructure projects.

"The financial aid programs from the Transport Ministry can only accelerate the transformation of urban roads," Bensadoun said in a statement.

As for limiting the movement of trucks, Bensadoun says there are lots of issues to consider, namely identifying passage corridors for trucks, local delivery of goods, snow-clearing operations as well as general road work.

A spokesperson for Transport Canada pointed to a federal report published in 2018 titled Safety Measures for Cyclists and Pedestrians around Heavy Vehicles.

"The report was intended to create a springboard for action to support all jurisdictions as they address safety challenges within their communities," the spokesperson said.

"We will continue to work with our provincial and municipal partners as we build on the existing measures for cyclists and heavy vehicles to protect the safety of all road users."

The number of cycling-related deaths in Montreal this year is the highest since 2013. That year, six cyclists were killed.

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