Clos­ing path to cy­clists is ridicu­lous, critic says

But de-ic­ing Jac­ques Cartier is safety is­sue: bridge cor­po­ra­tion

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JA­SON MAGDER

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.

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