Cyclist are calling for the multipurpose path that runs along the Jacques Cartier Bridge to be open year round despite the snow, sleet and slush of winter.
On Saturday morning, a small group of demonstrators met at the entrance to the path in Montreal. They are hoping that, with a little bit of pressure, the federally-run Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Corporation will change their current policy.
At the moment the corporation closes the path, which is used by cyclists, pedestrians and joggers, after the first snowfall. It reopens when they deem it to be safe, dry and clear.
Cyclists say the path is a "vital link" for many who want to commute to work or school by bike.
"People who don't use cars or would prefer not to use cars to get between Montreal and the South Shore have no other choice," said Mike Muchnik, who is a spokesperson for the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
He added that using the Metro can also be difficult because cyclists are not allowed to bring bikes into trains during rush hour.
Despite the barriers put up while the path is closed, some cyclists choose to jump them, bike in tow, he said.
'Unreasonable' to not clear path
It's not the first time the bridge corporation has been asked to allow access to the path year round.
"For 10 years now we've been asking to have this bridge open in winter, and they've done nothing," said Montreal Bike Coalition spokesperson Daniel Lambert.
According to Lambert, some cyclists are forced to go to extreme lengths to continue using their bikes after the path is closed, such as keeping two bikes — one in Montreal, the other in the South Shore, and they use the metro to get in between the two.
Lambert said the path is often free of snow and it would not take much work to make sure it's safe to circulate.
"We think it's very unreasonable that the corporation doesn't clear the bicycle path in the winter," he said.
Both Lambert and Muchnik point out that keeping the bridge open will help promote sustainable transportation and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Pilot project to come
Cyclists may not have to wait much longer, the bridge corporation is preparing for a pilot project that will be launched next winter, said spokesperson Julie Paquet.
Paquet said the corporation will be testing "different solutions and find the maintenance scenario that's best adapted" to the bridge's infrastructure.
She added up until this point, they've had to close the path because of the challenges associated with maintenance, such as its width, slopes and higher risk of black ice due to the proximity to water.
According to Paquet the path may reopen for the season on Sunday, as long as it is clean and dry.