The Electric Pencil

McGill to cut-off cyclists?

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When I originally read this post over at Spacing Montreal, I think I could feel a vein in my forehead popping out. I’ve been biking the Milton Gates – Roddick Gates path through McGill for about four years now, and it has definitely proven to be one of the safest routes from the Plateau/Mile End to Downtown (especially in the days when I was studying at Concordia). And that includes since they put in the St-Urbain & de Maisonneuve paths. So hearing that McGill has posted a security guard at the Milton Gates to direct traffic either back along Milton or up the hill, my gut reaction was ‘McGill elitism: not only do they need gates, but security guards too.’ Here’s a bit from the article (you can read more it following the link above or read the original piece here):

Campus officials have been arguing with the city about its decision to have its Milton St. bike way feed right into the campus at the University St. entrance. McGill would prefer the city build a bike lane down University to join the new path on de Maisonneuve Blvd. (University is a narrow, busy, one-way street and a hospital route to boot, so the city is understandably reluctant).

For the past few weeks, McGill has actually posted a security guard near its University St. entrance to direct west-bound cyclists up and over a steep hill on the campus. This is to stop them from taking the regular, much shorter route, which includes a short jog west and south against the posted traffic direction. This, of course, frustrates cyclists as they must either turn around, walk their bikes or climb the hill northward and then sail down through the campus’s central road, at a much greater speed than they would normally gather, weaving through more pedestrians toward the Sherbrooke St. gates.

Many commenters on the post raised the good point, though, that the route from Milton to Sherbrooke is a blind curve and is dangerous for everyone involved, especially when there is a high density of pedestrians. Over four years I’ve definitely had a few close calls. But at the same time McGill is proposing a solution that, while convenient for them, is much more dangerous for cyclists.

While I regularly use bike paths going against one way streets, I find them incredibly dangerous. I’ve had more close calls going along them than biking through McGill, mostly from people coming out of alleys and side streets without realising there is an opposite-direction bike path. I was even hit on Villeneuve last spring using the path between St-Urbain and Clarke. So while I’m mildly sympathetic to McGill, a much better solution would be to find a way to let cyclists keep using the campus and not just shove us on a steep hill between parked cars and oncoming traffic.

CORRECTION: Should have had my coffee first. Walkerp points this out over at Spacing:

Just to repeat what others have said, but you are misreading the role of the security guards. They are trying to create two separate lanes of bike traffic, one going east (the lower route) and one going west (the upper route). This is because if you head west on the upper route, it is quite easy to hit another cyclist or pedestrian.

The hill is like 40 feet long and mellow. It’s actually easier to go up over the top when you head west because it’s a wider route and there are fewer pedestrians.

I stopped and chatted with the security guards twice and they were very friendly and seemed to have no problem with bikes. They just wanted us to use the proper and more safe routes.

I think the confusion stems from McGill making it clear in the article that they don’t want the cyclists on campus, but rather a path down University Street. So while maybe the current situation isn’t so bad, I still think the University Street proposal would result in many more injuries…

Written by Tim McSorley

May 21, 2008 at 11:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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