I have six demerits on my driver’s license, and I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car in three years.
How is this possible? As an avid downtown cyclist I’ve lost all of these points on my license due to infractions I committed on my bike.
In what appears to be an effort to make cyclists respect the rules of the road, cyclists have – for the last few years – started losing points on their driver’s license, a fact that has taken many unlucky cyclists by surprise.
According to the SAAQ website, cyclists can get three demerits on their driver’s license for each of the following infractions: turning right on a red light, failing to stop at a red light or stop sign, or failing to yield to a pedestrian. In other words, they get the same penalties a driver does; although the ticket is much less expensive (it ranges from $15-30).
Other infractions, like wearing earphones, riding on a sidewalk or between two cars, and even drinking alcohol while biking, will only get you a fine – no demerits.
But what about cyclists without a driver’s license?
Here’s where it gets crazy. According to Audrey Chaput, media relations officer for the SAAQ, “the SAAQ will keep the demerit points in a record for 2 years.” So, if you don’t have a license but go for a probationary license, if there are points on your license they are deducted. If you have three demerits, you’ll only have one point left until the demerits expire. If you have more than three points, you’ll have to wait the usual three-month suspension period before you’ll be allowed to complete your driver’s test and get a license.
Are there cycling traps?
I’ve personally been pinched three separate times by the old Forum, once for going through a stop sign at 3:30 am. There’s actually a Facebook group, “Spot à ticket du SPVM” where members post warnings about hot spots where tickets are being given out. The page is only sporadically updated these days, but it’s worth a look for some of the cycling stories. Still, the police say such traps don't really exist. Laurent Gingras, part of the SPVM media team, says the police aren't trying to hide and nab cyclists. On the contrary, with Gingras saying "the goal isn't to surprise people, we want them to see us."
Gingras also says that most cyclists are surprised to get demerits, and that this fact hasn't really entered the cyclist mindset. According to SPVM stats, in 2013, 11 563 tickets were given out to cyclists, compared to only 4 898 in 2010. From 2012 to 2013, the number of tickets almost doubled. Figures for 2014 haven't been released yet. Clearly, cycling tickets aren't going away any time soon!
Good luck out there, and as always, obey the rules of the road!