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Street festivals everywhere, all the time

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For the second year, Ste-Catherine street is pedestrianized between Berri and Papineau. As if the village weren’t colourful enough, these yellow banners are aflap at every street corner. Terraces abound, and since they are in place for the entire summer they are all kinds of creative semi-permanent installations.

Ontario street festival

The “Village Ontario” west of Pie-IX is also having a sidewalk sale and kids activities this weekend (until Sunday June 7th). One of the best parts of sidewalk sales is that we get a taste of street food – on Ontario street this means middle-eastern BBQ and pastries, Salvadorian pupusas, stuffed baked potatoes, and of course the staple pizza slices and casse-croute fare.

Downtown drivers may want to give up altogether this weekend as a full 52 kms of roadway will be taken over by cyclists for the Tour de l’Ile.

And this is just the beginning. In case I forget to blog about it later, Mount-Royal Ave will be closed to traffic for Nuit Blanche sur Tableau Noir from June 11-14.

The Main is having its sidewalk sale from June 18-21, between Sherbrooke and Avenue Mont-Royal. The Fringe Festival and Piknik Électronique will be providing music and bizarro spectacles around Parcdes Amériques at that time.

Feel free to add to the list in the comments section!



  1. I’ve been known to be something of a wet blanket when it comes to street festivals and pedestrianization, so I may as well take this opportunity to bang on that old drum and see if anyone shares my views.

    First, I should state from the outset that I’m not philosophically opposed to fun. I’ll even brave the crowds and take in the festive atmosphere from time to time. However, most importantly, I believe in “complete streets”, which basically means that streets can be agreeable places for simply visiting AND transporting people when space is fairly allocated to multiple modes of transport (transit/peds/bikes/cars).

    Ste-Catherine East’s transition from an auto corridor for nine months of the year to a pedestrian mall for the other three ensures it is essentially ‘incomplete’ year round. The diversity of the businesses suffers and Ste-Cath becomes a long, fragmented entertainment district; bars and restaurants love expanding their patios in summer while other businesses grumble about lack of car access. Then, as quick as summer came on, the barriers go down, the cars come back, and all the gains made in the name of “pedestrianism” are forgotten.

    Am I just a party-pooper or is Montreal’s seasonal pedestrianization something of a red herring that actually detracts from larger issues? Are there more permanent solutions that would actually improve the street year-round?

  2. I noticed that “Promenade Fleury” in Ahuntsic is closed to traffic for a street fair of some sort this weekend.

    I more or less agree with Jacob on the closing of streets for festivals. I find that when streets are closed to everything but pedestrians, they become a sort of Disneyland of consumption rather than functional urban spaces. Ste-Catherine in the Village and Prince-Arthur are good examples of this in my opinion. I’m not totally opposed to closing streets to cars (such as Mackay between de Maisonneuve and Sherbrooke or de la Gauchetière in front of the Bell Centre) , but main thoroughfares shouldn’t be totally closed to any kind of traffic, especially bikes and transit. Perhaps vehicle traffic should be limited, but not eliminated all together. It is possible for streets to be friendly to pedestrians while allowing all kinds of traffic with good planning and traffic calming.

  3. I think you’re a party pooper, and it sounds like you don’t know the neighborhood around Ste-Catherine E. very well.

    Even in rush hour it is rare to see gridlock, as most motorists seem to prefer Rene-Levesque or the expressway, as both are more car-friendly and offer the same access to the bridge via Papineau, or points beyond via Notre Dame and De Lorimier.

    Yes, Ste-Catharine E. circulates downtown traffic towards the bridge, but beyond that there is absolutely nothing that suggests “auto corridor.” The street is vibrant with pedestrians all year and the design is actually rather unfriendly to the automobile (the road is narrow, and the blocks are short with frequent stoplights and short turning radii).

    “The diversity of the businesses suffers and Ste-Cath becomes a long, fragmented entertainment district”

    Have you even been down this stretch of Ste-Catherine? For an entertainment district it has a very livable assortment of businesses, and as an entertainment district I think it’s far from fragmented. You’re exaggerating.

    “bars and restaurants love expanding their patios in summer while other businesses grumble about lack of car access.”

    The entirety of this stretch of Ste-Catharine consists of bars, restaurants, clubs, theatres, cafes, small shops, depanneurs, the occasional bank or bookstore, a few grocers and a small hardware store. None of these places are likely to see their business decline because of no door-to-door auto access, while all of them depend on passers by. The dramatic increase in PEOPLE frequenting the street =$$$, and a cessation of complaints from the business group). I’d imagine most deliveries are made from the back anyway, and if not…the blocks are less than 200 feet wide, so the maximum distance between delivery truck and front door is not unfair. Living in this neighborhood it’s amazing to see how the traffic has essentially evaporated on the surrounding streets.

    Allowing a “shared” space, I believe, might work for some corridors…might even be a fantastic idea for some corridors…but not in this case:

    How would a street overwhelmed with pedestrians for much of the year benefit from shared access? Why restrict auto access during the winter, when fewer people are out and the terraces are closed?

    “…is Montreal’s seasonal pedestrianization something of a red herring that actually detracts from larger issues? Are there more permanent solutions that would actually improve the street year-round?”

