Rein in the Automobile / Limiter l’automobile

(Version française suit)

At her swearing-in, Valerie Plante asked all Montrealers to share with her our opinions with regard to making Montreal a better city.

As someone who has taken a keen interest in municipal politics for nearly a half a century, as well as having researched extensively several periods of Montreal’s history that predate me, I would like, early in her mandate, to take the mayoress up on her amiable invitation. 

Mayor Plante has stated recently that, among other issues, she will focus on the well-being of city cyclists and pedestrians. She surely realizes you cannot do that without zeroing in on the ubiquitous presence of automobiles on our heavily-congested roads.

So my first piece of advice to her is – rein in the automobile. The motorized vehicle has been wreaking havoc on the streets of this town since their first appearance very late in the Victorian period. So serious was the situation, that by 1910, the now defunct Montreal Star editorialized: “It is increasingly evident that temporising and showing kindly consideration is not the way in which to treat the problem of automobile speeding, which is, just at present, making Montreal dangerous as well as unpleasant for pedestrian.” One hundred and seven years later, the danger and unpleasantness have certainly not abated.

But how exactly do we curb the excesses of the automobile?

One of the principal features of the internationally-acclaimed Vision Zero road safety project is the creation of secure pedestrian zones within the centre of a city. While Montreal has a few car-free areas, our record is poor in comparison with many other metropolises, particularly those in Northern Europe, many of which share similar climates to our own.

Last month, London announced that by Christmas 2018 a nearly one kilometre stretch of gridlocked Oxford Street will be off limits to both motorized vehicles and cyclists. Indeed, within two or three years, it is envisioned that a two kilometre stretch of one of the world’s most popular shopping avenues, running from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court, will be fully pedestrianized. It begs the question: If the British capital can plan this, why not Montreal? And with Ste-Catherine Street about to undergo a $130 million overhaul, there is no better time to make a change.

While a vehicle-free Ste-Catherine Street would obviously eliminate undesired mishaps affecting those on foot, it is only one step in the direction of curtailing the misbehaviour of many motorists. Just as in 1910, excessive speed is endemic, along with the more recent phenomenon, visible to us all on a daily basis, of ‘burning a red light’. The latter practice may require police intervention but the former does not.

Speed bumps have proven the most effective method of decelerating speed. In some cities, such as London, they are often used in conjunction with pedestrian crosswalks. The overall effect is to force an approaching automobile to slow down as it nears the crossway. Indeed, such ‘humps’ are found in many Montreal boroughs but, strangely enough, not in Ville Marie where they are needed the most.  

These are just a couple of suggestions that, along with the ‘penalty box’ approach to controlling intersections in areas that are not pedestrianized, would immediately improve the safety of those on foot in the downtown core. The institution of four-way stop traffic lights throughout the city centre would also help. They allow pedestrians to cross intersections diagonally, if they so wish, and even have the added bonus of facilitating the movement of motorized vehicles.

To all of these ideas, there will be resistance. Mayor Plante must prove herself capable of standing up to the entrenched car culture, which has marked for far too long the love affair that many Montrealers have with their automobile, much to the detriment of public safety on the streets of this city.

Below, sketch of the future Oxford Street in London, England –

Oxford Street pedestrianisation


Lorsqu’elle​ ​a​ ​prêté​ ​serment,​ ​Valérie​ ​Plante​ ​a​ ​demandé​ ​aux​ ​Montréalais​ ​de partager​ ​avec​ ​elle​ ​nos​ ​opinions​ ​pour​ ​faire​ ​de​ ​Montréal​ ​une​ ​meilleure​ ​ville.

En​ ​tant​ ​que​ ​personne​ ​qui​ ​s’intéresse​ ​vivement​ ​​ ​la​ ​politique​ ​municipale​ ​depuis près​ ​d’un​ ​demi-siècle​ ​et​ ​qui​ ​a​ ​fait​ ​des​ ​recherches​ ​approfondies​ ​sur​ ​plusieurs périodes​ ​de​ ​l’histoire​ ​de​ ​Montréal,​ ​j’aimerais,​ ​au​ ​début​ ​de​ ​son​ ​mandat,​ ​accepter son​ ​invitation.

Mme.​ ​Plante​ ​a​ ​récemment​ ​déclaré​ ​qu’entre​ ​autre,​ ​elle​ ​mettra​ ​l’accent​ ​sur​ ​le bien-être​ ​des​ ​cyclistes​ ​et​ ​des​ ​piétons.​ ​Elle​ ​réalise​ ​sûrement​ ​que​ ​cela​ ​est impossible​ ​sans​ ​d’abord​ ​considérer​ ​l’omniprésence​ ​de​ ​l’automobile​ ​sur​ ​nos​ ​routes encombrées.

