A coroner’s report into the death of 18-year-old Montreal cyclist Clément Ouimet concludes his death on Oct. 4 2017 was accidental and cites the need for more measures to protect vulnerable road users.
In his report released Monday, Dr. Jean E. Brochu, says Ouimet died of craniocerebral trauma resulting from a traffic accident.
On the day of his death, Ouimet — a competitive cyclist — was training on Mount Royal, as he did on most days.
The teen was heading eastbound down Camillien-Houde Way when a SUV — driven by a tourist — decided to do a U-turn, despite the presence of double yellow lines.
Brochu said the driver required a wide berth to make the U-turn forcing him onto the shoulder of the road, ahead of the manoeuvre.
Ouimet, who was following behind the SUV, moved to the left.
“The cyclist probably thought the vehicle was going to stop on the shoulder, despite visible signs prohibiting parking,” the report reads. “He moved to the left, probably thinking he had to pass the SUV on the left.”
That’s when Ouimet crashed into the left passenger door of the vehicle and was thrown from his bicycle, crashing onto the asphalt.
The report indicates Ouimet was likely surprised by the SUV’s manoeuvre, as the brake mark left on the road by his back wheel was less than one-metre long.
Brochu notes it is not known whether the driver had his turn signal on, nor whether he saw the cyclist.
In March, the Crown stated it did not have sufficient evidence to establish culpability and that charges would not be laid against the driver involved in the collision.
“It was a little disappointing that no charges were brought against the driver,” Vélo Québec spokesperson Magali Dubronne said. “It means is as a society we accept that U-turns, even though they’re illegal, can be made and that they’re not considered particularly dangerous or reckless.”
Ouimet’s death sparked numerous calls to make Camillien-Houde Way safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
“We would like to see clear traffic directions, we would like to see less traffic and we would like to see measures to avoid these U-turns and the city has started acting on that,” Dubronne added.
In June, the city kicked-off a contentious five-month pilot-project closing a portion of Camillien-Houde Way off to motorists, making thru-traffic impossible except for emergency vehicles.
Pointing to a police report indicating that since 2015 there have been three collisions with injuries involving cyclists and motorists, Brochu agreed more needs to be done to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable.
“He’s not giving us very concrete ways to act, it’s saying it’s complicated and that is why we launched public consultations.”
Brochu argues the issue is two-fold.
First, despite being banned, it is possible for vehicles to make U-turns and second, motorists are cutting through Mount Royal Park via Camillien-Houde Way on their east-west commute and vice-versa.
Part of the problem, according to Brochu, stems from limited access to a belvedere overlooking the city. It was designed so that only westbound cars can turn into the parking lot. Cars coming from the east have to drive up further before being able to backtrack.
Also, upon exiting the lookout parking lot, cars are forced to go east without the possibility of a nearby spot to turn around.
Brochu said the city will have to rethink the design of the site if it decides to continue allowing vehicles to access the lookout.
However, if the city decides to restrict access to motorists and only allow pedestrians and cyclists to get to the belvedere, other solutions will have to be put forward. Brochu suggested a shuttle bus could be put in place to ferry visitors to and from Mount Royal Park.
In addition to the pilot-project prohibiting thru-traffic on the mountain, Montreal’s Office de la consultation publique will be holding public consultations on the matter and will present its findings and safety recommendations to the city.
“We have to hope that the best measures will be taken to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable road users not only in Mount Royal Park but as much as the rest of the Island of Montreal,” wrote Brochu in his report.
—with files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez