Residents voice disapproval as Montreal holds first consultation on Mount Royal closure
Montreal residents didn’t hold back from voicing their disapproval as the city held its first public consultation into the Mount Royal road closures Thursday night.
At Thursday evening's meeting, person after person stood up to say the road closure convinced them to stay away from what has once been a favourite activity, that the closure was misguided, and that the closure did not make the road any safer for cycists.
"The one thing you're missing in your presentation is that we're talking about Mount Royal, and you say that Camillien Houde Way and Remembrance Rd. divide the park. But that's not reality. On one side is the cemetery which is very quiet. The roads mark the periphery of the park and are on one side," said Mr. Cherrier in a statement that drew loud applause from the audience.
Another question that drew applause when a man questioned who was allowed to enjoy the mountain.
"Do you think that people do not appreciate the mountain because they are in cars? Is it only people who are on bicycle that are allowed to appreciate the mountain? Is that the perception? That's my question," asked one man of the city's representatives.
"Is that a pleasure that should be withdrawn from the 9,500 people who drive across the mountain? Is that the goal, is that success for your project, to remove pleasure from all these people?"
When city representative Claudia Villeneuve pointed out that many people who drive across the mountain are doing so "for utilitarian reasons" people in the audience booed.
Another representative of the consultation office then said that question should be asked of Projet Montreal, since the OPCM was not inside the head of those elected.
Was the goal to limit the number of people in the park
One citizen, introduced as Ms. Lacoursiere, said she felt that all Projet Montreal had done was deter people from going to the park.
"I had the understanding that we wanted to favour the tranquility of the park so that more people could benefit from it, and instead the reduction of vehicle traffic has reduced the overall number of people using the park," she said to much applause from the crowd.
"There was a woman who said we should close the park on weekends so that cyclists can enjoy themselves. But I regret to say that weekends are important to families who go to the park."
Representatives of the OPCM then asked Ms. Lacoursiere to write down her comments and submit them.
Mike Silas, the man who launched a petition calling on the city of Montreal to keep Camillien Houde open, said he found the numbers presented by the city to be unrealistic.
He accused city representatives of exaggerating the number of visitors to Café Suspendu, a 30-seat café that was temporarily installed at the Belvedere lookout.
"I'm sorry but if you present it and you say you have 6,000 visitors to the café that means that something that you built saw 6,000 people and that is entirely not true," said Silas.
Villeneuve then said that the number included people who walked past the café, not those who went inside.
Pilot project ran from June to end of October
The city of Montreal closed through traffic along Camillien Houde Way in June, forcing drivers to proceed to the top of the mountain and park, instead of driving across.
Only cyclists, buses, funeral processions and emergency vehicles were allowed to drive on the road between Smith House and Beaver Lake.
As a result, the number of motor vehicles going to or over the mountain plunged dramatically, from 10,000 vehicles a weekday to 3,700.
On weekends the drop was similar, from 7,500 per day to 4,600 on Camillien Houde and down to 3,200 on Remembrance Rd.
Overall the OPCM said that 59 percent of those surveyed thought that closing Camillien Houde to through traffic was a very bad idea, while two-thirds said it had increased traffic on roads around the mountain.
Plateau-Mont Royal borough mayor Luc Ferrandez has long wanted the mountain closed to through traffic, and unsuccessfully asked the city to close it ten years ago, before he was elected.
City officials said one reason they wanted the closure was because of the death of Clement Ouimet, who died when he struck a car making an illegal U-turn.
However drivers still continued to make illegal U-turns throughout the pilot project, while many other drivers parked illegally wherever they could find a space.
Opinions must be submitted online
Submissions to the Public Consultation Office can be made until Nov. 22 through the OPCM's website.
People who make submissions will be invited to hearings when they continue on Nov. 28.
Montreal City Hall is expected to make its final decision about whether or not to close the street permanently in February.