    What larger issues might you want to discuss, then? How could this be a red herring, when very obviously part of the goal was to make a point to both business-owners and the city that it could work? And they’re doing it again, and for longer this year…choose your battles!

  4. If we had trams along Ste Catherine street and other main thoroughfares, then this wouldn’t be an issue… It is a shame that we have to go from one extreme to another to get a taste of what is common in Europe: Streets that are both a means and an end in themselves, accessible to everyone.
    As someone with limited mobility, the pleasures of a pedestrian only street are out of bounds to me… As such, I fully agree with Jacob.

  5. I think this is nice. What deters me from going to the village is the litter and general dirtiness.

  6. Yes you are just a party-pooper…it’s Summer, just enjoy.

  7. Your corrections are well taken, MB. While Ste-Cath may have its roadway devoted to cars for 9 months of the year – it is an auto corridor only in terms of space allocated (including parking), not speed. And I meant that pedestrianization RISKS Ste. Cath becoming a “fragmented entertainment district”; at this point its fate is not sealed.

    However, even given these corrections, you don’t really address my critiques of seasonal pedestrianization. You write: “How would a street overwhelmed with pedestrians for much of the year benefit from shared access?” I contend: how wouldn’t any street benefit from shared access? About 40% of Montrealers DON’T own a car and I suspect that number is even higher in the Village; couldn’t their needs be better served by a more equitable allocation of the public realm year-round?

    I’m simply suggesting formalizing what it already is already there: a bike lane to protect from cabs cruising for fares, traffic-calmed intersections, and if Montreal ever becomes the transit-oriented city it hopes to be, maybe restricting car access and privileging trams in a dedicated right of way. And there’d still be space to expand the sidewalks. It’s not a utopia (it’s not even just a European thing; Portland, Oregon has this style of transit mall in its downtown “fareless district”).

    But I shouldn’t be too harsh of the city in this case. While I don’t particularly like the result, I appreciate the gesture by Montreal planners. And I suspect this seasonal pedestrianization experiment is just another stage in Ste. Catherine’s continual evolution.

  8. Thanks for posting this – I’m going to go for an Hochelaga street walk today!

  9. I love the summer pedestrian mall in the village. When you enter it from Berrie, you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief as the stress of jostling for space on the too narrow sidewalks, and dodging cars at intersections,gives way to a sense of freedom and liberation.

    Sure, the three blocks of Ste-Catherine from St-Hubert to St-André is still pretty sketchy, but it’s a far less intimidating stretch when there is much more space to dodge panhandlers and drunks.

  10. In response to Jacob – you have to take into account how the seasons affect streetlife and business in Montreal. Terraces, street music and sidewalk sales can only happen a few months out of the year. Easy vehicle access is more important to businesses when its -20 out. The ingredients of your “complete street” would be different in each season.

    Yes, pedestrianization of ste-catherine is a red herring IF you are looking for a clues of a city-wide sustainable transportation movement. As an experiment in whether businesses can thrive without thru-traffic, and as an animated public place that attracts locals and tourists alike, at almost every hour of the day and night it seems pretty successful.

  11. Hmm… well I love the street in the summer, but I’m not so sure Ste-Catherine needs the kind of help you’re suggesting: those in a hurry take a different street, and so people choose Ste-Catherine partly to cruise down and see what’s going on, so they drive slowly and are used to lots of pedestrians and cyclist and double-parking and lots of pulling in and out of parking spaces…

    I’m all for improvements, but sometimes it’s merely over-engineering something that already works. Cars and pedestrians and bikes can indeed share space easily without tons of accidents, and as a cyclist, I feel safer on Ste-Catherine than I do on the de Maisonneuve bikepath, for example.

    (I thought I was going to love the de Maisonneuve bikepath, but I don’t. Surprisingly, despite the concrete separation and huge signs at the intersections and (strangely useless) street lights, I’ve had to brake hard a couple of times as drivers turn left across the bike path without even thinking. I’d say it’s because the separation makes it “feel” like the side of a street to a driver, and those not paying attention just turn as they normally would. I’d have opted for just painting the whole lane green with pictures of bikes on it — not as sexy or as engineered as a solution, but actually more visible.)

  12. Fagstein, thanks for the site on les ventes trottoir! I missed the ones this past weekend as I was working outside Montréal, but this coming week I’ll want to visit the little sale on Bernard (sometimes there is also a rummage sale in a nearby park at the same time) and especially Nuit blanche on ave Mont-Royal.

    Yes, la piste Claire-Morrissette does have problems, but we should see how it can be re-jigged and made safer. Personally I think it should only go in the same direction as traffic flow and there should be another along Ste-Catherine. Tristou, there are a lot of lanes of the nature you describe in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

  13. Jody, sorry I missed your post. I agree that there should be trams at least everywhere they existed before…

    As you probably know, modern trams are very accessible for people with limited mobility, unlike the métro. They are better than even low-floor buses (this from experience in Amsterdam, travelling with a friend using a wheelchair).

    There are trams – and bicycle lanes – along streets even narrower than Ste-Cath.

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