Last September, the Quebec Superior Court ordered the City of
Montreal to pay more than $1 million in damages to a woman who
became paraplegic and to her family following a cycling accident on
a city street.1
The woman was cycling under an overpass where there was no bike
path. As she passed over the drain covers that extended almost
across the entire street, her bicycle came to a sudden stop and she
was thrown off. There was no indication to cyclists that they
should use the elevated sidewalk rather than the roadway.
The City argued that the street in question was not
"designated as a cycling route." However, it admitted
that the part of the street where the accident happened was
frequently used by cyclists.
The court found that although the street had no bike path,
minimum safety standards should have been respected, observing that
it was foreseeable that many cyclists would use the route and that
the City owed them a duty of care and diligence. Such a duty
implies that the City take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of
those who [translation] "use the City's infrastructures in
a normal, foreseeable and authorized manner."
The court found that the drain covers posed a significant risk
for cyclists and that by installing them on a roadway where bicycle
traffic was authorized the City failed to discharge its duty to
In spring 2011, the Court of Appeal upheld another decision of
the Superior Court in which the City of Montreal was also ordered
to pay damages to a cyclist who fell while cycling on a street with
no bike path. In that case, one of the wheels of the bicycle became
stuck in a depression in the street.2
These recent decisions show that when cyclists use streets that
have no bike paths and their use is normal, foreseeable and
authorized, municipalities have an obligation to ensure their
Thus, particularly during routine inspections, municipalities
should look out for and fix any "traps" on routes that
cyclists can be expected and are authorized to use, in order to
1 Wilson Davies c. Montréal (Ville de),
2011 QCCS 4756. This judgment has been appealed.
2 Scanlan c. Montréal (Ville de), 2008 QCCS
5414 and 2011 QCCA 614.
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