While it is incumbent upon all parties to work together to ensure equal, fair, and safe access to our roadways, people who use Montreal’s Rachel Street bike path should be aware that the intersection of Rachel and St. Laurent is particularly dangerous for them.
I say this as someone who has both driven and cycled through that intersection many times. What I’ve noticed when driving is that if I’m heading west on Rachel and I want to turn right (North) on St. Laurent – which involves crossing the bike path while the cyclists also have a green light – it is really hard to keep track of, and to see, everything that’s happening.
Picture it from the driver’s perspective: the light is green and you’re allowed to make that right turn. When you look ahead, you see cyclists coming towards you, so you wait for a break. You get the break and you look behind you too see if anyone’s coming from the other direction. But the line of parked cars between you and the bike path make it really hard to see if anyone’s coming, so you move slowly. In the meantime, the gap from the first direction is closing. Add to this the jaywalkers who see that you’re not gunning it so they just walk in front of your car. There you are with four different things to watch out for, and your window of opportunity is closing quickly because the green light (for turning) lasts less than a minute.
Yes, it’s tricky. Unfortunately, in this town of impatient drivers and easily frayed nerves, that also means it is dangerous, as a lot of drivers will just gun it around the corner as soon as it looks like they might have a break. Crunch! In that argument, it’s the cyclist who always loses.
Just to be clear; I’m not defending drivers who act like that. I’m just pointing out the reality that it is a difficult intersection for drivers to get through safely without an inordinate amount of patience. And we all know that Montreal drivers are inordinately impatient.
So be warned, and be extra vigilant if you’re cycling through that intersection. It doesn’t matter who is at fault if you get hit; all that matters is that you will be the one going to the hospital (or the morgue).
Add to the mix a row of parked cars over the driver’s right shoulder blocking the view of west-bound cyclists (no cars were parked there when this satellite image was taken).