Sunday, May 04, 2014

A few words on cyclists killed by car drivers and the need to slow down cars in danger zones

A local blog reported on the recent tragic death of a Montreal cyclist by a truck while traveling through a CR Rail railroad underpass.

A commenter suggested the following suggestion to improve the safety of these dangerous, outdated underpasses where motor vehicles habitually exceed a safe (and legal) speed:

1) Install a giant LED sign over the right-hand traffic lane that says:
          Priorité cyclists
          Vitesse Maximum = 20 km/h
          50 km/h = $300
          Photo Radar
2) Install Photo-radar machines in both directions.
-clearly-identified photo radar slows cars right down. See the one on cote-des-neiges southbound below “The Boulevard” (on top of Mont Royal) for the quite amazing effect of slowing car speeds dramatically (and it is a downhill road where cars go speed up to dangerous speeds, similar in this way to underpasses) .
- I suggest that CP Rail pays for the installation of the signs and photo radar machines.


But the blog host cut down the suggestion with the tired trope that this will interfere with rapid traffic flow of cars. Because anything that slows down cars is a BAD BAD thing. We must not ever even begin to think about slowing down cars, not even in proven danger zones where deaths have occurred.  Not even in underpasses where the design was built according to 1930s design criteria and are now proven to be fatally dangerous in out 21st century world

>>The esteemed blog owner wrote: A 20 km/h speed limit on a major thoroughfare isn’t practical either. It would just make an already difficult traffic situation even worse, and push more traffic onto neighbouring roads.

The logical conclusion to your argument is the autorout-ification of our urban street network. This has been tried extensively since 1950 and it turns out not to be the magic solution the car-industry promised it would be.  In fact this auto-centric design-mindset is what our present generation is trying to fix.  30 seconds at 30 km/h is not going to cause a bottleneck in any meaningful way. There is a red light that the cars reach 100 metres after the underpass.  I am sorry to report that the long-held f***-the-bikes design criteria is not longer a valid traffic flow methodology. 

Our opinion: 

Because underpasses are natural car-speeding-zones,  severe efforts need to be taken to control and slow down cars to the existing legal speed limit, and then slow down a bit more to a safe speed for co-habitation with other road users (bike riders) with the new 30 km/h speed limit we are seeing (just not seeing obeyed) in proven danger zones (i.e. school zones).  An underpass I use regularly is posted 50 km/h and every day I see cars exceed 80 km/h. On an urban street. This is not acceptable driving behaviour.

This is about changing the bad habits and specifically urban speeding. The speed of the motor vehicle has a big influence on whether the victim is certain to die or is merely severely injured.  30 km/h for 30 seconds is not a big price for the car driver to pay to prevent the deaths of innocent, law-abiding road users who choose to use a bicycle as their transportation mode.  The right to security of person is a constitutionally guaranteed Canadian human right.

Is one death not enough to demand serious action that requires harsh penalties for dangerous speeding? (and slowing down your car for 30 seconds is not exactly a severe measure - they are just going to get stopped at the next red light anyway). 

How many deaths will be enough?  It is past time to hold car drivers a lot more responsible for killing cyclists than we have seen in our recent history. Kill someone (or multiple people)  with a bike in Quebec and it is "get out of jail free" and this is unacceptable in out so-called civilized world.  

We are coming up to the 4 year anniversary of the triple cyclist death on rt 112 near Rougement.  A triple-death where the driver was never charged with anything, an outcome that most observers find unbelievable.  This has never been adequately explained to the public, a public whose security we give the government the powers to enforce. 

Every cyclist knows that the next death could be him or her. This is why the recent underpass death shocked us all so much, car drivers and cyclists alike.


At 10:26 AM, Blogger Cyrono said...

Great post. London, England is proposing a 20 mph/30 kph speed limit in the downtown core.
However, as you point out, enforcement is a major problem especially in spots like underpasses where drivers feel like it is their one bit of freedom to speed up after crawling through traffic.
Another point is the terrible conditions of the roads, which is often exaggerated on the edge of the road where cyclists are legally mandated to travel. The bottom of an underpass is often worse still so that cyclists have to veer left to avoid the potholes just at the place where vehicles are travelling the fastest.


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