Monthly Archives: January 2011

WWCA questions at city council meetings and the answers: January 2011

Three questions were asked by the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association.   The first question concerned the clearing of snow from the bike path.  The questioner stated that the path was not cleared several days after a snow storm.  As well residents living along the path and some businesses are shovelling snow onto the path.  Some portions of the east bound path still have some residual of ice and snow from the first snow fall.  This residue of snow turns to ice.  It gives the impression that the city doesn’t care about winter cycling. It undermines the test of the bike path which the city had intended for this winter.  It is in sharp contrast to the high standard seen on the Montreal section of the bike path. This issue has been brought to the city’s attention several times in the past month to no avail.  If the city wants to facilitate winter cycling it should be able to clear 2km bike path to the same standards which it clears about 100 km of sidewalks on a regular basis.  It is a lose-lose situation for the city, lost parking revenue and lost opportunity to try a winter bike path.  Could the city amend its practice for  clearing the bike path for the rest of the winter and try and put something in place that will allow it to be cleared at the same standard as the sidewalks?

The mayor said that when the decision was made to leave the path open for the winter, the bike path would not get priority over pedestrian walks.

Councillor Ikeman said that it is important to set reasonable expectations so we are not disappointed when we compare ourselves to other places.  He commented that the city is in transition, transitioning to more and more cycling.  He said that the resources of the city do put limitations on what can be done. There are priorities which include fire lanes, schools, commercial areas, 20,000 pedestrians, people who need to use their vehicles to get to work.  Allow 3 to 5 days for clearing of snow by which time people who wish to cycle can do so and if weather is inclement they can take public transport. We should compare ourselves to where we were last year and that indicates that we have made great progress.

Councilor Lulham did not agree that the bike path was poorly maintained.  She said that she was amazed at how well the path has been plowed.  She said that the pedestrian path in the park was not cleaned well but the bike path was very good.  She thinks that the city is doing very well, and she has been most  impressed.  She said that it is winter and if the expectation is to be at asphalt then the questioner does not have the right expectations.  She maintained that the path is certainly cyclable.

Another WWCA member agreed that the bike path in the park was quite well maintained but did not agree that the rest of the bike path was well cleaned and said that the WWCA has pictures of the path several days after the snow storm to back up claims that it is not being cleaned properly.  It was also pointed out that it is unfair to call it a trial period when cyclists could not use it because of poor maintenance.

The mayor agreed that a trial means that one should put as much as one can on the side of the trial but there is no point in removing snow quicker than would normally be done if the bike path were to remain.    He said that perhaps the city  could improve it but they are not going to make a night and day difference.

Councilor Duncan said there are several places in Westmount where snow is consistently dumped for purposes of efficiency.  They are not trying to impair cyclists. She said that the city had made it clear when they agreed to try the bike path in the winter that the path would not take priority.

The second WWCA question was concerning bringing to Bixi to Westmount.  Bixi has proved its popularity among citizens showing a huge increase in riders in 2010 up to 3 million trips.

What is the status of negotiations ?  Will the city be able to arrange for Bixi to be installed by April of this year?

The Mayor said that it would be a poor negotiation strategy on the part of the city to tell Bixi that we have to have a deal by April.  One of the key questions is cost.  He also said that Montreal was now becoming sort of the banker of Bixi signing some of their loan exposures .  The city of Montreal is in to Bixi for about 104 milliion dollars.  Westmount wants to make sure that they are not getting in to something that is not tenable. The mayor said that there are a lot of questions about the way Bixi is being run.  There was a question about the Bixi offices being in a building owned by the president of Bixi.

The director general said that council would like him to discuss a business plan with Bixi to look at what a minimum amount of service would cost and to examine where the pods would be located and to assess the impact of the pods on residents living around them.  Will they be adversely affected by them?

The third question asked by the WWCA was about the master traffic plan.

