Bike paths in Montreal's Sud-Ouest are set to be expanded, prompting concerns about parking
Residents laud new paths along St-Jacques, St-Antoine but some decry loss of parking spots
Shayne Gryn zips down St-Jacques Street on his bike, heading east on his way to work, when a car crosses into his lane, ignoring his right of way. He swerves left, narrowly avoiding being clipped by the vehicle.
He throws up his middle finger, hurls a few choice words and carries on.
Two blocks later, it happens again.
"It was treacherous," Gryn said of his ride. "This morning might've been a bit of an anomaly. It doesn't usually happen twice in one ride, but it's a fairly regular occurrence that drivers aren't checking their blind spots."
He has been doing this commute twice a day for almost 20 years.
He dodges car doors opening, weaving vehicles and traffic from a highway on-ramp.
Last year, he was pleased when the city started building segregated bike lanes along those two streets as part of a major bike path initiative, the Réseau Express Vélo (REV), which should add 184 kilometres of new bike paths in the city.
A 5.4-kilometre stretch of the path is set to run along St-Jacques and St-Antoine Streets, running east to west, from Berri Street to Courcelle Street. It's a strategic route for cyclists, said active transportation expert Dave Beitel.
"It's a great way to get from the western part of the city toward the downtown and back at the end of the day," he said.
A portion of the western part of the route was built last year. The rest — from Guy Street eastward — is set to be finished later this year.
"I'm looking forward to that," Gryn said. "The more we encourage cycling, the more cyclists get on the road, the fewer people will be relying on cars. That's going to ease up traffic, ease up parking for everybody."
But it comes at a cost.
Hundreds of parking spaces lost
The city estimates 300 parking spaces will be eliminated to create the path.
The loss of parking prompted an online petition, calling for the city to reconsider the bike paths.
Longtime Saint-Henri resident and business owner Kim Doucet signed the petition, calling on the city to work with residents to find another solution that would maintain more parking spaces.
"I am for the bike path," she said. "I am just not for the bike path at the expense of all the parking."
She said people in her life, including her mother who has a disability, need access to parking. She also suggested many local businesses have dealt with the pandemic, construction, and now will lose parking spots.
She's critical of the city's handling of the implementation of the bike path.
"If you're going to [remove parking] then at least provide other solutions. They have not," she said.
Doucet is planning to attend an information session on June 2 to ask questions about the project.
Beitel, who has a PhD in active transportation and works as a data researcher for the company Eco-Counter, said there has been a marked increase in the number of cyclists using the corridors already built as part of the REV, notably the St-Denis bike lane.
He said that bike lane is seeing about 8,000 cyclists per day, and he anticipates that number will rise.
He also believes that once the St-Jacques–St-Antoine bike path is finished, it should also see an uptick in users — plus, he says it'll be safer.
He said the lost parking spots only represent a small percentage of the available parking in the area.
"[It] is a drop in the bucket, in terms of our larger parking offer to the entire central city. The trade-off is getting safe biking infrastructure," he said.