Some elected officials are calling on the Quebec government to give the green light to right turns on red lights on the island of Montreal, but the city’s influential mayor isn’t among them.
Representatives of a coalition of 15 Montreal island mayors championed the cause at an event Tuesday, asking Transport Minister Laurent Lessard to look at changing the rules to bring the jurisdiction in line with the rest of the country.
Montreal is one of the last holdouts in North America when it comes to allowing right turns on red and has routinely balked at giving its blessing while the rest of Quebec has allowed it since 2003.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who was open to the idea during the 2013 municipal election campaign, appears inclined to keep the status quo.
“I do not see the relevance of allowing it right now,” Coderre said, adding the government could order new studies and revisit the issue.
“We always base policy on fact, but clearly for the next years, we won’t be able to do it.”
Montreal and New York City are believed to be the only jurisdictions in North America where turning right on a red isn’t permitted, with the safety of pedestrians and cyclists cited as the main reason for not allowing it here.
Philippe Roy, the mayor of Town of Mount Royal, said an opinion survey commissioned by the cities in the last month suggested nearly three-quarters of people living on the island want right turns on red lights.
“It’s been allowed everywhere in Quebec for 13 years and the statistics from the Transport Department demonstrate that the behaviour of Quebec drivers are identical to those elsewhere in Canada and North America,” Roy said.
Roy said transport department statistics show the number of vehicles has tripled since 1976 to 6.3 million from 2.2 million.
The number of Quebecers with permits has also doubled but the number of fatalities has dropped, he added.
Fellow mayor Robert Coutu, from Montreal East, said the negatives are outweighed by the benefits: improved traffic circulation, pollution reduction and savings in time and money.
He said about four out of 10 traffic lights don’t permit right turns in Quebec and a similar proportion of Montreal intersections would be exempted.
The coalition agreed the ban on turning right should continue in certain densely populated areas and the city’s busy downtown core with its pedestrian and cyclist traffic.
“In this context, right on red could be allowed for 1,550 intersections on the territory,” Coutu said.
Traffic consultant Rick Leckner said the city’s drivers have long had a bad reputation and elected officials have been reluctant to jump in.
But it might be time, he said, with the exception of the downtown area.
“We need to try it, we’ve been discussing this long enough and it does work in most other places,” Leckner said.
“We have a reputation, collectively, of being very aggressive drivers and I think we are. But I think there’s a lot to be gained by doing it outside the downtown core.”
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