Poor neighbourhoods more dangerous for pedestrians

“Pauvres piétons” exclaimed the front page of La Presse today. Inside the paper, a series of articles look at pedestrian safety in the city, noting that the number of pedestrians injured each year continues to increase.One article makes the startling—though not surprising—revelation that low-income pedestrians are far more vulnerable to being injured by cars, the reason being that wealthier neighbourhoods are much likelier to restrict automobile traffic than poor ones. You can see this for yourself: wander around Outremont or Westmount and you’ll notice stop signs on every corner, well-marked crosswalks, speed bumps and (especially in Westmount) lots of barriers against through traffic. Take a walk in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and you’ll see streets that are designed not for safety but for swift movement of traffic.

To its credit, the city has acknowledged this disparity and will be taking steps over the next year to address it. Already, important measures have been taken to calm traffic in neighbourhoods across the city, including the installation of speed bumps and mid-block stops on residential streets and corner bulb-outs on major arteries. In the summer, more and more streets are being narrowed with flower pots and planters. All of these measures have been proven to slow drivers down: on Waverly Street in Mile End, where speed bumps were installed between Bernard and Van Horne, the average speed of cars fell from 36 km/h to 28 km/h. The overall number of cars that drove down the street fell by more than a quarter. Over the next year, the city will also improve pedestrian safety on major streets, reports La Presse:

La Ville compte donc revoir l’aménagement de 64 carrefours cette année. Le chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges sera notamment visé entre le chemin Queen Mary et la rue Jean-Talon. La rue Notre-Dame Est ainsi que plusieurs rues des arrondissements du Plateau-Mont-Royal, de Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie et de Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension sont aussi touchées.

Plusieurs types d’aménagement ont été retenus. Les trottoirs seront notamment élargis pour ralentir les voitures et diminuer le temps de traverse des piétons. La visibilité pourra aussi être améliorée avec des interdictions de stationnement au coin des rues.

Il y a aura aussi la modernisation de feux de circulation, notamment par l’implantation de «feux en aérien», visible au milieu de la chaussée.

Still, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, especially with billions of dollars now being poured into Montreal’s roads. The Notre-Dame controversy is one example. Although it is meant to relieve congestion and thereby remove cars from east end streets, its plan to increase Notre-Dame’s capacity by more than 20,000 cars per day could very well backfire and end up dumping even more cars into east end neighbourhoods — the very poverty-stricken neighbourhoods that have, until now, been deprived of traffic-calming measures.

I’m curious to hear your take on this. Which streets and which intersections do you think are the most dangerous for pedestrians? How can they be improved?


  1. I tend to be a speedy driver, but I know when you hit residential areas, or any area where kids might be, you have to slow and most certainly; safe is better then sorry.

    road blocks, speed bumps and stop sign are a great idea for residential areas.

    I feel that I have to point out though, that this past year there have been many pedestrians hit by cars in Little Burgundy and I haven’t heard of one where the driver was charged, they were all cases of jay walking and that is a problem that Montreal has as much as speeding. Both sides need to keep their eyes open.

  2. Living on the border of St-Henri and Westmount makes these reports all the more telling. One block up the hill, calm and serene. Two blocks south, and well, someone was shot two weeks ago. Ok so my intersection of most disregard would be Greene and St-Antoine. Zoom in with google maps and you can see why. Northbound Greene jogs a little to the left at St-Antoine which causes the ‘normal’ imagined stop line on St-Antoine west to appear closer to the intersection then it really is.

    Compounding this effect are the lousy painted stop lines Montreal slaps on the roadway around July or August. This line is nearly invisible come late December on roads as heavily traveled as St-Antoine. Which means there is only a visual aid on this disjointed intersection for half the year.

    I would suggest thermoplastic line painting (stop line and crosswalks) for high traffic intersections which would last years, not months.

  3. Just thinking about crosswalks this morning and how they totally don’t do their job in this city. Almost no one stops.

    And in this weather the stripes on the road, being in only indication of a crosswalk, are not even visible.

    We gotta get this right. It is a first step in becoming a pedestrian friendly city.

  4. pedestrian here –
    my extra-wary making intersections are:
    – St-Laurent and Fairmount – Fairmount does a jog here, the stop line is invisible most months of the year, so many people stop for the right-hand corner, and so end up half in the intersection, and on top of the pedestrian crosswalk.
    – St-Laurent x Van Horne – at the triangle building/water tower, where traffic can veer left off St-Laurent. Again, speed is the issue, but there are also lighting issues here.
    – St-Laurent x Bellechasse at the Canadian Tire. People turning right onto Bellechasse feel they have to do this quickly or get rear-ended, but pedestrians crossing here take their lives in their hands.

    Part of the problem seems to be that anytime drivers see anything resembling an autoroute, they speed up. Same issue on Park x Pine, even post-changes. This mentality must change!

    – any intersection off St-Denis, from Rosemont to Crémazie. The traffic’s way too fast & many people burn the lights, and the traffic lights are often the “guess how long you have” types.
    – any intersection off Christoph-Colomb, again Rosemont to Crémazie. Same problem.

  5. I live north of the St-Laurent/Bellechasse deathtrap and we have succeeded in getting traffic lights at the corners of Beaubien and St-Dominique + de Gaspé.

    There is NO safe place for pedestrians to cross Bellechasse – there are no street lights west of St-Denis. We are trying to figure out where to ask to have one installed.

    I do like the new lights that count down the seconds pedestrians have. Much safer.

  6. I think a light at Henri-Julien x Bellechasse would be a good idea. Henri-Julien below Bellechasse is two-way, and fairly high traffic, especially at rush hour. Because there is so much turning at this corner, it’s usually the only place where traffic is slow enough to be able to cross. It’s a little east of mid-St-Laurent / St-Denis, but not a bad choic, IMHO.

    This may not be the best place to ask – will ask again on a more recent blog posting, but :

    What precisely constitutes a crosswalk in Montreal? Does it have to have flashing lights for drivers to be obligated to stop (like perhaps 40 or 50% do), or do strong orange lines count? I’ve been told some incredibly foul-mouthed things trying to cross in such places. My assuming I might have a right of way or anything like it seemed to be completely outrageous…

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