Bicycles and buses in Montreal have a fairly intimate, and almost always antagonistic, relationship. This is not news to those who’ve used either a these types of transportation at least a few times in their lives (eg. almost everyone). But now the union representing STM bus drivers says the St. Urbain bike path is unsafe, as drivers must constantly cross the path of large numbers of cyclists. The union petitioned the CSST – the province’s health and safety board – to intervene, which refused. (Their mandate is to protect the drivers while at work, not cyclists on their way to it. This may explain why they forgot to mention the danger caused by the many car drivers parking and exiting their parking spaces.)
Rather than allow this little tiff to escalate, Mayor Tremblay has asked the STM to look into this with the union. Let’s hope STM President Michel “Vélo” Labrecque can live up to his name and work out a solution to this most obvious of problems.
This incident prompted me to reflect on my recent bike trip in Ireland and Denmark. Traveling on bike, experiencing how buses and bikes share road space was a fairly visceral part of my travels.
The Copenhagen-style bike lane: so simple, so obvious
Cycling conditions in Irish cities are, in a nutshell, similar to Canadian standards (except for being on the left side, of course, and the many roundabouts). A cycle track (‘ron rothar’ in Irish) consists of either a narrow band taken out of the outer lane (occasionally a long band of auburn paint on the roadway), a painted line on the sidewalk where the path hops up to join the pedestrians for a bit, or is a “shared” lane with buses. Not surprisingly, it was the final configuration that caused the most grief. Why anyone thought putting a vehicle that makes frequent stops and one that avoids stopping as much as possible in the same lane is beyond me, but there we have it. (Regretfully I have no picture to share of the more atrocious ones, but I was generally gripping too tightly to my handle bars to get the camera out. If you’re curious, there’s a website out there that aims to dispel the hype of their city government and tell the world the truth about Dublin bike lanes.)
Cycling in Copenhagen was, by comparison, a much gentler experience, where bike lanes are generally separated from car traffic and pedestrians in a wide, single-directional lane. They also occupy their own space slightly below the sidewalk level and above the road level. In many but not all areas, bus stops are little islands between the sidewalk and the road where bus passengers can board and alight the bus. These aren’t any great secret – we have at a few spots around Montreal – but if they’re well-design and big enough, they make cyclists and pedestrians’ lives much simpler. I’ll probably post some other Copenhagen photos and videos, but I thought this issue was particularly salient at the moment.
Let’s hope the minds that meet to solve this very un-unique problem take the time to learn how other cities are dealing with this issue.