Closing path to cyclists is ridiculous, critic says
But de-icing Jacques Cartier is safety issue: bridge corporation
This winter, the federal bridge corporation will spend nearly $2 million to clear a bike path on the Jacques Cartier Bridge that will be closed to cyclists.
After years of protests and public dissent from avid cyclists, the bridge corporation announced earlier this year it would launch an estimated $1.67-million pilot project to clear the multipurpose path on the bridge for the winter of 2017-2018. However, the corporation says it’s too risky to have cyclists use the path until it has ironed out the kinks of keeping it free of snow and ice. Therefore, the path will close as usual this winter, as of the first snowfall. Because the path is on the bridge’s concrete deck, the corporation can’t use salt on it, so it is examining whether to heat it or to use another kind of de-icing product.
“What we’re looking at is finding the right combination in terms of more traditional mechanical solutions and whether it’s a heating solution or special de-icing products,” Julie Paquet, spokesperson for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., said on Tuesday.
“We will be conducting tests; we’ll also have observations. We have a maintenance crew that is on site and we will have an engineering firm accompany them to document those tests.”
But opening the path to cyclists during the winter needn’t be as complicated as the bridge corporation makes it sound, says a group of avid cyclists.
“It’s completely ridiculous,” Mike Muchnik, a spokesperson for the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of the Jacques Cartier Bridge, said on Tuesday.
“We’re in 2017, and everyone is talking about active transport, diminishing CO2 emissions and trying to have better traffic flow, and the more people who use active transport, the better the traffic will flow.”
Muchnik, who lives in the Plateau-Mont-Royal and works in Longueuil, routinely climbs over the barriers to cross the bridge after it has been officially closed. He said the conditions are generally good, and the bridge’s path is rarely slippery during the winter.
“Last year, I took 101 trips on the bridge, and it’s the safest place to ride in the winter because it’s completely separated from the cars,” Muchnik said. “It’s very frustrating for us that the path is closed.”
Muchnik said his group will appeal to local MPs and to the Trudeau government to step in to correct what he calls an absurd situation. In the meantime, he believes 50 or 60 hardcore cyclists will once again disobey the posted signs this winter and throw their bikes over the six-foot-high fence to cross the bridge.
One of them is Boucherville resident Éric Thibodeau, a 38-year-old father of two who rides to work as a way to incorporate physical activity into his daily routine.
“It takes about the same amount of time as taking public transit,” said Thibodeau, who has high cholesterol and says he needs to exercise regularly to help control it.
But the renegade cyclists may run into even more barriers this winter when a crew starts replacing railings on the bridge, a $4.76-million project that will take most of the winter and result in sections of the bridge’s path and its sidewalk on the other side being totally inaccessible.
Last year, crews installing lighting on the bridge used high wooden barriers that made it impossible for cyclists to ride on the path in the areas where the crews were working. Instead, cyclists got off the bridge at Île-Ste-Hélène and rode to the De La Concorde bridge, which links the island to the Citédu-Havre district where Habitat 67 is located.
Cyclists say it’s important to keep the Jacques Cartier Bridge open during the winter because all other access routes from the South Shore are also closed as soon as it snows.
Furthermore, the new Champlain Bridge under construction will have a bike path on it, but the plans call for it to only be open from March until December.