18-year-old cyclist killed last week in Lachine

Last week, 18-year-old Tyrell Sterling was tragically killed when a right-turning truck crossed his path as he was cycling along a bike path in Ville Saint-Pierre.  Tyrell and the truck driver were both traveling north along Saint-Pierre Avenue; Tyrell on a bike path located on the outside of the sidewalk. The collision took place at the intersection of Saint-Pierre  and Berge du Canal, just north of the Lachine Canal.

Plan view of collision site: photo taken from the Montreal Gazette

Yesterday, police confirmed that no charges will be filed against the truck driver.  Indeed, the driver’s maneuvre wasn’t the least bit illegal.  As a cyclist, Tyrell had a stop sign; the driver, on the other hand, did not.  According to the law, Tyrell should have waited for an opening in traffic sufficiently large in order to cross the intersection.   An article in the Gazette seemed to suggest that this “accident” was not anyone’s fault.

I feel otherwise.  I think this loss of life could have been avoided had the intersection and bike path been designed properly.  Firstly, the rules that govern this particular intersection are counter-intuitive and go against typical intersection rules.  Tyrell was riding straight along a bike path, the truck driver was making a right-hand turn.  In typical intersections, the priority would go to the vehicle/cyclist traveling straight through.  In this case, the driver had priority making a right-hand turn over the cyclist traveling straight. Since the intersection in question is uncontrolled (meaning no traffic lights or stop signs) the Quebec code de la route stipulates that a pedestrian crossing Berge du Canal, just as Tyrell did, would have had priority over the right-turning truck driver.  How confusing! Either traffic lights or a four-way stop should be installed at the intersection.   Secondly, the bike path was placed on the outside of the sidewalk.  All bike path design documents, including the set of guidelines produced by Vélo Quebec, recommend placing bike paths between the car lanes and the sidewalk to give cyclists better visibility and to avoid having pedestrians sandwiched between fast-moving cars and cyclists.

Google Street view of collision site

Tyrell probably slowed down at the stop sign instead of having stopped completely.  He did what almost all cyclists do at that intersection: it is completely intuitive.  Most cyclists meet that intersection having just ridden on the Lachine Canal bike path, where they can go fast without any stop signs at all. Since this bike path along Saint-Pierre is placed on the outside of the sidewalk, it is buffered by pedestrians making it feel even safer.

This tragedy could have been avoided.  Tyrell made an intuitive decision to roll through a stop sign at what felt like a bike-priority intersection.  The truck driver followed the law.  The conflict between truck driver and Tyrell occurred because of poor design and poor planning.

2 thoughts on “18-year-old cyclist killed last week in Lachine

  1. About the only part I personally agree with in this story is the “This tragedy could have been avoided.” part. The rest of the story is an exercise is supporting cyclists rights to be stupid and irrisponsible.

    Yeah – it could have been avoided – all he had to do was stop at the stop sign. It was there for his own safety.

    This type of comment I have a hard time taking seriously: “Tyrell probably slowed down at the stop sign instead of having stopped completely.  He did what almost all cyclists do at that intersection: it is completely intuitive. ”

    Accepting the idea that rolling through stop signs is ‘intuitive’ just because someone is on a bicycle is ridiculous. Its not intuitive – its STUPID! The Montreal police have repeatedly identified that cyclists rolling through stop signs and red lights is the number one cause of automible/bicycle related accidents AND its a legal requirement.

    And thats my opinion as a regular cycle commuter myself. My biggest issue on my commute to work isn’t cars – its other cyclists that completely ignore stop signs on the bicycle path regardless of whether another cyclist is approaching with the right of way (no stop sign) or not. You’d think that cyclists might at least show a little courtesy to other cyclists, but apparently thats not ‘intuative’.

    We don’t need better designed intersections. We need more adults that can actually behave like grown-ups. Everyone seems to somehow be able to justify why they should be somehow exempt from following rules. Usually they let other people’s opinions and behavior influence and justify why they shouldn’t have to.

    So my feeling is that opinions as expressed in this article probably influenced Tyrell and contributed to his sense of entitlement to ignore stop signs and therefore are far more responsible for his death than any intersection design was.

    1. I agree that some cyclists do not respect other users of the road. However, that is true of some drivers and pedestrians as well. I don’t think the solution to preventing cyclist injuries is to simply double-up on enforcement. Cities like Montreal absolutely need to take a multi-pronged approach towards improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists. I agree with you that education and enforcement have an important role to play, however, it is crucial not to underplay the value and importance of good engineering and design!

      The blog post that I wrote was essentially a response to some of the articles that had been coming out about the collision. These articles focused on the violation made by the cyclist and in no way took into consideration that the intersection was poorly designed. That is a terrible intersection! To have a vehicle turn lane – without a Stop sign – cross over a bike path like that… I’ve never seen anything like it. I felt it was important to highlight that the infrastructure played a role in this tragedy.

      Imagine a standard expressway with a 100 km/hr speed limit with an extremely tight turn. A sign indicates just prior to the turn that there is a speed limit reduction to 35 km/hr. There would probably be quite a few vehicle collisions: would you solely blame the drivers for going too fast? I’m guessing that you would agree that the accidents were, first and foremost, a result of poor design.

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