Sunday, October 2, 2011

Overcrowded bike paths

How many cities can pretend to have this kind of problem hum?
Well, believe it or not, our bike paths are overcrowded, or so it seems. Now, I have made that comment a million times, yet some people seem to remain quite skeptical about this. I totally understand as most North American cities are nowhere close to experiencing this so it is hard to imagine for those who have not been in Montreal recently.

However, it is becoming a problem, not just for cyclists anymore but for pedestrians and municipalities as well. Westmount is one of the many municipalities making up "Montreal".

Here is an article from the Montreal Gazette. Integral and original version can be found here. I did not write it. I have inserted my comment in colour.


Overcrowded Westmount bike path has become safety hazard: group

Residents propose new routes for cycling trail

"The two-way de Maisonneuve bike path that traverses Westmount should be changed to a one-way bike lane running westward, with eastbound cyclists diverted onto Ste. Catherine St. W., says a citizens advocacy group.
Westmount Citizens for Safe Cycling is also recommending cyclists be routed around Westmount Park, that bike lanes running in each direction be added to Ste. Catherine St., and other east-west thoroughfares in the municipality, [...]"

I have no idea who these folks are, so I cannot determine whether friends or foes. 
Yet they are totally right in what they are saying here. What they are recommending corresponds to the newer generation of bike paths: one way only, going in the same direction as the street they are on, allowing for more space each way, i.e. instead of sharing the space for a come lane and a go lane, the entire width is dedicated to a single direction.
De Maisonneuve and Ste Catherine are two parallel streets that go in opposite direction and cross downtown entirely.

"[...] and enforcement be stepped up because the de Maisonneuve path is becoming a dangerously overcrowded commuter throughway.
"Fundamentally it's a safety issue, because cycling certainly has outgrown what that path was intended for when it was opened," said Don Taddeo of the 25-member WCSC, who lives on de Maisonneuve Blvd. [...]"

For the record, that path was opened in 2008 and, as it crosses the entire downtown area, it was always meant to be a commuting throughway.

"[...]As an infrastructure it's inadequate - and given the volume of traffic it accommodates, it's unsafe" for cyclists, motorists (?)  and pedestrians.
The group presented an 18-page brief in early September to Westmount's master traffic-planning committee, formed to find solutions to the municipality's burgeoning congestion.
The number of cyclists using the de Maisonneuve path that connects Notre Dame de Grâce (i.e. NDG)  to downtown has jumped to as many as 500 an hour during peak hours, studies have shown.[...]"

That's actually not that much. There are sections of the cycling network that see a lot more cyclists than this. But I agree that, as they are, the infrastructures are totally insufficient. 

"[...] Of that group, 88.5 per cent ignored traffic signals, a WCSC survey found. [...]"

Totally irrelevant to the discussion and weakens their argumentation. If they are trying to help solve the problem, they should NOT single out, wag fingers at or antagonise cyclists. Everybody knows nobody respects any of the traffic rules in this city and pedestrians are just as bad as cyclists.

"[...] The width of the bike lanes are narrower at several points than the minimum proscribed by Vélo Québec and the provincial transport department, sightlines for cars and cyclists at intersections are restricted, and the path is intersected by numerous streets, lanes and driveways. [...]"

All of this is the result of sucky municipal/administrative planning. In particular, the lack of sightline at intersections is worsened by the fact the the Code rule saying that cars should never park within 5m of any intersection is never enforced by the Police. Everyone complains there is no money in the coffers of the City: this is easy money, how come they are not grabbing it?
Well, you cannot encourage something, all be it passively, and then bitch-and-complain about it.

"[...] The brief notes car traffic along de Maisonneuve Blvd. used to intersect Westmount Park via Western Ave., but in 1976 the city closed the avenue to bridge the northern and southern portions of the park. Now, cyclists on the bike path have replaced the cars, Taddeo said, posing a hazard to pedestrians. [...]"

That's entirely the authorities' fault, who failed to see that cycling is no longer only a recreational activity but has become full fledged transportation again. This was already a visible trend in 2008. 
Bike paths used for transport should never go through parks, sidewalks or other pedestrian turf.

