The five-way intersection of Décarie and de Maisonneuve Blvds. is certainly a headscratcher.
It slopes, there is a train overpass, there are bike paths. Upper Lachine Rd. forks off at an odd angle. Add in pedestrians from the nearby Vendôme métro, the surrounding residential area and the McGill University Health Centre a few metres away and it is arguably one of the most treacherous crossroads in Montreal for anyone trying to navigate it on foot, aboard a vehicle and, especially, by bike. And things will only get more complicated once a short section of de Maisonneuve just west of the intersection is opened to two-way traffic.
To be fair, the intersection no doubt poses a serious design quandary for even the most ingenious engineers.
But this is a puzzle Montreal is going to have to get a lot better and a lot faster at solving, as cycling continues to grow in popularity as a mode of transit. The current state of affairs is symptomatic of a tendency of officials to pay lip service to the importance of two-wheeled transport, but then fail to address some of the most pressing problems, especially when it comes to safety.
Montreal has indeed made great strides in installing hundreds of kilometres of bike paths, like the arteries on de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Rachel St. It also has an ambitious plan to expand the network — but it is already far behind in implementing it. Existing routes have become victims of their own popularity. They are now so crowded that they displace many avid cyclists onto parallel streets where there is no protection. Worse, these long stretches dedicated to cycling often end abruptly, putting cyclists at risk. Two examples are the path on St-Urbain St. that ends at the bottom of a hill with little room for cyclists to turn onto President Kennedy Ave., or the dodgy design of a brand-new path on St-Laurent Blvd. from Mile End into Rosemont.
These intersections are tough to configure so that everyone is accommodated. But there seems to be a lack of willingness to find a safe, common-sense solution for cyclists, especially if that means added costs. The city also simply neglects to make room for cycling when it’s not convenient, like on the grand new Robert Bourassa Blvd. or the Rockland St. overpass.
Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council is taking a wait-and-see approach to adjusting the flow of traffic at de Maisonneuve and Décarie. Officials want to see the impact of the opening of the new superhospital over the coming year. This is understandable. But the risk in waiting is that a bad accident occurs, one in which someone is badly injured, or even killed.
This has been the tragic case with other areas known to pose problems, such as the dark, narrow underpass on St-Denis St. where cyclist Mathilde Blais was crushed under the wheels of a transport truck last summer. Already this year, only a few weeks into the cycling season, Vélo Québec is sounding the alarm about a series of cycling accidents that have left one dead and two seriously injured.
No one should have to die before safe, adequate cycling infrastructure is pushed up the city’s priority list.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Montreal Gazette Editorial: Cycling safety should be a high priority
Deegan - AKA DCMontreal - is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and Freans and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow him on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+