Absolute priority to pedestrians, suggests a working group on road safety

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
The cohabitation between all users of the street is not always easy, but there is a way to make it better, said a working group which produced a report on the matter at the request of the ministry of Transport.

It would be a real revolution on Quebec’s roads : a working group recommends the establishment of a “code of the street “dedicated to mitigate the” culture tank “, and which would give priority to the most vulnerable users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.


According to this, that The Duty has learned, this project, inspired by european countries, would introduce the precautionary principle into the Code of the road safety (CSR). Motorists should yield to people walking not only in the passages provided for this purpose, but also at any place located more than 50 metres of a pedestrian crossing. In short, the jaywalking would be legalized.


This new version of the CSR would give the highest priority to human life, rather than the travel time by car, as is the case at the present time. The authors of the study consider it realistic to implement such a code of the street in Quebec, despite the rule of “no-fault” and the decades of dominance of the car on north american roads.


“It would be a small revolution for Quebec, but the code of the street gives positive results wherever it has been implemented in Europe,” said Catherine Morency, professor and Chair of the Mobility and of the Canada research Chair on the Mobility of people at Polytechnique Montréal. She and her colleague Jean-François Bruneau, also of the ecole Polytechnique, have produced this large study of 465 pages at the request of the ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ).

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The Department has in hand this report from about a year — and promises a revision of the Code of road safety since three years, but cannot say what changes will be made to the CSR. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec has also carried out its own consultation in view of a Code improved. “No change to the CSR is not formalized at the moment. The proposed changes will be known when the formal submission of the draft law amending the CSR to the national Assembly, ” said Sarah Bensadoun, spokesman for the ministry of Transport, sustainable Mobility and the Electrification of transport.


Best methods


However, the Department has changed ownership in the cabinet reshuffle Wednesday. André Fortin was the successor to Laurent Lessard, who remains minister of Agriculture. The voluminous report on the adoption of a code of the street, dated as of November 2016, is part of the documents that will be submitted to the office of the new minister in the coming days.


The two experts of the Polytechnic and their team have studied european countries considered the most advanced in the field of transport assets — Belgium, Denmark, the netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France and Luxembourg, in particular — to identify best practices that can inform the authorities of the MTQ.


“The best methods [regulatory and development] are known since 30 or 40 years. You know what is effective. What is missing is the will to implement them “, says Jean-François Bruneau.


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A code of the street would be likely to discipline the quebec motorists, perceived as less respectful in the western world towards the pedestrian, say the researchers. Cyclists also have a bad reputation with pedestrians and motorists, the study found. As for the feeling of insecurity of the followers of the bike, it is due in large part to infrastructure is poorly designed, according to the report.


The public interest first


The pioneer countries in the field of transport have decided to put all the effort to protect the most vulnerable road users not only to save lives, but also to increase the fluidity of the movement : the more bicycles, or pedestrians in the public space, fewer cars. And the better it flows, underline the experts. Even more so if people go to the stations of subway, train, or bus, on foot or by bike.


The principle of the rule of prudence is simple : “The driver shall, at any time, adopt a prudent behavior and respectful towards other users of roads open to traffic. In particular, it must exercise special caution in respect of the most vulnerable users “, specifies the Code of the road French.


In addition to granting priority to pedestrians, countries with a code of the street is committed to develop infrastructure that protect the most vulnerable people — bicycle paths one-way separated from the roadway, wide sidewalks, pedestrian crossings with refuge central areas to 30 km/h, and so on.


“The code of the street would take all its sense by encouraging the municipalities to incorporate the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in any redevelopment of the street,says researcher Jean-François Bruneau. Montreal has a ‘Vision Zero’ in which the objectives are laudable, but the City rebuilt when the same infrastructure in the same way. We have seen on the rue Saint-Denis. “

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Rebalancing the public space


The implementation of a code of the street requires strong political will and a strong endorsement of the company, insist the authors of the study. Quebecers seem to support the principles of a code of the street, according to the researchers from the ecole Polytechnique. They have organized a series of consultations to assess adherence of the population — 18 forums held in 14 municipalities, consultation of experts (urban planners, architects, engineers, etc) and on-line survey of 2494 Quebec.


The vast majority of respondents agreed with most measures proposed in a code of the street, including the principle of prudence, the lowering of speed limits to 30 km/h in residential areas (while the limit will remain 50 km/h on the arteries of transit) and the reduction of the space allocated to cars to make room for bicycle paths and sidewalks.


Catherine Morency considers this rebalancing of public space in favour of active transportation as a critical component of a reform of the highway safety Code. For over half a century, the authorities consider that the street belongs to cars. Error, according to it. “It is mind-boggling, and the public space of quality, which is allocated to the parking of cars. “