A bike path set in stone in the heart of Montreal is a lovely metaphor, but I just have one question…
Is this for real?
Fortunately, I have a friend who was involved in planning this particular strip of bike path, so I can ask him straight up.
And he says yes, really, From Bleury to Saint-Urbain street, this pretty strip of paving stones is gonna be our bike path.
But it’s bumpy to begin with, and I can only imaging it getting worse in time as winter rattles the stones.
My friend is able to assuage my fears a little by explaining that the paving stones are resting on a concrete slab, which is covered in a fine layer of sand. They can’t budge more than a few millimeters. As proof, he points to the ones in the Quartier International which are still in near-perfect condition after 5 years.
But that said, he suggests one of the objectives of this design was to slow down both automobile and bicycle traffic in the Place des Spectacles.
Slow down cyclists? But the de Maisonneuve bike path is cyclists’ only East-West route through the city! The city is supposed to be encouraging cycling! As far as I’m concerned, this like building a highway out of cobblestone: it’s quaint but its not functional.
Well, says my friend, that is my first problem: the whole notion of highway-building is outdated, especially in the urban core. Fractioning up the urban landscape to accommodate different functions and zooming people through the city with maximum efficiency are a thing of the past. We’re moving towards shared streets that foster coexistence and a mixity of uses.
Um…ok, but isn’t it a little dangerous to differentiate the sidewalk and the bike path with a mere change in shades of grey?
Apparently I am underestimating people. People can learn and soon this bit of bike path will be set in Montrealer’s minds. Eventually the bike path will be used so heavily that the cyclists’ presence will speak for itself.
24 hours a day? 12 months a year? To tourists?
Having come near colliding with pedestrians on the regular bike path, which is clearly separated from the sidewalk by a curb, I am skeptical. Can’t we at least get some posts or something?
Nope – one of the conditions of the Place des Spectacles plan is that it can’t have any objects in it except for trees. It seems that even removable posts impose too much additional work on event organizers. When it comes down to it, this area was conceived first and foremost as a concert venue…
The real problem, my friend adds, is that this one and only cross-town bike path will be closed for festivals for a good deal of the summer.
I don’t know what to think anymore…What do the cyclists and pedestrians out there have to say?