The questioner stated that the WWCA felt that their efforts  to understand and provide input to the Master traffic plan since its announcement have either been ignored or frustrated. In June (2010) the WWCA requested traffic data which they had previously confirmed were available, but the request was refused.  Convinced that the city’s refusal to share that data was in violation of the Access to Information Act, the WWCA submitted an appeal to the access to information commission.  The WWCA informed the city that they would be doing this but received no response.  WWCA volunteer members have spent significant time preparing documents which they hoped would help in the preparation of the plan, but have not even received acknowledgement of receipt of those documents let alone comments or an opportunity to discuss their ideas for the plan.

The documents included:

Proposed terms of reference for a walking and cycling component of the plan

Proposed Guiding Principles for the Plan

Draft maps

Proposed new walking and cycling infrastructure

A copy of the NDG Cycling Master Plan

Over the past six months numerous e-mails have been sent to the city relating to the master plan without reply.  The WWCA has repeatedly requested a copy of the planned terms of reference and requested a meeting to share ideas for the plan but to no avail.  During this time the plan preparation has been steadily moving forward.  The questioner pointed out that input early into the process is critical otherwise citizens are left to comment on a fait a accompli. The WWCA feels that this pattern could indicate a lack of commitment on the part of the city to citizen participation and open governance.

Is the city committed to citizen participation and open governance and if so when can we meet with the city representative to discuss our ideas? And when can we receive a copy of draft terms of reference for the plan  recognizing that it is not final? What is the status of the plan?

The mayor said that he would be very happy to provide the terms of reference when it is available.  The administration has been told that there must be an active transportation element in the plan.

Councillor Ikeman said that the city has been slow with the Master Plan terms of reference development.  The city has not seen it. It is coming shortly, they are anxious to see it. Once seen they will give WWCA every opportunity to give input to it.

In terms of meeting someone from the city?

Mr Ikeman replied that no one was withholding information but the city has not had anything to work with.  When there is something put forward, at the earliest possible moment with Mr Campbell’s involvement they will try to get something going.

In terms of meeting someone who is working on the plan so we can share our ideas?

The DG said that he had the second draft copy on his desk.  He said that his first obligation is to council.  It is not a question of just turning out a call for tender.  The intent is to seek professional services from these terms of reference which will be of assistance to the city of Westmount.  Need to define exactly what we expect so  the professionals that will be looking at this project will  understand exactly what it is that they have to work on.    He would like to get it to council as soon as possible and see what they think of it.  Is it comprehensive enough?

The city is under another element of provincial law which makes it a bit more difficult to divulge information about forthcoming professional services and this means the city has other steps to go through.

 

Could I have an idea of when we could expect to meet with someone to share our ideas even as a one directional process, even if there are restrictions on giving us information.

The mayor replied  that once council has seen it, they would be more than happy to talk about it.

He said that he didn’t think a member of the public should see the document before Council had seen it.

 

Even if we don’t see the document, but just to say “here are our ideas on the master traffic plan”

 

Coucnillor Lulham said “you sent your document, we all have it, we all read it, we all  know it.  We are engaging professionals to do this. She said that the DG had stated it quite clearly that it is a  big task to come up with terms of reference for all of Westmount.

She told the questioner that at the point where the consultants come back with recommendations, there will be public meetings , then people are very welcome and all the public, all the citizens will be welcome. We can’t favour one group over another.

We are not asking for favouritism.

Councillor Lulham said that she thought that the mayor has been quite clear, that  when we have the terms of reference you will be able to see them.

 

 

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WWCA questions to city council meetings and the answers: December 2010

A representative from the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association said that the association had submitted to the city some proposed Guiding Principles for the Master Traffic plan, some draft terms of reference for the cycling component of the Plan and some sketch maps of potential new walking and cycling infrastructure to encourage less driving and more active transport. The city had told the WWCA that they would receive a copy of the terms of reference for the Plan and that they could meet with the person responsible for the Plan, once this person had been nominated.  The following questions were asked:

Has the city reviewed our proposals?

What is the status of the Master Traffic Plan?

When can we expect to receive the terms of reference?

