Westmount Likely to Close de Maisonneuve Bike Path this Winter
It appears that Westmount is planning on closing the de Maisonneuve bike path this winter – this has not yet been confirmed officially, but has been reported in the local media. The Westmount Walking and Cycling Association (WWCA) is extremely disappointed by this step backwards – it is a testament to the lack of commitment by the City to active transportation.
In 2010, the City committed to promoting cycling in its Sustainable Development Plan. In the spring of 2011, the City announced the Master Traffic and Active Transportation Management Plan to reduce motor vehicles traffic and promote active transportation, of which cycling is a key component. For this modal shift from driving to active transportation, and for cycling to contribute to that shift, year-round safe passage for cyclists must be provided. If cycling is limited to a summer activity due to a lack of winter bike paths, then will never become a significant component in the daily transportation mix.
Despite the City’s commitments, it is doing exactly the opposite by closing the path and thereby discouraging year-round cycling. It appears that the City’s reasons for closing the path this winter are construction projects adjacent to the path and need to change snow removal methods. The construction projects include the new Recreation Centre, the Redfern Condo project and the 1250 Greene Condo project. In each case, reliable sources have indicated that no closure of the bike path is required for those projects to advance. As for snow clearing, last winter, the City tried to keep the bike path officially open, but realised that its snow clearing methods would have to be adapted in line with those by Montreal, which keeps 35 kms of bike paths open in winter, including the de Maisonneuve bike path starting at the east border of Westmount (Ville Marie). Westmount has had a year to adapt its snow clearing methods – this is not rocket science.
A large percentage of cyclists using the bike path are residents from NDG and communities to the west. As part of its objective of reducing motor vehicles through traffic, Westmount would benefit from commuters transiting Westmount on bikes than in cars, so year-round cycling from NDG to downtown should be encouraged. The NDG Cyclists and Pedestrian Association wrote to Mayor Trent urging him to keep the bike path open. By closing the path, Westmount is blocking NDG residents from cycling downtown and forcing them to use public transit or cars, both of which have a negative impact on our health, the environment and our pocketbooks.
Recognising that cyclists have the legal right to cycle year-round, when asked in the past where cyclists should ride if the de Maisonneuve bike path is closed, City officials say cyclists should use Sherbrooke St or Ste-Catherine St. Both those routes are significantly more dangerous for cyclists since they subject cyclists to numerous risks not present on de Maisonneuve, even with construction projects. These risks include: much more traffic, higher vehicle speeds, buses, trucks, risk of dooring, double-parking, frequent jay-walking, etc. All these risks are magnified in winter when car, bus and truck windshields are obstructed by snow and ice and rush-hours are in the dark. For those cyclists who will try to ride on de Maisonneuve because it is safer, despite the construction sites, they will have to contend with construction sites that have not taken any special measures to accommodate cycling.
The WWCA strongly urges the City to recognise its responsibility to provide the safest cycling route possible and therefore keep the de Maisonneuve bike path open to the best of its ability.
Westmount Walking and Cycling Association – October 2011