A bike bridge to safety

UPDATE OCT. 24 2012

The Monitor reports the MUHC has clarified its plans for Vendôme metro access. Morgan Lowrie reports MUHC spokesperson Julie Paquet says the MUHC has already built a pedestrian tunnel to the hospital’s underground parking lot and remaining work involves linking the existing pedestrian tunnel (the one linking the metro with the AMT commuter train station) with the new one.

As well, Paquet says the MUHC is in favour of a second entrance for the Vendôme metro and has been “the leader on this issue, rallying our partners, the STM and the AMT to move this idea forward.”

The MUHC welcomes area residents to attend a yearly information session on Nov. 13, 7 p.m, at 5100 de Maisonneuve

I have updated the links section to include The Monitor, Westmount Examiner and the Facebook page of the St-Raymond’s Residents Association

It was just after 6 p.m. last Tuesday (Oct. 2) when I saw a community gathering happen in front of the Vendôme metro.

People sang The Wheels on the Bus as a “school bus” snaked its way around the gathering.

Children played, mothers held their babies, helmet-wearing cyclists stood beside their bikes, people chatted and musicians strummed folk songs.

“Build the bike bridge, build the bike bridge,” they chanted.

Representatives and citizens from cycling and pedestrian groups in Westmount and St. Henri joined NDG activists, citizens and NDG district councillor Peter McQueen for a rally centred around the groups’ wishes for the construction of a bike/pedestrian bridge over Décarie Blvd and a safe means for cyclists to stay on the de Maisonneuve bike path when they’re riding past the metro (right now the bike path abruptly ends in front of the metro but resumes past the metro). Afterwards some people headed to the McGill University Health Centre’s “Bon Voisinage” committee meeting to express their concerns to the MUHC.

“We’re going to the Comité du bon voisinage,” Marlo Turner Ritchie told the gathering. “Why?  Because we’re good neighbours.”

At the Glen Yard site behind the Vendôme metro construction of the McGill University Health Centre’s English community superhospital is well under way. But the area around the metro and superhospital already suffers from too much traffic. Some people feel the MUHC’s traffic plan isn’t taking into account community needs for better public transit and alternatives for people who don’t use cars and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists who use the metro.

“This week there’s been a lot of bad news for Montreal and our faith in these institutions is obviously hurting,” said McQueen, a councillor with Projet Montréal, one of Montreal’s opposition parties, referring to ongoing news reports about widespread corruption and Mafia connections in the awarding of municipal and provincial government contracts. “What we have here with the bike and pedestrian path is an opportunity…What an opportunity for the MUHC and the current administration in Montreal to give something back to the community of NDG and build us our bicycle path, our pedestrian path so we can safely get to the metro station…How about for once a project put together by the people of NDG for the people of NDG?”

The closing of the Upper Lachine Rd. underpass leading to Décarie Blvd. will be a huge hassle for residents of the St. Raymond section of NDG, the area below the CP tracks. Current plans call for a new exit ramp allowing highway access through Addington but so far there’s no sign the city is revisiting a decision to close off Upper Lachine to traffic. Many people count on the 90 bus to get them from Upper Lachine Rd. to the metro but with that access taken away, getting to the metro will be a hellish. McQueen wants the city of Montreal to convince the MUHC to change its traffic plan.

“They’re going to build a new exit (on Addington) just to bring more cars,” said McQueen. “They’re not going to let the cars turn right. They’re all going to have to turn left to come right here in front of our metro station,” said McQueen.  “This is idiocy….In the 21st century they have to wake up to what transit-oriented development means.”

Some Westmount residents also worry about the impact of having a huge influx of people and traffic in a small area.

“This whole area between Claremont and Décarie is already filled to capacity with people and cars, and buses and bicycles,” Dan Lambert of the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association told me.

“Multiply the number of people, let’s say by three and we just can’t see how this could work. We think de Maisonneuve should be shut off to private vehicles between Claremont and Décarie only open to buses and taxis and pedestrians. This would be what we call Place Vendôme. And with the bike path the only safe way we can imagine cyclists to get from NDG through into Westmount we could have a bike bridge and run the bike path behind the metro station, beside the tracks and patch back at de Maisonneuve up at Claremont.”

The groups’ fight for a bike/pedestrian bridge, a second main entrance for the Vendôme metro and a new exit for the Saint Raymond section of NDG has and will continue to receive terrific coverage in local media. Andy Riga of the Montreal Gazette, for instance, has done an excellent job reporting  on the issue – check out his report on why cycling and pedestrian activists want the bridge built.

My questions/concerns

The activism is fantastic but is it achieving results?

Public consultations on the city’s to close the Upper Lachine underpass are happening in November. Will they make a difference?

What will the MUHC do? Does political will exist with city officials to address citizen concerns and improve the current MUHC traffic plan? McQueen mentioned he invited CDN-NDG borough mayor Michael Applebaum (who is also president of Montreal’s executive committee) and Snowdon district city councillor Marvin Rotrand (who is also vice-president of the STM and Majority House Leader for Montreal city council) to attend the rally. It’s unclear if these Union Montreal folks would be willing to put aside politics and work with McQueen, who represents the opposition Projet Montréal.

McQueen said a second entrance to the Vendôme metro will cost a lot of money. Where will this money come from?

I don’t understand why there is even a fight to allow bus, cyclist and pedestrian access to Upper Lachine, considering population density, the number of people who count on public transportation to get around and the times we live in. It’s not as though Montreal needs to encourage car use. We would be better off changing some parts of our neighbourhoods so that they don’t revolve around having a car.

This superhospital is going to make getting around the St. Raymond section of NDG or anywhere near the metro and bordering areas of Westmount and St. Henri a nightmare. Right now construction is causing heavy traffic and it’s difficult to get to the Vendôme metro by bus in a reasonable amount of time. Buses are detoured several blocks past the metro into Westmount. If you’re counting on a bus to take you to the metro you have to leave home early or allow extra time in case of delays. The de Maisonneuve bike path (Claire Morissette bike path)  has never been properly finished around the metro and that section of town has long been hazardous for pedestrians. You’d think the area surrounding a metro station would be pedestrian friendly. You’d think it would be progressive, even healthy to encourage alternatives to cars (taxis could be the exception) in the area. My son has asthma and the Montreal Children’s is supposed to relocate to the superhospital site. Will asthmatics have to negotiate dense traffic and car fumes on their way to the hospital? Will you need a car to get to the hospital safely?

With Upper Lachine Road closed to traffic, the St. Raymond section of NDG will not only be cut off but the already dense traffic in the area will increase. Something has to change and soon.

For more info

St-Raymond’s Residents Association

Rassemblement métro Vendôme RALLY!

NDG Cyclist & Pedestrian Association

Westmount Walking and Cycling Association

MUHC Good Neighbourly Relations Committee

Office de consultation publique de Montréal

Andy Riga, Montreal Gazette city blogger and transportation reporter

Isaac Olson, NDG/Hampstead/CSL Free Press

P.A. Sevigny, The Suburban

The Monitor

The Westmount Examiner

Rally for Decarie bridge; Pedestrian access to MUHC, John Symon, The West End Times

No end in sight for Vendôme traffic snarls, Tracey Lindeman, CULT MTL

2 thoughts on “A bike bridge to safety

    1. What do you mean? De Maisonneuve is not being shut off. It’s the Upper Lachine underpass that will be closed. Are you referring to the Dan Lambert’s suggestion of limiting traffic on de Maisonneuve?

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