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.
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.
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.