Cycling groups are criticizing the proposal to drastically increase fines for scofflaw cyclists in the update to Quebec’s Highway Safety Code.
Bill 165, tabled in December, includes stiff penalties for distracted drivers, especially those caught using cell phones, and extends the period where the use of winter tires is mandatory.
The legislation will also require the use of booster seats for children under nine, impose a curfew on young drivers, and clearly state that photos taken by a machine will be admissible evidence in court — thus closing a legal loophole in challenges to photo radar.
But what is drawing flak is the plan to increase fines for cyclists riding bicycles without the legally-necessary reflectors.
Under current law the fine for missing a reflector is $15, but the legislation increases that to at least $80.
“I think it’s a grossly disproportionate increase in the amount of the fine,” said Alain Deschamps of Ghost Bikes Montreal. “Now you’re going to have a cyclist who has a missing reflector who’s going to have a higher fine than a driver who has a broken tail light.”
The fine for a cyclist ignoring a stop sign or running a red light would also increase by more than five times to $80.
Last month, multiple groups addressed a parliamentary committee of the National Assembly about what they liked and disliked in the legislation, with Velo Quebec calling for measures to force drivers to pay more attention to cyclists: stiffer penalties will be imposed for distracted driving and younger drivers will also have a curfew.
“There’s definitely parts of the bill that we welcome and that we’re very happy to see,” said Deschamps.
The hefty fines for some cycling offences are out of balance, says the city of Montreal’s point person on cycling, city councillor Marianne Giguere.
“Those rules, they’re sending the message that cyclists, people on bikes, are as dangerous as somebody in a car or in a truck, which is nonsense,” she said.
The bill is expected to be voted on shortly.