Keep Westmount Bikepath in Operation – an Open Letter

The Westmount Municipal Association requests that the Westmount portion of the de Maisonneuve bikepath be kept open for the five months of winter from November 2011 until April 2012.

The WMA strongly supported keeping the bikepath in operation during the period from November 2010 until April 2011 since this helps implement the objective to reduce vehicular traffic in our community as well as promote active transportation.

The City of Westmount’s goals, as stated in its 2010 Sustainable Development Plan call for a reduction in traffic in our community. To quote that plan:

The Sustainable Development Vision Statement calls for the prudent use of natural resources, including the fossil fuels that are the basis of our transportation system. A shift away from such fuels toward active transportation will reinforce the sense of place of Westmount and build a sense of engagement toward the rest of the community, which are other components of the Vision Statement

The City is citing concerns about construction projects along the Westmount portion of the path requiring its closure. However, our research indicates that none of these projects will require closure of the bike path and the City need only adopt the snow removal methods used by Montreal, which clears 35 kilometres of bike paths in winter. Whilst there will be times when there is heavy construction traffic, such traffic will require closure of de Maisonneuve to vehicular and pedestrian traffic also.

Given that in the previous winter season of 166 days, there were only five days with snowstorm conditions, it is illogical to close the path for weather which occurs less than 3% of the time. All transport users, both active and motorized, are capable of making a decision for themselves during such periods as to the necessity and means of their journey.

The City also claims concern about cyclists’ safety, however, closing the de Maisonneuve bikepath will force winter cyclists onto Sherbrooke Street or Ste. Catherine Street, both of which carry significantly more risk for cyclists. These risks include: more traffic, higher vehicle speeds, buses, trucks, risk of dooring, double-parking, frequent jay-walking, etc.

The WMA therefore urges the City of Westmount to maintain the bikepath in an operable state year round. Professor  Jan Gehl, the renowned  Copenhagen architect, urban planner and author of the book “Cities for People”, who was recently invited by the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association to present his vision for human scaled communities to our community, also supports this opinion. He notes that “in the city of Copenhagen it is a council decision that first priority for removing  snow and ice are always given to the bikelanes”. It is therefore imperative that the bikepath remain in continuous operation so that the transition away from the use of fossil fuels for transport can continue, in accordance with the City’s own Sustainable Vision Statement.

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