Montrealers should be consulted before bike paths installed, says city hall opposition

·4 min read

Montreal's opposition party is calling on the Plante administration to stop installing bike paths without checking in with residents and merchants first.

"We are demanding that, each time they come up with a new bike path on an arterial road, they need to go ahead with a public consultation," said Coun. Francesco Miele, deputy leader of Ensemble Montréal.

He said merchants and residents need to be informed and a complete traffic study must be completed before a project moves forward.

This would be contrary to how Projet Montréal conducted business in 2020, installing transportation corridors and bike paths across the city without consultation.

Many projects were adjusted and others removed completely as citizens decried the loss of parking and the narrowing of already busy roads that often serve as bus, truck and commuter routes.

The planned Réseau express vélo (REV) is a 184-kilometre bike path project that has so far had sections completed on streets like Souligny, Bellechasse and St-Denis.

On St-Denis, merchants have panned the construction project. On Bellechasse, 800 parking spots were lost.

"These are just a few examples of the amateurism of Projet Montréal," said Miele.

Miele said it's clear the Plante administration has proceeded deliberately "just pushing a political agenda and doing it on the back of Montrealers."

Build first, adjust on the fly

Mayor Valérie Plante led her party to victory in 2017, promising a more transparent leadership that would work closely with the public.

Instead, the party has been initiating projects with little warning and adjusting them on the go, when people voice concerns, Miele said.

While Ensemble is presenting a motion Thursday specifically focused on arterial roadways, there are several other examples of projects that sparked public outcry.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

For example, the controversial bike path that eliminated parking along Terrebonne Street in Montreal's west end was voted into an early grave after people complained.

And closing Camillien-Houde Way to through traffic over Mount Royal was hotly contested.

One of the most high-profile projects is on St-Denis Street. The new bike path required adding cement infrastructure that narrows sections of the busy north-south artery.

Roughly 60 worried merchants along the commercial strip signed an open letter this summer opposing the incoming bike lanes and they even threatened legal action over the project.

Ombudsman report criticizes bike path projects

Last month, the city's ombudsman published a report that found there was a lack of information given to the public about bike path projects and there were even safety concerns at some intersections.

In that report, the ombudsman concluded the city had sometimes ignored the principles of "security, universal accessibility, citizen participation and information."

Between May and October, the ombudsman's office received more than 300 complaints regarding the active transit corridors as well as the construction of various bike paths.

Isaac Olson/CBC
Isaac Olson/CBC

"This amalgamation of work created a great deal of confusion among Montrealers," said Nadine Mailloux, who took over as the city's ombudsman in August.

Mailloux highlighted that complaints came from a wide variety of people, including seniors, people with mobility issues, and cyclists.

Plante defends bike path bonanza

In its Thursday motion, Ensemble wants both residents and business owners to not only be consulted, but also informed of the project and the impact it will have on traffic.

Geneviève Jutra, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, said the motion will be discussed at council.

She said there has been public consultations on the REV. The administration is also working on its urban and mobility plans. These plans will include consultation and consensus building, she said.

In the past, Plante has argued there's a disconnect between the way city initiatives such as bike paths and pedestrian-only streets are depicted in the news media and how residents actually feel about them.

She said there are plenty of people who are happy with the new infrastructure.

As for the controversial bike path on St-Denis, Plante has said there are no plans to stop the work as the project was born out of a need for safety.

"We will continue to adjust and find accommodations, but this project was developed according to the rules," she said.