There were several assertions about the cost and safety of the Westmount bikepath published last week (Taddeo, Edelstein et al) that do not stand up to scrutiny. First of all, the cost estimates, I believe, have been exaggerated by both the media and the City administration. Figures as high as $175k are quoted. From the announcement of this year’s opening, one can clearly see there is no additional cost in snow removal for the bikepath since it will be treated just like the rest of de Maisonneuve. It was apparent that much of the additional cost incurred last year was due to contractors illegally dumping snow on the street – a problem all over Westmount which costs all of us money. One thing is also clear – the compromise we make to live in this climate is to accept the cost of snow removal for all our streets and sidewalks. One could argue that certain sidewalks in Upper Westmount, say, are barely used. Is it worth the cost to keep them open? Yes it is – that’s what we have collectively decided to do.
For the parking revenue loss estimates, the only fair way to see what, if any, loss of revenue there was is to compare the year-on-year figures from the year when the bikepath was closed to last year, when it was kept open (adjusting for any changes in parking rates). No-one, as far as I am aware, has performed this analysis yet. Given that the meters are not occupied 100% of the time, it could well be that the loss in parking revenue is much much lower than that quoted so far. This will only be answered when the figures are made available.
For the safety concerns, Don Taddeo asserts that the path is dangerous in all seasons – yet there are no accident statistics to back up this claim. A study, commissioned by the CURA project on traffic safety in Westmount (presented to the WMA in February this year), demonstrated that the bikepath is the safest route for cyclists in Westmount. To suggest that it would be safer to close the path and have cyclists negotiate their way along Sherbrooke or St Catherine, with buses and trucks etc., defies logic. The WSCS focuses their attention on the narrow definitions of the dimensions of a bikepath, neglecting to include the fact that de Maisonneuve is a quiet street without buses or trucks. Hopefully bikepaths will be built on these other streets, but for the winter 2011-2012 season there are none and it is disingenous to suggest this is safer. Since the majority of the members of the WCSC are not cyclists themselves, their recommendations are about as credible as mine would be musing about the dangers, or otherwise, of, for the sake of argument, rock climbing.
If we, as a community, are serious about reducing the volume of traffic on our streets, then we have to make it possible for alternatives to be practicable. Given our warming climate (caused, no doubt, by greenhouse gas emissions from the burgeoning number of cars), then the number of people who will use active transportation year-round will only increase. The best time to start this reduction is now.