Mount Royal 'is ours,' Montrealers tell panel at public consultation

About 75 Montrealers attended a public information session Thursday evening, hoping to get some more clarity about the city's plan to ban vehicles from driving across Mount Royal.

About 75 people attended session about pilot project that will ban cars from crossing over the mountain

About 75 people attended a public information session Thursday evening to learn more details about the city's new pilot project that will close a section of Camillien Houde Way to most motorized traffic for five months. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

About 75 Montrealers attended a public information session Thursday evening, hoping to get some more clarity about the city's plan to ban vehicles from driving across Mount Royal.

The meeting was the first phase of the public consultation process looking into the pilot project, which kicks off in three weeks.

Starting June 1, a section of Camillien-Houde Way will be closed off to all motorized traffic, meaning drivers cannot get from the east side of the city to the west side via the mountain.

Only city, school and tourist buses, along with emergency vehicles and funeral processions, will be allowed to cut across the mountain.

The pilot project runs until Oct. 31.

"To travel the jewel of the mountain, to have 10 minutes of scenery, how dare they take that from me?" said Westmount resident Arlene Lutter.

Lutter said she drives across the mountain, via Camillien-Houde Way, almost every Saturday and Sunday to enjoy the scenery.

"It's ours.…The mountain road belongs to all of us — to cyclists, to pedestrians, those in wheelchairs and to those of us who love the joy and pleasure of traversing the mountain in our cars — and that was taken away from us."

The city will close car traffic between the two parking lots on either side of the summit, only allowing buses, pedestrians, cyclists, emergency vehicles and funeral processions. (Ville de Montreal)

Michael Silas is also against the idea of blocking traffic, so much so that he started a petition calling for a public consultation.

"I think there is no point to it whatsoever," he said. "It's just simply unnecessary to ostracize every motorist and taxpayer in the city who enjoys taking that road."

The pilot project comes after an 18-year-old cyclist, Clément Ouimet, died last October when he collided with an SUV that pulled a U-turn in front of his bicycle on Camillien-Houde Way.

Silas said he doesn't think the city's proposal will improve safety on the mountain.

"You are limiting such a small amount of traffic, in the name of public safety, when you haven't actually done anything to improve bicycle safety yet."

Victor Rodrigue, who lives in Côte-des-Neiges, says while he'd like to bike on the mountain, he's a new father and getting his baby around is easier by car.

"To cross the mountain, when you have a kid, it's much more simpler that way."

Clarifying a controversial project

The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) said the goal of the evening was to clarify details about the pilot project and answer people's questions.

"We know that this one had a lot of controversy around it so, we're just trying to make all the information available to people," said Dominique Olivier, president of the OCPM.

A man takes a photo of the Montreal skyline from Mount Royal. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Another information session will be held May 15 at 7 p.m. at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Church, 5320 Côte-des-Neiges Rd.

Once the pilot project kicks off, the OCPM will be collecting data. People can weigh in online or attend upcoming meetings in November.

"What is important for me as president of the OCPM, which is a neutral third party, is to hear what the citizens have to say about that and be able to make recommendations for the future before the final decision is made. That's the point of a pilot project."

The OCPM will file a report with its recommendations about two months after the pilot project ends.

With files from CBC reporter Navneet Pall


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