In the week that followed the death of a cyclist under the CP underpass on St-Denis, the CDN-NDG borough announced on May 6 new measures aimed at improving the safety of cyclists, similar to actions taken by politicians in the Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie borough.
Cyclists are now allowed to ride on the sidewalks alongside pedestrians under the railroad overpasses in CDN-NDG. Signs have been posted by the seven viaducts to increase user awareness.
Borough mayor Russell Copeman had informally announced the safety measures the night before at the stormy May 5 borough council meeting.
“To have cyclists and drivers share the road is of great concern for us. Viaducts are a major hazard and we want to increase the safety of cyclists who need to ride through them,” he said.
Citizens present at council welcomed the news. One was a local cyclist who videoclipped a driver making a dangerous pass at the Girouard underpass while approaching the viaduct. The video went viral, was tweeted to the mayor, and was finally sent to the borough services for analysis. It also showed a CDN-NDG employee, who witnessed the whole incident from his borough vehicle, briefly engaging the cyclist in a controversial manner.
“The incident can be interpreted in different ways, but we don’t consider it to be an act of intimidation, rather one of concern for the cyclist’s safety, and no disciplinary action will be necessary,” said Russell Copeman during question period.
The borough mayor invited cyclists to ride very slowly in the danger areas out of respect for pedestrians. “The last thing they want is to have an accident with a pedestrian,” he said.
Pedestrian safety on Sherbrooke St. also came up during the citizens’ question period.
Karen Urtnowski from the NDG Seniors Citizens’ Council and a member of the Quartier Vert Actif et en Santé (QVAS) in NDG-East, brought up an issue discussed at great length last year when a resident asked for a safe intersection on Sherbrooke St. before the reserved bus lane is in service.
“We have lights that STILL haven’t been fixed, like Cavendish, Décarie, that have a high accident rate. Also Wilson at Sherbrooke. Old people can only get halfway across before the light changes and boom! They’re coming close to getting ploughed over!” she said.
NDG councillor Peter McQueen has also been pushing for extra time on the lights and the crossing countdown. “We’re hoping to get that as soon as possible,” he said.
According to borough director Stéphane Plante, the services are to start fixing the Girouard/Sherbrooke and Cavendish/Sherbrooke intersections. “Will it be all of them this year? We don’t know, but for sure they’re going to concentrate on those two at first,” said Plante.
Citizen activist Michael Shafter wants signs on major thoroughfares in front of CDN-NDG schools and parks with a pictogram of child and pedestrian, and favours reducing speed limits from 50 km/h to 30km/h.
“What other safety measures can you suggest?” he asked of the councillors present.
McQueen is asking for immediate improvements at the Girouard viaduct: dedicating one of the sidewalks to cyclists (since so few pedestrians are using it), cutting the curb at Upper-Lachine to remove the bump, adding mirrors at blind turns, and other Projet Montréal-endorsed ideas.
The NDG councillor mentioned that there’s no satisfactory way for cyclists to cross the Snowdon district if they’re coming from NDG, Côte Saint-Luc or Hampstead. Riding near the industrial and technology parks in Town of Mount Royal or the Saint-Laurent borough is also problematic.
Copeman was not warm to McQueen’s suggestions and Loyola councillor Jeremy Searle had his own take on the issue.
“With the sole exception of the overpass where you need some bridging, we can have a secure bicycle path [like a shelf] over the Décarie expressway. Just brackets. It’s simple. We have an aluminum industry in Quebec, it’s easy to do,” he said.
Searle’s idea sounded too easy to be true to Copeman. “We can get the brackets at Reno Depot, Mr. Searle, can we?” replied the mayor.
As for the situation in the Vendôme area, Copeman said there will be a temporary configuration for a protected bike path between Décarie and Claremont. “Next year we will add a concrete barrier and a physical separation for a new configuration there that will greatly enhance cycling safety between Décarie and Claremont boulevards,” he said.