The Hammer Comes Down
on careless road users
Can cyclists and motorists be encouraged to share the road?
By Linda Hammerschmid
I read an article not too long ago in the Journal du Barreau du Québec (the Quebec Bar Lawyers Newspaper) regarding new measures incorporated into the Code de la sécurité routière (Highway Safety Code) of which you may be unaware.
As such, the fine now for opening one’s car door without first verifying if it is safe to do so and causing an accident for a cyclist now bears sanctions of $200 to $300. Further, a motorist cannot pass a cyclist in the same lane unless it can be done without danger (a subjective decision to be sure and which would most likely be difficult to prove in court).
I have therefore a few questions.
What fines are imposed on cyclists who:
– Text or phone while riding?
– Do not stop at Stop signs or traffic lights?
– Weave in and out of traffic?
– Wear ear phones while riding?
– Don’t signal before turning?
– Use sidewalks?
– Pass between parked cars and/or cars stopped at intersections?
– Ride the wrong way on one-way streets?
– Ride 2 x 2 in a lane?
– Don’t wear helmets?
– Are unlicensed?
These are but a few of the transgressions cyclists commit without regard to the consequences and for which motorists are usually blamed when they result in accidents.
I for one would like to know how many auto/bike/pedestrian accidents in Quebec are caused by cyclists. When a cyclist cuts off or rides around large vehicles, like vans or trucks, and are hit when doing so, are they singled out as the cause of the accident or are the motorists held solely to blame?
… it is high time cyclists are curtailed from their accident causing behaviours, just as motorists are.
In any ‘education’ or public campaign how about stressing the obligations of cyclists who, after all, make up 50% of all auto/bicycle accidents. How about obliging them to take tests and get licensed? I am a lawyer, a CAA member and a motorist and it is high time cyclists are curtailed from their accident causing behaviours, just as motorists are. Fining only motorists will never accomplish harmony with their cyclist lane neighbours.
Motorists (My hat theory)
Years ago (at least 30) I started noticing a link between bad drivers and hats. Next time you are driving about take time to observe whether or not the driver near you, the one who cuts you off or has the turn signal on permanent blink but never turns, or wanders into your lane (almost), runs a stop or is going way too slow, or just generally seems to have no idea what they are doing, is wearing any type of head gear. Yup, hats, caps, fedoras… the style doesn’t seem to matter. It’s a fact that some sort of topping, usually involving a brim or visor configuration, truly is a reliable indicator of a bad driver ahead, beside or behind you.I once told this to one of my friend’s daughters, and thereafter she too couldn’t help but notice the connection.
… the fine now for opening one’s car door without first verifying if it is safe to do so and causing an accident for a cyclist now bears sanctions of $200 to $300.
Of course there are hatless bad drivers but by and large the prevalence belongs to hat wearers! This phenomenon doesn’t only occur in winter. Baseball caps in particular seem to underscore the percentage correlation between drivers and road unworthiness. I have to laugh every time when upon inspection my hat theory is borne out, as laughing takes the edge off of wanting to swear. In fact, I always endeavour to verify whether or not a driver, who has just executed some adverse manoeuvre, is wearing a hat. Let’s face it, although hats may seem innocuous in themselves, those particularly with brims obscure some portion of a driver’s peripheral sight ability or head turning capacity which then leads to problems in executing proper driving techniques. So hats off motorists. If you’re cold, turn up the heat, it’s safer for you and everyone else.
Cyclists and motorists need to respect each other more, know and then follow all the rules of the road, and mutually face the consequences of non observance, so that we can all travel more safely.
Daniel Lambert of the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of Westmount (APCW) answers Linda’s concerns
Most of the actions listed are illegal and subject to fines and several of the offenses result in driver demerit points. Our association has done many surveys of compliance with the Highway Safety Code and found that all road users disobey in a similar proportion – the only difference is the offenses they commit.
Pedestrians do not use the road much (they have separated/protected public space called sidewalks). So, for pedestrians, the common offenses are jay-walking and crossing on red lights. Common offenses for cyclists include several of those listed, although under the Highway Safety Code, helmets are not compulsory, for example. As for drivers, they often speed, drive while texting/talking or drive under the influence.
‘Most of the actions listed are illegal and subject to fines and several of the offenses result in driver demerit points.’
Most offenses by pedestrians and cyclists put them at risk but do not pose much of a threat of injury or death to drivers, who are protected by large, heavy vehicles surrounded by a hard shell and air bags. Offenses by drivers, on the other hand, because they are travelling in large, heavy vehicles with hard outer shells, pose a significant threat of injury or death to the more vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists). Many think that the penalty for HSC offenses should reflect the potential risk to others to encourage the less vulnerable users (drivers) to exercise great care towards the more vulnerable users (pedestrians and cyclists).In the case of dooring or passing close to cyclists, the risks and potential consequences for cyclists are significant, so offending drivers should suffer higher penalties in line with the risk they pose.
‘The problem with suddenly opening a car door in front of a passing cyclist is… the very serious risk to the cyclist of being hit by a passing car.’
Many people do not understand the risk to cyclists from dooring – is it really dangerous? The problem with suddenly opening a car door in front of a passing cyclist is not so much the potential injury from hitting the door, but rather the very serious risk to the cyclist of being hit by a passing car. If the cyclist swerves at the last second to avoid the opening door, he risks being hit by a passing car. If he hits the door, the cyclist is typically projected into the adjacent lane where he is at risk of being hit by a passing car. Either way, the risk to the cyclist is big with little or no risk to the offending driver.
But rather than seeking blame and trying to have road users adapt to a dangerous environment, we feel that government officials should create a safe environment for cyclists by building separated/protected bike paths. That way, cyclists can travel in the city without the risk of being hit by a driver. We think that both cyclists and drivers would prefer not sharing the same space – it is dangerous for cyclists and stressful for drivers. So we encourage drivers to contact their elected officials and urge them to install protected/separated bike paths.
President, Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of Westmount
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of its authors and do not reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca, its publishers or editors.
Me Linda Hammerschmid is an attorney and has been practicing Family Law since 1982. She is the Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates at 1 Westmount Square, Suite 1290. She is a founding and current member, and past Secretary (28 years) of The Family Law Association of Quebec. She is a frequent guest on CBC TV/Radio, CTV and CJAD, providing commentary on Family Law. You can also hear her regularly on the CJAD show “Passion” with Dr. Laurie Betito, the last Thursday of each month. She and her dog Mac are members of Therapeutic Paws giving joy to the less fortunate. Me Hammerschmid can be reached at (514) 846-1013 or by e-mail at <email@example.com>. All inquiries will be treated confidentially.