When can we meet with the City representative to give our ideas?

 

The Director General said that the city has not finalized the terms of reference for the Master Traffic Plan. It was presented to general committee in council 2 to 3 weeks ago, it should be finalized in another week and will be brought back to council for final review.   Council would like to see it before it goes to public tender. Will give WWCA a copy once they have seen it.

 

A questioner from the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association stated that the association thinks that the cost announced for Bixi to be installed in Westmount might not be so high if averaged over 20 years and the services offered by Bixi were considered.  The questioner asked if city had been able to obtain more details of the Bixi proposal and if  negotiations had progressed any further since the last meeting.

The Mayor said that the city has sent a letter to Roger Plamendon to ask for more details about the 609,000 dollar cost and for information on ancillary costs.  The Director General said that the city had not heard back from M. Plamendon.  The Mayor suggested calling him.

 

WWCA questions at City Council meetings and the answers: November council meeting 2010

The Westmount Walking and Cycling Association thanked the council for leaving the de Maisonneuve path open this coming winter on a trial basis, and for the prompt installation of the bike path along Lansdowne.  They hope to monitor the behaviour of cyclists and motorists on the path and give the city a list of possible improvements for it.

The Westmount Walking and Cycling Association has concepts and guiding principals  for the walking and cycling part of the Master Traffic Plan which they would like to share with the city.  They asked who they could meet with to discuss and explain these concepts.

Mayor Trent said that the city will not change its decision to keep the bike path on de Maisonneuve open for this year on a trial basis.  The city would like to see how many bicyclists use the path in winter.

The Director General said the terms of reference for the Master Traffic Plan will be given to the General Committee in Council in two weeks. They have abundant sources of information on the Master Traffic Plan and their problem with be to condense it.  The  Mayor said to wait and see who the point person will be for the Master Traffic Plan in order to plan for a meeting to discuss it.

 

 

WESTMOUNT WALKING AND CYCLING ASSOCIATION PRESENT THEIR IDEAS FOR THE WESTMOUNT MASTER TRAFFIC PLAN TO THE WESTMOUNT MUNICIPAL ASSOCIATION

Dan Lambert and Roger Jochym of the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association attended the Westmount Municipal Association meeting on Jan 17, 2011 to present their ideas for a Westmount Master Traffic Plan.

They hope that their ideas will be helpful to professionals who are soon to be hired by the city to develop a Master Plan, but to this date have been unable to have a meeting with anyone at the city.

The Guiding Principles for the Active transport component of the Westmount Master Traffic plan proposed by the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association give a good overview of the plan presented.

They are as follows:

1.  Westmount and all the municipalities of the island of Montreal must decrease the amount of vehicular traffic flow.  It will take encouragement and a reversal of direction by local governments in supplying ever more infrastructure for traffic flow.   Some infrastructure might need to be deconstructed.  It is of prime importance that the number of vehicles decreases by 10% every 5 years.

2.  Westmount master traffic planning should include active transport, public transport, vehicular transport, and urban parks as integral parts of a mandate.   By this is meant that the interweave of cycling, walking, running, public transport, vehicular transport, the green spaces of parks and green ways, green walls, and pedestrian streets should be designed as a whole, should be exemplary in a way that other communities might follow.  Linking green spaces to walking paths will entice residents to walk.  Not to design all these elements in an integrated fashion will lead to unnecessary design conflicts in the future.

3.  Westmount should have a cycling network.  This network would integrate with those of surrounding boroughs.  This network would make special efforts to encourage the student population to use active transport, especially Westmount High, Dawson, Marianopolis, Selwyn House, International, etc.  This network would be graded according to function or difficulty of grade: “Cycling Paths” “Branch Cycling Paths” “Athletic Cycling Ways”.  Its main pathways should be four-season.

4.  Westmount should have Pedestrian Streets.   By delineation, use of materials, planning, and treatment, certain streets should be pedestrian for various lengths of time, either year round, seasonal, or on certain specific days.  Prime candidates are Greene, parts of Victoria, Sommerville, Prince Albert and Sherbrooke.  They are a key part in regaining Urban Civility.

