Montreal police are defending the high tally of more than 12,000 tickets police officers gave to cyclists in 2018, saying it was done in the name of safety and has helped reduce fatalities on city streets.
Inspector André Durocher says that number is “relatively small” considering the more than one million people who bike on the island.
“It’s a lot of cyclists, it’s a lot of people,” he said. “People have to coexist on the roads so that means we have to follow regulations.”
Cycling advocates and bikers in the city are calling for change after a report by the Toronto Sun revealed Montreal cyclists were the most heavily fined in Canada last year — and ticketed 42 times higher than those in Toronto.
Vélo Québec, a cycling organization in the province, says the reason why the number was so high is because police crack down on delinquent cyclists with special operations.
“It’s impossible to have a big difference like that in behaviour. That’s not possible,” said Suzanne Lareau. “The strategy in Montreal is different than other cities in Canada.”
In Montreal, police confirmed the most common infractions for cyclists were for running red lights and failing to stop at stop signs. Many were also stopped for wearing headphones while biking — a decision that blocks out sound and puts cyclists in danger, according to police.
“You have to be very attentive,” said Durocher.
Vélo Québec says that while it is favour of promoting road safety and targeting bad behaviour on city streets, punishing cyclists for failing to stop as stop signs is something it wants to see change. It is calling on the province to change the Highway Safety Code to allow cyclists to treat stop signs as a yield, something referred to in cycling communities as an “Idaho stop.”
“In Montreal, [at] a stop sign you have to stop, and when you are on a bike, it’s very hard — unlike a car,” said Lareau.
As a cyclist, David Searle says he understands the reason behind the ticketing, but he doesn’t agree with the method.
“There is a lot of issues that can be addressed,” he said.
“But tickets are not the best way to do it.”
Police, however, argue the fines are effective and to the benefit of the growing number of cyclists in Montreal. While three people died in cycling collisions in 2018, Durocher says there have been no fatalities in 2019.
“We are hoping to keep it that way to the end of the year,” he said.
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— With files from Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines
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