Hundreds of kilometres of temporary bike and pedestrian paths coming to Montreal

Hundreds of kilometres of Montreal's roads will be altered to become more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists as the city's residents ponder a summer without their usual activities.

Mayor Valerie Plante said over 300 kilometres of new, temporary pedestrian and bike paths will be introduced beginning in June.

“It will allow the population to rediscover all the natural beauty montreal has to offer,” said Plante.

Some of those new paths will be on major city arteries such as St-Laurent Blvd., St-Denis, Christophe-Colombe, Mont-Royal, Gouin and Rachel. While some streets will be entirely closed to car traffic, others will still be open to cars, but with reduced lanes as sidewalks and bike paths are introduced or expanded.

#COVID19: This summer, the Safe Active Transportation Circuit will transform Montréal into a safe, enjoyable city, where everyone can move around while respecting physical distancing rules, rediscover their city and encourage our merchants. #polmtl https://t.co/JMZBE4vgtK

— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) May 15, 2020

#COVID19: 112 km of safe active routes will be created. These temporary pedestrian and cycling routes are in addition to the planned infrastructures and the 900 km of existing lanes. This summer, 1,200 km will be available for safe active travel. #polmtl https://t.co/wA75DqRDbN pic.twitter.com/ABlNM1JIjs

— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) May 15, 2020

Plante said the idea came to her while she was cycling with her family on Christophe-Colombe and noticed that car traffic had decreased but bike and pedestrian lanes had become more crowded.

Montreal executive committee member Eric Alan Caldwell said parts of the plan still need to be worked out to accomodate for public transit and deliveries on the affected streets. 

“We're finding the right fit for larger sidewalks and bike paths, access to delivery and efficient bus transit," he said. "We're finding the right fit for each section of each street.”

Plante said the plan has three objectives: linking up the city's green spaces, giving access to green spaces to residents in densely populated areas such as Montreal North and enticing Montrealers to go to local commercial arteries to support businesses.

Caldwell acknowledged the plan will involve termporarily eliminating some parking spaces but said the city is exploring options to open up some new spots to compensate. 

In a statement, Greenpeace Canada commended the city for the plan, calling it "a breath of fresh air for the people of Montreal."

The mayor noted that while there have been numerous programs from different levels of government aimed at helping businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, helping them reopen safely is a priority. 

She said the city surveyed 17,000 business owners and the consensus was they need more space to survive and operate safely. To that end, the plan includes freeing up hundreds of thousands of square feet of public space to allow Montrealers to shop on commercial arteries once public health officials give the okay. 

Plante said several boroughs have also agreed to issue permits for larger terraces than usual to allow for physical distancing. Those permits won't be free due to legal reasons but will be offered at a "symbolic cost" of $50 or less, according to Plante.

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