Cycling in Quebec: don’t get caught without reflectors!

Are ankle bands the solution for the casual summer cyclist?
Are reflective ankle bands the solution for the casual summer cyclist?

In Quebec province a new law aims to make cycling safer. More reflectors on your bike, cycling with prudence on cross walks, no more demerit points for cyclists, no more signalling of an intention to stop for cyclists, hands on the bar override signalling when needed. Read more about the details here: some good and some questionable regulations.

July 2, 2018 UPDATE from Steve Truttmann: 

Out cycling on the Quebec side yesterday morning, a QPP officer kindly told me that I must now remove my ear buds, law is now in effect. I was advised they will crack down on it after a short education grace period.

The police in Montreal are out ticketing cyclists who don’t have reflectors/tape on their bikes. Recently, one cyclist in Montreal racked up 381 dollars in fines for missing reflectors (and a faulty brake).

Lamp posts in Gatineau

National Capital Region

You might think: O, I rarely go there. But especially for Ottawa cyclists, this is a bit of a trap. The Quebec region near Ottawa is so much part of the National Capital Region that we tend to forget there are different laws across the river.  Many of us cross the river for a ride to Aylmer, Gatineau Park or Jacques Cartier Park and beyond. Even a bike ride on the new paved trail at Gracefield might get you in trouble if you don’t have that reflective band around your ankles…

Lac Blue Sea with @PhysioKaren
Lac Blue Sea with @PhysioKaren: is that a reflective patch on her shoe?

Attention commuters

And think of all the commuters who bike from Ottawa to say Place du Portage. When I posted the link on Facebook ten days ago, there was genuine concern, some tongue in cheek advice, ridicule and of course angry white man trolling that “95% of the cyclists break all the rules all the time” (and they should also pay for their own bicycle paths). Personally, I am not sure that reflectors are very effective; they are often tiny. I do like the reflective tires though, they make an incredible difference in the dark. I believe in the Netherlands, reflective tires are mandated.

My bike with one reflective tire and one without. This is lit up by our porch light. The difference is serious.
My bike with one reflective tire and one without. This is lit up by our porch light. The difference is serious. Note the front reflector too.

Reflectors and reflective tape

I checked my own bike and I better get my act together: I only have reflectors on my pedals and nowhere else. (I do bring strong lights for evenings though). While you have to have front and rear reflectors (and lights front and back when it is dark) you can get away with reflective tape on your seat stays and front fork. Safer Roads Ottawa often hands out self adhesive reflective tape. They also hand out reflective bands to keep your pants away from the chain ring.

Safer Roads Ottawa hands out reflective material sich as the reflective tape for your front fork and seat stay, as well as bike lights and reflective ankel bands (You can never have enough ankle bands)
Safer Roads Ottawa hands out reflective material such as the reflective tape for your front fork and seat stay, as well as bike lights and reflective ankle bands (You can never have enough ankle bands in your kitchen drawer)

Do these reflector laws work?

Sadly, I think these laws have minimum impact: responsible cyclists are already aware they should be visible. I am not talking about hi viz safety vests here, but bike lights in the dark. I doubt very much reflectors during the day have an added safety benefit and in the evening, the law requires lights anyway. People who don’t look after their safety now probably won’t change their habits anyway, despite the new law.

Tip: download an light app on your phone. It might come in handy when you forget your lights: it might save you 80 dollars.

So what do I do?

The new law is all the more a reason to take a closer look to your bike. Summarized, this is what Quebec expects:

FRONT

  1. Front white reflector
  2. One of the following visibility accessories on the front wheel:
    • an amber or white reflector attached to the spokes and visible on both sides of the bicycle
    • a tire with reflective sidewalls
    • a rim with a continuous reflective strip around the entire circumference of the wheel on both sides

If there are no reflectors on the front wheel, you must attach an amber or white reflective strip on each side of the fork

REAR

  1. Rear red reflector
  2. One of the following visibility accessories on the rear wheel:
    • a red or white reflector attached to the spokes and visible on both sides of the bicycle
    • a tire with reflective sidewalls
    • a rim with a continuous reflective strip around the entire circumference of the wheel on both sides

If there are no reflectors on the rear wheel, you must attach a red or white reflective strip on each seat stay.

PEDALS

  • Amber or white reflectors on each pedal. If the pedals are not equipped with such reflectors, the cyclist must wear a reflective band around each ankle or shoes with reflective strips

Remember too, that:

  • Cycling with earphones or headphones is not allowed; ( sometimes I use them for spoken turn by turn directions in Komoot)
  • A group can consists of maximum 15 people and you have to cycle single file by law. No cycling and socialising in Quebec at the same time!

It appears that the laws have been designed with the more sporty cyclists in mind, considering the fact that initially they hadn’t thought of people who are not wearing reflective materials on their shoes. I am guessing they never thought of panniers either, as they partly cover seat stays. But, the law doesn’t differentiate between different types of cyclists, so you better follow the rules. 80 dollars buys you a lot of gelato back in Ottawa.

For details on the law go here

You can always go for a walk instead in Gatineau Park

Good news

There is good news too though (a selection):

  • Cyclists are no longer required to signal their intentions to slow down or stop. However, they must continue to signal their intentions to turn, but they are no longer required to do so if it endangers their safety. (Read: hands on the bars override signalling if the situation requires it)
  • This is interesting: When encountering a red light and an activated pedestrian light, cyclists are allowed to continue on their way. In this case, they must stop, give priority to pedestrians and proceed at a reasonable and prudent speed. (coming, oddly, in to  force May 18, 2019 (which I think is a typo as all other ones come into force in 2018)
  • Also, demerit points no longer apply to cyclists.
  • A municipality may, by means of signage, allow cyclists to ride on the sidewalk. In this case, they must then proceed at a reasonable and prudent speed, and give priority to pedestrians.
  • Drivers of road vehicles must slow down and respect a safe distance when passing a cyclist. This distance is 1.5 m on roads where the limit is more than 50 km/h and 1 m on roads where the limit is 50 km/h or less.

For details on the new law go here

There are changes for drivers too: the season for winter tires is extended, penaties on using handheld devices when driving are stiffer etc. Read more on this page

Here is the full text of Bill 165: an Act to amend the Highway Safety Code and other provisions.

Note: I have summarized the rules here, you need to check the law yourself to be sure you meet the requirements.

Offences: fines

Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign: $80 to $100

Turning right at a red light where prohibited by a sign: $80 to $100

Failing to yield the right of way at an intersection to users who have priority: $80 to $100

Riding with earphones or headphones: $30 to $60

Failing to signal one’s intentions: $80 to $100

Riding two on a bicycle without a fixed seat for that purpose: $80 to $100

5 Comments

  1. There is a formatting problem with the final table, Offences: fines. The rightmost column Penalties is cropped by the fixed width layout / theme of you site no matter what zoom level. Same in both Chrome and Edge.

  2. Also for trailers:
    “A bicycle trailer must be equipped with two red reflectors at the rear, as far apart as practicable, or a red reflective strip placed as close to horizontal as possible across the width of the trailer.”

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