When dogma dictates decisions the people lose. That is all there is to say about Mayor Plante’s announcement that there will be some 200 km of new bike lanes across the city including the heart of downtown. It will mean the loss of hundreds more parking spaces and dozens of driving lanes. It will hurt an already ailing retail sector in the centre city. It also flies in the face of this municipal administration’s commitment to keep the environment clean. It will lead to nothing but more congestion, idling and pollution.
So what drove the city to make another illogical decision on our streets? The answer lies in the Mayor’s comment at the time of the announcement... “if we want people to use bikes,” she said, “then we have to make room for them.” And therein is the problem. An adherence to a dogma devoid of reason or facts.
Who says we want to encourage more bike use? Not the people. In downtown’s Ville-Marie borough 400,000 cars arrive every day. In a year that same borough sees 26,000 bicycle users. What the Mayor should have said is that we should encourage people to use hybrid or electric cars if we are concerned about the environment.
Why does this Mayor refuse to realize where we live? The most inhospitable climate of any major city in the industrialized west. For five months a year only the hardiest would dare take out a bike. Yet Madame Plante insists on believing that we have a temperate climate like continental Europe. She said as much in her other disastrous decision of reducing St. Catherine St. from Atwater to Bleury to one lane of traffic from four, eliminate all parking spots and expand sidewalks. She said that Montrealers want to walk and shop. Really Madame Plante? In Montreal’s winters?
The same irrationality was evident in her administration’s decision to cut the some 7000 planned parking spots for the West Island REM stations down to 1200. Despite the outcry from citizens and elected officials, her spokesperson maintained the same dogma. People will find “solutions” he said. “They will car pool or devise other ways of getting to the train stations.” In his dreams.
That decision, together with Mayor Plante’s previous one that the access road to the train station off Antoine-Faucon would have a lot of green space on each side with only one lane for buses, cyclists and pedestrians but no cars would be allowed, has sounded a death knell to West Islanders’ dreams of a useful Train de l’ouest.
The city had said the reason for the decision was to encourage use of public transport and increase green space. But the West Island has an enormous amount of green space. What it doesn’t have enough of — nor has the centre city — is public transport. That decision of Mayor Plante’s came in the same week that the transport commission announced a dramatic drop in public transit use, particularly buses. That wasn’t a surprise to citizens. We don’t have enough buses. And what we have are overcrowded with very serendipitous schedules. As for our subway system, there has been no substantive expansion since it was completed 51 years ago and most of the city is not covered by it. But these realities don’t faze city hall.
Reason and logic have hardly been the guiding lights in the transit policies of this administration. It just wants to show its green supporters it is continuing the war on cars. And the most objectionable elements in that is the failure to recognize that most driving is done for work. And not just one job but sometimes two. And for family. As one mother put it on CTV when she heard of this latest bike path expansion and parking space reduction, “When you have children you have to be able to move around. We’re not getting on bicycles with five year olds.” More than a war on cars this administration is making a war on what Gianni Agnelli called,”mankind’s eternal desire for freedom of mobility.” This is a Luddite administration. What’s next after it gets people on bikes? Put them back on horses? Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Jim Beis summed it up nicely. These decisions, he said, are “out of touch with reality.” Amen!