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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Between design and day-to-day in the QDS

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safety 1; design 0
After the construction crews pack up, after the fanfare of the grand opening, after the grass takes root and the dust settles, only then begins a quieter negotiation between designers and users of a public space. Look closely at the QDS and you’ll see small signs of evolution, as design ideals are confronted with day-to-day use.

Back in 2010, I posted a critique of a bike path that was only differentiated from the sidewalk by the shade of the grey paving stones. Dozens of Spacing Montreal readers commented about the potential dangers of this design. A year and a half later, the elegant paving stones have been painted over with more blatant indications for cyclists and pedestrians. Whether this came about after accidents, complaints, or simply as a matter of due course, it is evidence that, somewhere, a compromise has been struck between aesthetics and practicality.

Meanwhile, a desire path that was scuffed into the grassy public place at De Maisonneuve and Clark earlier this summer has been re-turfed.
desire path dashed



  1. It’s probably safe to assume that shortcut/desire path will re-emerge before the end of fall…
    Curious: was it re-turfed by City of Montreal workers or a private company responsible for the greenery & landscaping of the QDS area?

  2. Actually, I kinda like the giant white bike and ped markings. They seem crisp, and visually striking. I also feel like they are very emblematic of Montreal: striving to be European but still very North American, a bit bizarre and DIY, and not afraid to try new things now and go back and fix them later.

  3. Ok, put a hundred kids out of a concert on this sidewalk. Do they see the painted man ? The bike path belongs in the street. Pedestrians must know that they put themselves in the trajectory of moving vehicles if they stray into the bike path. A raised sidewalk does that, even if many don’t care along that de Maisonneuve path, but it’s a strong signal.

  4. @Jacob, “a bit bizarre and DIY”, yes, but “not afraid to try new things”? I think that this is more the result of dysfunctional management, than anything intentional.

    And if only someone would in fact look at the results and then follow up (or fix things) later! There seems to be virtually no effort to learn from mistakes here, and it is appalling how hard it seems to be to put some paint on the streets – as in cross-walks and other necessary infrastructure. Tearing up an intersection and building new concrete barriers will get done faster than putting down some paint! And then we wonder why the city has no money….

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