"[...] The WCSC suggests the two-way bike path be phased out over two years.
In its place, a one-way bike lane running westward delineated with painted lines would go from Wood Ave., to Claremount Ave., with a detour around Westmount Park via Ste. Catherine St.
Eastbound cyclists would be routed onto Ste. Catherine St., at Claremount Ave., and transferred back to de Maisonneuve at Wood, one block west of Atwater Ave.
The move may placate residents, but would likely frustrate cyclists forced out of their way on a route that includes a steep downhill pitch with a traffic light at the bottom, followed by an uphill slog.
The WCSCWestmount Ave., and Côte St. Antoine Rd. [...]"

This is all freaking bullshit. 
Again, I don't know who these folks are but this part of their plan is totally lame.

First of all, for some reason, in Montreal, it simply cannot take less than ten years for an idea to go from concept to administrative reality, et encore. Go figure.
Then, they want to remove from cyclists a straight-line throughout path and swap it for a tortuous "turn here, then left, then right" type of detour shit-path. 
And such shit-path will no longer be a protected path anymore (with a border or within a park) but will only be bullshit paint on the road.  Right now most of it is a bollard delineated path.
And not happy with imposing a detour to cyclists, then we'll have to go down a slope, climb back up, bear tons of lights and negotiate even more intersections.
So, we get short-changed.

Now, I am all for sparing and protecting parks but they need to propose something where everyone gets something, win-win style. 
And anyways, cyclists will not respect this. I know I won't. I will continue cycling through the damn park just as I never dismounted during the summer festivals and cycled through the crowds on the Maisonneuve path to no end.

Note to the authorities:
I don't take crap like this anymore and I am not the only one. Show us respect and we will respect you. Do not build a deficient facility and then bitch-and-complain that people are using it too much. Do not have a path running through a park or festival area and then complain when cyclists use it to get around the very way it was intended. Grow balls, use your $@!?&@# brains to plan properly and everyone will be happy.
Build decent facilities and we will use it. Give us crap and we'll shit on it. As simple as that.

"[...] The master traffic planning committee was to present its findings to Westmount's city council Tuesday night.
"When I opened the bicycle lane (in 1992, i.e. the section that runs through the park), it was intended for recreational use and it's really transmogrified into a means of transport, which is good," Westmount Mayor Peter Trent said Tuesday afternoon. "But the problem is we do get a tremendous number of complaints from people on the street. [...]"

All your fault. Should not have waited until the situation got to this point. 

For the record though: 
Westmount is an extremely high income area, a very bourgeois neighbourhood, golden ghetto-style, that has a particularly high proportion of elderly people who get scared pour un oui ou pour un non. They can get heart attacks at the very sight of their own shadows. So they are scared of bicycles, which is understandable. We all know cyclists are reckless delinquants who snatch old ladies handbags and cycle away with an evil laugh.
Yet, they are not scared of driving those Mercedes down three blocks to go get a loaf of bread, which is somehow a lot less understandable. 

Oh, and while we are on the subject of big fancy cars, wished those elderly eyesights got checked a bit more seriously, you know, could spare the city quite a few deaths every year, particularly among pedestrians. Ahem.

"[...] The municipality is open to converting the path to a oneway lane, Trent said, "but where do you put bicycles going the other way? Our eastwest arteries are completed blocked. [...]"

No they're not. Somebody simply does not have the courage to put their foot down on that nonsense.
Take a full lane from both Ste Catherine and de Maisonneuve, build decent PROTECTED bike paths and that's it. There is NO reason to be driving in that area, there are more metros stations and bus lines than needed in the sector. If needed, increase their frequency. People drive down there because it's feasible. Prevent it and the mess stops.

"[...] I do know one thing - we have a real conundrum. We can't handle the cars, we can't handle the bikes and sometimes we can't handle the pedestrians. [...]"

Then somebody is lazy. Or incompetent. Or both.

"[...] It's really a problem. [...]"

No it's not. 
You're the problem. Grow @#%@?& balls, that's all that is needed.
Hint: a colleague of yours grew quite a nice pair over there in the Plateau area and it is working.

The problem will only get worse once work begins on the Turcot Interchange, Trent noted.

Hell yes! This is gonna be an absolute mess but one that they'll have to suck up on their own. The Turcot interchange is one of the dumbest projects this city has ever gotten into.


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