South shore commuter takes an icy jog across the river to work every day
MONTREAL -- The multi-purpose path on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge is closed for the winter. While a pilot project is underway involving 25 cyclists to see if the bridge is a viable commuting route, using it in the winter could attract a fine.
Enter Joan Roch: an émigré from central France, who got the idea to end-around the bridge entirely five years ago by running on the frozen stretch of the St. Lawrence River.
“Everyone is scared,” he said with a smile. “Not only my wife but almost everyone at work.”
Specifically, Roch runs along and across the southern edge of the river and the South Shore Canal. He hops onto Ile Notre-Dame close to the northern edge of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and takes the Concord Bridge onto the Peel Basin area. He got the idea, he said, while he was sneaking across the bridge as a runner in the winter. He looked out onto the river and saw ice fishermen camped there.
"If there are fishermen are standing there, it’s probably safe," he said.
He works as a computer programmer at CGI’s offices on Rene-Levesque Boulevard. He runs along the Bonaventure Expressway to complete the last leg. The whole trip takes Roch about 10 km and an hour to run – he runs back the same way.
In general he says he doesn’t start his treks until January, and he does it every year until mid-March. The fishermen are his sign to start running. His signal to stop running is the annual arrival of icebreakers.
"Usually the icebreakers come before the ice melts," he said.
When asked about whether law enforcement gives him any flak for his daily commute, he pointed to the Surete du Quebec post near where he enters the river and shrugged.
"I think they’re impressed, because at least they don’t have to give me a ticket for crossing the bridge," he said. "And apparently it’s not their problem because the river is federal territory."
He’s filmed YouTube videos during the wee hours of the morning bathed in hues of orange and magenta, and when a reporter asked him about the danger (he has a wife and three children), he shrugged again.
"I’m not afraid to die… I’ve been crossing the ice for a few years now," he said. "The sights are really amazing. The light you can see on the snow... It’s amazing. It’s magical."