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Why Montreal Island Has No Right Turn On Red

Here's the history of how this happened... or didn't happen.

Senior Editor
Why Montreal Island Has No Right Turn On Red

No right turn on red on the Island of Montreal. It's a message everyone who's ever crossed into the metropolis knows. But why is this the case? It's a discussion that dates back a generation, so the reasoning behind it may have fallen out of collective memory.

The process of legalizing right turns on red in Quebec dates back to 2000, when public consultation on the subject began. The Ministry of Transports began right turn on red pilot projects across the province in 2001.

Despite a report on the results of the pilot projects recommending against legalization, Quebec officially adopted rights on red on April 13, 2003 — everywhere except Montreal, which was left to decide for itself whether to institute the measure.

The city put together a commission to study the possibility, but contributing groups rejected the measure, citing pedestrian and bike safety.

In its submission to the commission, the regional public health authority claimed rights on red would increase vehicular traffic in Montreal as well as the risk of pedestrian injury. It also said adverse effects on public safety "would be experienced primarily by residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods, children, the elderly and the disabled."

Public health encouraged the city council to maintain the ban and focus on improving road safety, not make it worse.

Cycling advocacy group Vélo Québec, meanwhile, argued that, not only would right turns on red endanger pedestrians and cyclists, but that they would also undermine the character and international standing of Montreal, which, the group said, has an urban culture that emphasizes pedestrian access.

"Montreal is a city known for its restaurants, its festivals, its friendliness and the safety of its streets (this is what makes the Jazz Festival such a success, especially for Americans who can't believe that they can walk safely downtown in a festive atmosphere)," Vélo Québec wrote.

"Unfortunately, this unique character that makes Montrealers appreciate their city and that we are so good at selling to foreign visitors is directly challenged by the possible authorization of the [right turn on red]."

The special commission submitted its final report to Montreal City Council on October 27, 2003, but the city, of course, never implemented the measure.

Montreal public health revisited the issue as part of public consultation on road safety in 2017, but reaffirmed its findings from 15 years earlier, stating that "it is unthinkable to support a measure that creates road insecurity and injuries."

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