CTV National News: Genevieve Beauchemin
A growing number of injuries and deaths among cyclists in Canadian cities, especially Montreal, have many concerned about how to keep increasingly pedal-powered cities safe.
Date: Sat. Aug. 13 2011
Soaring gas prices and public bike-rental programs have pushed more Canadians onto two wheels. But while the benefits of cycling are clear there is one drawback: an increase in accidents that has pedal-pushers uneasy.
In Montreal, for example, the number of cyclists on the road has doubled over the past decade. The boom has been fuelled in large part by the popular public bike rental program known as Bixi that started in Montreal and is rapidly spreading to other cities.
But with more bicycles and cars sharing the road comes an increasing number of accidents. In the past week alone, two cyclists were killed in Montreal, including one who was crushed by a cement truck.
In Ontario, the province’s doctors issued a report that said as many as 2,000 cyclists are injured every year in collisions with vehicles.
The Ontario Medical Association made several recommendations to increase safety for both cyclists and drivers, including adding a vehicle-bicycle safety section to the Ontario Drivers’ Manual and include the information in the driving test.
According to safety experts, 64 per cent of fatal bicycle-vehicle crashes occur at intersections. Montreal police spokesperson Const. Olivier Lapointe said the blame for that statistic is shared by both cyclists and drivers.
“Concerning accidents with cars or trucks and cyclists, the cause of the accident is 50 per cent and 50 per cent on the side of the driver and cyclist,” Lapointe told CTV News.
Helmets are a proven injury-prevention tool and many cities across Canada have mandatory laws that all cyclists wear one. However, several jurisdictions do not require cyclists to protect their heads, including Montreal.
“It’s not comfortable I guess,” one cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet, told CTV News. “It’s probably more comfortable than a wheelchair.”
Suzanne Lareau of Velo-Quebec says many accidents can be prevented altogether through better behaviour by both cyclists and drivers.
“Helmets, they don’t prevent accidents,” Lareau told CTV News. “And there’s a lot of accidents that can be prevented just by safe behaviour, safe behaviour by the cyclists and by the drivers.”
With a report from CTV’s Montreal bureau chief Genevieve Beauchemin