Adding dedicated bicycle lanes downtown, may just be the most foolhardy project that the city has ever undertaken and this in the city that has produced boondoggles like the Olympic Stadium.
|Montreal - Jaywalking capital of North America|
Driving was never easy in Montreal. Poor planning and even poorer maintenance has resulted in a road system that is an embarrassment to its citizens and a humiliating indictment of incompetence of those who run the city.
79% of drivers say that Montreal streets are more congested this year over last year. 75% believe there are too many construction zones and most believe that these sites are poorly organized, complaining that the pace of work is slow, with many sites lying dormant for long periods of time!
To make matters worse, Montreal drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are notorious scofflaws and so crossing any sort of intersection, be it on foot, on a bicycle or in a car is always a scary affair.
Adding dedicated bike lanes to the mix, with cyclists whizzing by helter-skelter, places another burden on car drivers who already suffer from sensory overload.
It takes a steady nerve to drive the Metropolitain Boulevard, a decrepit elevated cross-town highway that boasts no run off shoulders and lanes so narrow that you can roll down your window and touch the eighteen wheeler racing along beside you.
|Quality paving- a Montreal tradition.|
The Victoria train bridge is safe but ancient and offers just one lane in each direction. The drive on the grated deck sends a jarring vibration up your spine to the point that it feels like one is being drilled at the dentist and being able to see (through the grate,) straight down at the raging river below is not for acrophobics.
The ever under-construction Mercier bridge is so decrepit and the road so poor that the all-too often closures due to safety concerns may be the least of driver's problems.
|Falling concrete. Watch out below!|
All the overpasses on the highway leading to Montreal's airport have had the lanes reduced to one from two, due to weight concerns and the fear that they too are in danger of falling down.
|"Wait for the Green light"|
When I said that Montrealers are notorious scofflaws, I wasn't exaggerating. It seems that traffic signs and stop lights are merely suggestions. Any driver who assumes pedestrians will wait their turn to cross a street is dangerously out of touch with reality. Conversely a pedestrian who assumes that cars will politely stop at a crosswalk is taking their life into their hands.
What other city in North America has signs under traffic lights reminding drivers that they should wait for the green light to proceed?
You'd think city officials would try to come up with a plan to make things better, but if you did, you'd be displaying a childlike naivete and an utter lack of understanding of what makes Montreal tick.
Montreal is like your neighbour who drives a shiny car but lives in dump. It's a town that dresses up, but can't pay the VISA bill and like a family that goes on a vacation instead of fixing the leaky roof.
In other words it's a city with retarded priorities.
|The left lane. Where experienced drivers don't drive.|
With it's five month long winter, its roads in such abominable condition and scofflaws for residents, Montreal must be the worst-positioned city in North America to embrace a cycling culture. Read this tale of woe.
Montreal's sad bicycle saga should serve as a cautionary tale to any large urban city considering chopping up their precious roads to embrace a phony bicycle/green culture.
I know that what I am saying is bordering on the heretical, but a certain level of rational debate must be returned to the question of bicycles in the city.
Granolas have argued the principle that bicycles are a green alternative to automobiles and represent a step forward in urban planning.
That, gentle reader, is a cruel lie.
Studies in Europe and in North America all agree that there is no discernible decrease in car use with the addition of bike paths in a city. Bikes represent an alternative to public transport, that's all.
Bike paths are used mainly for recreation and leisure. Sure, there are students who bicycle to school, but the alternative is the bus or subway, not cars. The number of office workers, store clerks and downtown shoppers arriving on bicycles is negligible.
How many people do you know that have sold their car in favour of a bicycle and use it as their principle mode of transportation? I don't know any.
Considering that the downtown bike paths are closed five months a year BECAUSE OF SNOW, the whole project represents an egregious waste of the most valuable urban commodity of all- space.
Anyone who tells you that bikes could and should be part of an integrated transportation plan is an dangerous idiot.
Then of course, there is the safety issue. Take a look at the picture on the right. It practically screams, "Accident ready to happen!"
Crossing the bike lane to effect a simple turn has become a frightening affair where helmet-less, earphone wearing bikers, fly innocently along, oblivious to what is happening around them, secure in the knowledge that it is the driver's responsibility to make sure no collision occurs.
And so driving in Montreal has become ever more dangerous.
There is a fierce bicycle lobby that has cowed public officials by tapping into the public's blind acceptance of any concept that is green, regardless of the costs versus any benefits.
Bicycle lobbyists continue to exploit the public's ignorance to advance a philosophy that benefits the very few at the expense of the many.
And so the public continues to be pedalled (excuse the pun) a bill of goods.
The vaunted BIXI bike rental program, a Montreal invention that is sweeping North America turns out to be a giant money-losing fraud with the Mayor now telling us that he expected the service, like public transport, to lose money. Of course he never told us that before the service was installed. And so taxpayers are on the hook for another 100 million dollar loan to keep the program alive and cyclists continue to get a free ride at the taxpayer's expense.
By the way, if you don't have a sense of what a 100 million dollars is, consider that it's enough money to pay for a $300 bicycle for each and every child under 15 years old, living in the entire island of Montreal, that's 300,000 children!
BIXI has 40,000 members.
However one does the math, the benefit of bike paths versus the drawbacks don't add up.
When the public debate comes to your city over bike paths, don't say you weren't warned.
Further reading by P. J. O'ROURKE 'Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic'