Police will start measuring safe-passing buffer for cyclists

Starting this spring Montreal police will be able to measure just how well motorists and cyclists are sharing the road.

New machines will be used by officers in the bike patrol. The ultrasonic detection devices, which were ordered last year, will be installed on a bicycle's handlebars and will be able to measure the exact distance between a cyclist and a passing vehicle.

The sonar devices, which cost about $2,000 per unit, use high frequency sound energy to make dimensional measurements.

With the data officers will be able to determine if a vehicle is respecting current laws, which require motorists to slow down and maintain a reasonable distance from a cyclist when passing. 

The reasonable distance is one meter one roads with a speed limit 50 km/h or lower and 1.5 meters (about the length of a pool noodle) on streets with a speed limit above 50 km/h.

A similar system has been in place in Ottawa since 2015 and the police department in Grand Rapids, Michigan recently purchased several ultrasonic detection devices for its bike patrol officers.

Montreal police tell 24Heures that for now officers won't be handing out any tickets. The devices will be used to educate motorists. Police would need permission from the court to be able hand out fines using the sonar measurement devices.