Barriers on Jacques Cartier Bridge dangerous for cyclists, Vélo Québec says

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Bike gates on Jacques Cartier Bridge path modified after cyclists point out dangers

In April, newly designed barriers went up at strategic points along the multi-use path meant to be shared by pedestrians and cyclists crossing the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

The barriers are intended to slow down cyclists, preventing accidents. Instead, cyclists are getting injured because of the placement of the gates.

"Ever since they were installed, we've had reports from users saying that they were dangerous, that they couldn't navigate around them, that it caused them accidents, falls and collisions," said Magali Bebronne, a spokesperson for Vélo Québec.

"They've been complaining about it because they just can't manoeuvre around them."

The barriers — also known as chicanes — are placed three in a row, in five different locations on the bridge. They require the cyclist to slow down and snake around them.

Question of safety

The corporation in charge of the bridge says the pathway poses unique challenges.

It is 2.5 metres wide, has several sharp turns and blind spots, and it's open to both cyclists and pedestrians, coming in both directions.

The barriers are there so pedestrians on the path don't have to worry about speeding cyclists, said Nathalie Lessard, the communications director for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated.

"Obviously, our different users have to learn to share the path, and they have to slow down," Lessard said.

"It's a safety issue. We've had two fatal accidents in the past five years on the multipurpose path."

Lack of consultation

However, Vélo Québec suggests it's a question of poor design: cyclists who slow down to maneuvre around the barriers are catching their handlebars on the barriers.

Bebronne says the barriers are clearly a problem, and yet the corporation isn't making changes.

"When you see that the solution you came up with is actually worse than the problem it's supposed to solve, you might just put it on hold, or find a quick solution," she said.

Bebronne says the bridge corporation doesn't have the greatest history with cyclist issues.

For years, there have been calls to make the bridge pathway accessible throughout the winter.

The corporation has been testing out methods of removing snow and ice, but the bridge remained closed to cyclists and pedestrians this past winter.

As for the new irritant of the hard-to-maneuvre-around barriers, Lessard says the corporation continues to collect data and analyze the use of the barriers to see if they are the right fit for the bridge.

But for now, they will remain.