Cyclists protest closing of Jacques Cartier Bridge bike path during winter
Dropping temperatures mean you’ll see fewer cyclists on Montreal’s streets, but some bike fans are angry that one major route will soon be closed to them.
After a nine-month, $1.4 million pilot project, the corporation in charge of the Jacques Cartier Bridge has decided the bike path that runs alongside the bridge will close for the winter.
Mike Muchnik, a spokesperson for the Jacques Cartier Bridge Pedestrian and Cyclists Association, said he often finds his commute shorter when he bikes across the bridge rather than taking his car. On Wednesday, the group held a protest alongside the bridge, arguing that the path should be open year-round.
“For the past five winters I’ve been jumping over the fence and I’ve been on that path in all conditions. Snow, ice, icy rain, windy conditions, deep snow, wet snow, frozen snow,” he said. “In the worst case scenario, you get off your bike and walk a bit.”
While the fight has been ongoing for over 12 years, the corporation believes there’s no way to make the bike path safe during the winter months.
Nathalie Lessard, a spokesperson for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridge Corporation, said tests had been conducted on de-icing procedures for the path during the pilot project, including organic de-icing materials and heating mats. But results showed it would not be safe to keep it open.
“We weren’t able to find a viable and safe solution for cyclists to keep riding,” she said. “We can’t remove the snow, obviously. The problem is, we can’t keep a safe surface for cyclists to ride on.”
She said several factors played into the decision, including wet and windy weather conditions near the St. Lawrence River, the narrowness of the path and its exposure to the weather.
Muchnik said that the corporation hasn’t taken into consideration that those who would use the path during the winter are experienced cyclists who know how to navigate dangerous roadways.
“They’re in a quest for a perfect situation, where anyone, even someone who’s inexperienced and ill-equipped can use the path without getting hurt,” he said. “Seventy per cent of the time there’s nothing on the path in the winter. Between the wind and the sun, any snow gets melted and it’s dry. It’s obviously completely safe.”