5.  Westmount should have Bixis.  They are essential part of an active transport city.  It allows being pedestrian at an urban scale all the time, no matter where in the city.

6.  Westmount should have a designated network of Walking Paths that are so laid out as to provide some sanctuary from the hubbub of the city and the constant presence of vehicles.   It would therefore take advantage of the existing parks, certain exceptional laneways, the new linear park along the railway, newly designated greenway streets.  Along these Paths signage would be installed for directions and distances.  There should also be signs to indicate significant places near the Path, i.e. the Hurtubise house.  There would also be certain amenities such as small resting alcoves, small lookouts, foot lighting where necessary.  Part of the Walking Path system should be a network called the Athletic Way that would lead hockey players and swimmers to their complex.  It should be expected that athletes be able to walk or cycle to their hockey or swimming activities, certainly if they are within 1.5 km of the facility, approximately 75% of the population.

7.  Westmount should consider in consultation with running groups, how best to integrate the needs of runners into the Plan.  It is especially crucial at this time since this group is underserved yet significant in numbers, especially since the rebirth of the Montreal Marathon.

8.  Westmount should have design features that give the whole of the city back to the human scale: walking and cycling path signage, reading alcoves, cycling bridges, viewpoints, refuges from rain storms, streams, etc.

9.  Certain Westmount streets should be designated as extensions of adjoining parks, Greenways.  Prime candidates are de Maisonneuve, Montrose, and Belmont Crescent.  Summit Circle, Belvedere, Academy Road, and Melville should be considered as being Park Streets.  These different designations would entail different regulations, treatments, access, plantings, etc.

10.  It is tantamount that for environmental and ecological reasons that Westmount should have a Green Linear Park Wall running along the railroad tracks from the Westmount Railway Station to Atwater.  It would serve as an essential flyway leading birds to various city parks and back yards.   It is would then be a natural extension to the St. Jacques Escarpment.  It would help to filter the air coming off the adjoining expressways and diesel railway engines.  It would also act as a partial sound filter.

11.  Summit Park should be extended to the other side of Summit Circle to the north and down to Côte des Neiges.   It should have pathways and a small stream whose waters would be supplied from a created pond of snow melt and rain waters located within Summit Park.  These new paths should be integrated with the Walking Paths of Mont Royal Park and Mont Royal Cemetery.   The created pond would provide Spring and Autumn wetland for migrating birds, reintroducing in a small way what has been destroyed in and around the island of Montreal.

12.  Westmount’s Plan should, where appropriate, integrate into progressive Plans that may already exist for adjacent boroughs or for the region.  Of course it would be most wise to integrate them with a regional plan, to influence a cohesive visionary plan where the city would be given back to the human scale by various measures through time.   Some of these measures would involve a comprehensive network of infrastructure for active transport; some measures would involve an extension to, intensive improvement to the design quality of, and integrated coordination of the public transport systems; some measures would involve decreasing the volume of traffic flowing into Westmount.  Concerning the last point Westmount should clearly state by resolution the importance it attaches to the redevelopment of the Turcot Interchange.   The Resolution should state that Westmount expects the new interchange to be so designed as to decrease vehicular traffic by decreased capacity and by necessary corollary direct funds to increase public transport by increased capacity and new installations.

13.  Westmount should initiate through its Sports and Recreation department education courses for both the young and adults in proper methods of walking and cycling, and especially in how to protect themselves from accidents with motor vehicles.  Westmount might contact local schools to encourage them to initiate similar courses.

14.  Westmount should insist that the law enforcement bodies ensure that everyone, walkers, cyclists, and drivers proceed with safety through the city.  They should pay special attention to vehicles since their speed, power, and momentum make them extremely dangerous to unprotected walkers and cyclists.  At certain dangerous intersections, the Lansdowne – Ste Catherine for example, Westmount should install photo technology to track infractions.

 

November 2010

GENERAL