MONTREAL -- Many of Montreal's merchants are surprised and upset over plans to expand the city's bike path network at the expense of many parking spots.

Victor Alfonso, co-owner of Tapeo and Meson restaurants, said he has plans to open for takeout soon but doesn't know where his customers will park. He said the removal of parking spots on Villeray to make room for bike paths on both sides of the road last week came as a shock.

“I felt surprised this happened so quickly and we weren't warned,” he said.

Luca Cianciulli, who co-owns the Moccione restaurant on the same street, echoed the sentiment.

“It happened very suddenly, the no-parking signs went up quickly and the towing began in the few hours that followed,” he said.

In all, the city is adding 326 kilometres of new bike lanes, car-free streets and expanded sidewalks as part of a bid to encourage Montrealers to go outside while maintaining social distancing.

Opposition party Ensemble Montreal deputy leader Francesco Miele said public consultations were needed before the plan was rolled out.

“It's not normal that overnight, people find themselves with a new configuration of the place where they live,” he said.

Miele said 88 kilometres of the temporary paths were already being considered by the boroughs, including Villeray.

“They were at a stage where they still had to undergo traffic studies, public consultations with their own citizens,” he said.

Alfonso said he supports bike paths but businesses need parking spots for customers, deliveries and employees.

“There's a need for them, people want them,” he said. “We have to evolve as a society but when bike paths automatically mean abolition of parking spots and there's no compensation, that's where it becomes a huge problem.”

But the member of the executive committee in charge of transportation said that the COVID-19 pandemic and increased bike use forced the city to act quickly.

“We have to implement, readjust and adapt,” said Eric Alan Caldwell. “We don't have the luxury of planning for years.”

Cianciulli said he's already feeling the effects.

“It can't just be about what the current administration wants and desires for themselves,” he said. “It needs to be a democracy. It needs to be for everyone.”