As St. Denis merchants oppose bike path, cyclists fight back, saying their business counts
MONTREAL -- The bike lane debate has gotten so heated this summer that some people are considering a boycott—not of a bike lane, but of merchants who oppose it.
The latest lane to spark an argument is one being currently installed on St. Denis, which will turn four lanes of traffic into two.
Some local businesses aren’t happy about it, especially given the timing, when there are already so many changes.
"What happens with access during the winter?” said Anne-Marie Laoun of Georges Laoun Opticien.
“What happens if there's a fire truck that needs to pass through on a one-lane, that you know, is pretty congested?"
She’s one of dozens of merchants who signed an open letter asking the city to reconsider.
But cyclists, whose numbers have also ballooned this spring and summer in the pandemic, are pushing back, with some calling for a boycott of those businesses that signed the letter.
The group Velo Quebec doesn’t think the boycott is a good idea—but one of its members says she can’t understand the businesses’ reaction to it, either.
"I don't understand why the people who own the commerce think their consumers are in a car,” said Suzanne Lareau, of Velo Quebec.
"Consumers in a street like St. Denis, St. Laurent, Mont-Royal—they are walking, cycling, they use public transit.”
Plateau Mayor Luc Rabouin says he’s “very sensitive” about the merchants’ concerns, and that St. Denis is an “emblematic street” in Montreal, but that the project isn’t a new idea but has been in the works for two years.
The city has worked with the local merchants’ association, he says, and has already delayed the project once so that they would have a summer with no construction.
Some shop owners see it more the way of the cyclists, saying a decrease in car traffic could be a good thing.
“It's big, big traffic on St-Denis,” said Jacques Nacousi, the owner of Code & Café. “It's almost a highway."
The political opposition says St. Denis is not the place for a new path and that the idea is “totally absurd.”
Francesco Miele, a Montreal city councillor and a member of the opposition, said “this administration has absolutely no interest in listening to the ones who actually have to struggle to make a living on the road.”
This path is the latest of a few this summer that have sparked fights, many of which promise to come to a head in the next few weeks, including a brand-new path on Terrebonne St. in NDG.
That one, however, was a pandemic-related unexpected measure. The St. Denis path is staying on its planned path for now, and the work is expected to be complete by end of October.