A 61-year-old woman was recently killed in Montreal when a school bus driver hit her while she was biking. The crash has prompted a heated conversation about bike safety in this city with one local leader accusing another of failing to install bike lanes in this neighborhood, which could have prevented this woman's death. Predictably, the accused leader then responded by saying the other was "politicizing" a tragedy.
On Friday, the city announced a $150-million plan over five years to encourage cycling in the city and to make Montreal a leader for cycling in North America.
Ferrandez, however, is seething, saying Denis Coderre voted against several bike path projects, including one at Parc and Pine.
“He refused. He personally refused. He took out and cancelled the plan for a bike path where there was an accident yesterday,” he said.
Strong Towns member Zvi Leve, a Montreal resident and bike activist, was interviewed by CTV News Montreal. He responded to the crash: “I wouldn't call it an accident. It's a tragedy that was needless and due to poor design unfortunately."
Zvi's pointed comment speaks volumes. As we've stated over and over again at Strong Towns, bad design in the form of wide streets that encourage speeding is responsible for many of the crashes that plague our cities and kill our residents. None of these crashes are accidents; they are the result of our street design. If we built narrower streets, we would see a large decrease in these sorts of tragic stories. Protected bike lanes can also increase safety in key areas.
In a conversation later, Zvi explained more about the current situation in Montreal with regard to biking, particularly in the neighborhood where this crash took place:
There is some political partisanship going on about bike lanes in that area. The borough has submitted plans, which were accepted and approved, but they claim that the city mayor put them on hold because the road will be completely dug up to change the water mains in a few years.... From my perspective, the city is resisting removing parking, which is the only way to fit bike lanes on that section.
This is a good opportunity to see if the city will be applying a 'Vision Zero' approach to using a tragedy as a learning experience or will continue with their habitual 'Zero Vision' approach of decrying the senseless loss of life while not really doing anything.
I recognize that change is complicated, but resistance to change is our default position.
We need more Strong Towns members like Zvi speaking out in their cities to create safer streets and stronger towns.
(Top photo source: U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Andrew Caulk)