Plan to replace curbside parking with bike paths in NDG pushes forward despite citizen protests
Borough mayor says plan is temporary and can be 'tweaked' later, but resident demands public consultation
Dania Lisney was out walking near her home in Montreal's west end this past weekend when she noticed rows of bright orange signs placed along both sides of Terrebonne Street.
All curbside parking is being removed between Girouard and Belmore avenues to make way for a new bike path, as part of the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council's unanimously approved plan to provide several safe, temporary, active transit routes during the pandemic.
By Friday, flexible posts will line the nearly three-kilometre stretch of Terrebonne to create one-way bike paths on the north and south side of the street.
Cycling advocates have been demanding a protected bike path on the busy stretch of road for years.
But Lisney said eliminating parking without consulting the public has left her and some neighbours livid.
She launched an online petition this week that has already garnered more than 100 signatures while sparking a heated debate on social media.
"As it is, people are really scrambling to find a spot to put their car," said Lisney.
One argument against the bike path is that it will be particularly hard on those with reduced mobility who need to park near their home but don't have a private spot.
Cyclist group applauds plan, while EMSB worries
While Lisney has plenty of fellow residents in her corner, there are many others who support the borough's initiative.
Among them is Jason Savard of the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of NDG. He said students of the four schools along Terrebonne will benefit from the protected path.
"We are welcoming this with open arms," said Savard.
"The implementation of a bike path reduces the speed of all road users so it's even safer for drivers as well as cyclists."
Having protected bike paths on both sides of the street will allow cyclists to be safely separated from cars while following the flow of traffic, he said.
Savard said it could even make life better for motorists, who will be able to easily spot cyclists as they check for cars at the roughly two dozen intersections along the stretch.
However, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has expressed concerns about a plan that could interfere with bus access to schools along the route.
Dozens of buses use Terrebonne as a through street, and parents and teachers park their cars on it daily, according to EMSB spokesperson Mike Cohen.
Yet the borough has been accommodating, he said. School board officials are working with the borough's planning team to come up with solutions.
McQueen says parking should be preserved on 1 side
Coun. Peter McQueen has advocated for a bike path on Terrebonne for more than a decade, and he voted in favour of this omnibus plan back in June.
The NDG district councillor says he approved the plan as presented, thinking there would be room to negotiate.
But he is opposed to eliminating all the parking and has been pushing borough Mayor Sue Montgomery to only cut parking on one side. That way, painted lanes could be installed instead, he said.
Another option is to make Terrebonne one-way for cars so that a two-way, protected bike path would replace only one parking lane.
McQueen said he told Montgomery "there is still time to change it now."
Amazing how many emails + calls and I am not even a NDG Councillor. Neighbourhood really up in arms over Terrebonne removal of all parking. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/polmtl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#polmtl</a>—@MarvinRotrand
The mayor made it clear, he said, "there's no negotiation or changing it this year."
That's because the borough doesn't need to seek public approval when implementing temporary measures like this one, Montgomery told CBC News.
Plan can be modified later: Montgomery
Later in the season, the population will be surveyed about the project, Montgomery said.
"We can always tweak it depending on what kind of feedback we get," she said. "But what I am seeing so far is there are a lot of people who support it and have been lobbying for this for a long time."
Improving bike paths creates safer neighbourhoods and is good for the environment, she said, adding that there is an abundance of private parking along the stretch.
Beyond that, there is no inherent right to put "your private property on public space," she said.
Yes! Biking is affordable, healthy and great for the environment. If we can change our habits for COVID we can do it for the environment. Our future depends on it. <a href="https://t.co/A1KlSDi4BT">https://t.co/A1KlSDi4BT</a>—@MontgomerySue
Montgomery said she is listening to people's concerns and she sympathizes with them, but "we all have to change our behaviour if we want to save the planet."
"Cycling has exploded during COVID, and let's face it, it's a cheap, healthy, clean way to get around the city," Montgomery said.
"The safer we can make it for drivers and cyclists, the better."