Fight over Terrebonne St. bike lanes rages as borough mayor calls for working group



a group of people riding bikes on a city street: The bike path on Terrebonne Avenue in Montreal on Wednesday August 5, 2020.


© Dave Sidaway
The bike path on Terrebonne Avenue in Montreal on Wednesday August 5, 2020.

Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery hopes a new working group on the controversial bike lanes on Terrebonne Ave. will address objections and pave the way to extending the bike path project all the way to Belmore Avenue.

Montgomery said that extension may not happen before the temporary bike lanes are dismantled at the end of this year. But she hopes the working group can propose solutions that will allow the borough to reintroduce the project in some form next spring.

“Obviously, we want a bike path on Terrebonne,” Montgomery said. “I want us all to look at what are the options, what can we do differently. … I have a feeling there are a lot of people who support this, but aren’t speaking out because it is so divisive. But I have received a lot of positive feedback about it.”

The borough’s six-member council voted unanimously on June 22 to install the protected bike lanes on both sides of Terrebonne St. from Girouard Ave. to Belmore Ave.. Along with pedestrian corridors on certain streets, the bike lanes were part of a city-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, designed to give pedestrians and cyclists more room to move safely on city streets while respecting physical distancing requirements.

But vocal opposition by many residents who lost their street parking has turned some councillors against it, while others say it went up too fast and needs adjusting.

The borough began installing bollards lining new bike lanes in each direction in late July, eliminating parking on both sides of the street. The section between Madison Ave. and Cavendish Blvd. was completed over the weekend, prompting complaints from more residents and the pastor of St. Monica’s Church.

“We have many elderly and limited-mobility parishioners who will be negatively impacted by the lack of parking spaces, which were already hard to find,” wrote Father Raymond Lafontaine in a message sent to borough councillors. “There will be no place for hearses, limousines, etc. to park near the church for weddings and funerals, inconveniencing grieving and celebrating families alike. … We ask you to please consider re-routing the path and to continue to allow some parking on Terrebonne between Madison and Cavendish.”

Terrebonne resident Marie-Yvonne Kiely said the borough has created ill will between cyclists and some Terrebonne residents who only learned about the bike lanes “when they walked out their door and found they had an $89 parking ticket.” She said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, that lack of communication “doesn’t make people feel very well looked after.”

“This just came upon us with completely no consultation,” she said.

Montgomery said the borough had to act fast to bring in pandemic-related measures. She still favours a year-round bike path all the way along Terrebonne — something cyclists in the borough have been requesting for years — but she is willing to “see what this working group comes up with. I’m sure there is away we can work it out so that everybody is more or less happy.”

She intends to table a motion creating the working group at the next borough council meeting on Sept. 8. The group will include people who represent those with mobility challenges, elderly residents, cyclists, pedestrians and traffic experts, she said.

Meanwhile, Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand says he will table a motion, seconded by Darlington councillor Lionel Perez, calling for the bike lanes’ immediate dismantling.

Loyola councillor Christian Arsenault said he supports the idea of a working group to find a compromise, but he said if that group does not get to work soon, he will join those calling for the bike lanes to be removed. He said too many residents were taken by surprise, and he hopes better communication will bring the project back next year, with adjustments.

“We dropped the ball on communication completely and we’ve been playing catch-up ever since, and we absolutely need to do better next year,” he said.

An online petition demanding the bike lanes be removed has garnered more than 1,500 names, while another demanding elected officials find a compromise to solve the parking problems but keep the bike lanes has garnered more than 1,000.

The borough is conducting an online survey on the pedestrian corridors (on Monkland, Côte-des-Neiges Rd., Queen Mary Rd., Sherbrooke St. W., Somerled Ave., Jean-Brillant St.) and on the Terrebonne St. bike lanes.

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