Donc,​ ​comme​ ​premier​ ​conseil​​:​ ​limiter​ ​l’automobile.​ ​Depuis​ ​son​ ​apparition​ ​vers la​ ​fin​ ​de​ ​la​ ​période​ ​victorienne,​ ​l’automobile​ ​fait​ ​des​ ​ravages​ ​dans​ ​les​ ​rues​ ​de Montréal.​ ​La​ ​situation​ ​était​ ​si​ ​sérieuse​ ​qu’en​ ​1910,​ ​l’éditorialiste​ ​du​ ​Montreal​ ​Star écrit:​ ​«Il​ ​est​ ​de​ ​plus​ ​en​ ​plus​ ​évident​ ​que​ ​relativiser​ ​et​ ​d’être​ ​conciliant​ ​ne​ ​sont​ ​pas les​ ​façons​ ​de​ ​traiter​ ​le​ ​problème​ ​de​ ​la​ ​vitesse​ ​automobile​ ​qui​ ​rend​ ​Montréal​ ​aussi dangereuse​ ​que​ ​désagréable​ ​pour​ ​les​ ​piétons.​ ​»​ ​Cent​ ​sept​ ​ans​ ​plus​ ​tard,​ ​le​ ​danger et​ ​le​ ​désagrément​ ​n’ont​ ​certainement​ ​pas​ ​diminué.

Alors​ ​comment​ ​aborder​ ​la​ ​question​ ​de​ ​l’automobilisme​ ​excessif?

L’une​ ​des​ ​caractéristiques​ ​principales​ ​du​ ​projet​ ​de​ ​sécurité​ ​routière​ ​Vision​ ​Zero, reconnu​ ​​ ​travers​ ​le​ ​monde​ ​entier,​ ​est​ ​la​ ​création​ ​de​ ​zones​ ​piétonnes​ ​sécurisées dans​ ​le​ ​centre-ville.​ ​Alors​ ​qu’il​ ​existe​ ​​ ​Montréal​ ​compte​ ​quelques​ ​zones​ ​sans voiture,​ ​notre​ ​bilan​ ​est​ ​plutôt​ ​médiocre​ ​en​ ​comparaison​ ​avec​ ​de​ ​nombreuses autres​ ​métropoles,​ ​en​ ​particulier​ ​celles​ ​d’Europe​ ​du​ ​Nord,​ ​dont​ ​beaucoup partagent​ ​un​ ​climat​ ​semblable​ ​au​ ​nôtre.

Le​ ​mois​ ​dernier,​ ​Londres​ ​a​ ​annoncé​ ​que​ ​d’ici​ ​Noël​ ​2018​ ​un​ ​tronçon​ ​d’environ​ ​un kilomètre​ ​de​ ​la​ ​rue​ ​Oxford​ ​sera​ ​interdit​ ​aux​ ​véhicules​ ​motorisés​ ​et​ ​aux​ ​cyclistes. De​ ​plus,​ ​d’ici​ ​deux​ ​​ ​trois​ ​ans,​ ​il​ ​est​ ​prévu​ ​que​ ​ce​ ​même​ ​segment​ ​s’agrandisse​ ​d’un deuxième​ ​kilomètre​ ​et​ ​couvrant​ ​ainsi​ ​l’une​ ​des​ ​avenues​ ​commerciales​ ​les​ ​plus populaires​ ​au​ ​monde,​ ​allant​ ​du​ ​Marble​ ​Arch​ ​​ ​Tottenham​ ​Court.​ ​Si​ ​la​ ​capitale britannique​ ​puisse​ ​effectuer​ ​une​ ​telle​ ​planification,​ ​pourquoi​ ​Montréal​ ​ne​ ​le pourrait-elle​ ​pas?​ ​Avec​ ​la​ ​réfection​ ​de​ ​la​ ​rue​ ​Sainte-Catherine​ ​et​ ​son investissement​ ​de​ ​130​ ​millions​ ​de​ ​dollars,​ ​ne​ ​serait-il​ ​pas​ ​le​ ​moment​ ​idéal d’effectuer​ ​des​ ​changements?

Bien​ ​que​ ​la​ rue ​Sainte-Catherine​ ​sans​ ​automobile​ ​éliminerait​ ​manifestement​ ​les ennuis​ ​pour​ ​les​ ​piétons,​ ​il​ ​ne​ ​s’agirait​ ​que​ ​d’un​ ​pas​ ​dans​ ​la​ ​bonne​ ​direction.​ ​Tout comme​ ​en​ ​1910,​ ​la​ ​vitesse​ ​excessive​ ​est​ ​endémique,​ ​de​ ​même​ ​que​ ​l’est​ ​un phénomène​ ​visible​ ​quotidiennement​ ​:​ ​griller​ ​un​ ​feu​ ​rouge.​ ​Cette​ ​dernière​ ​peut nécessiter​ ​une​ ​intervention​ ​de​ ​la​ ​police.

Les​ ​dos-d’ânes​ ​se​ ​révèlent​ ​comme​ ​étant​ ​la​ ​méthode​ ​la​ ​plus​ ​efficace​ ​pour​ ​ralentir les​ ​conducteurs.​ ​Dans​ ​certaines​ ​villes,​ ​comme​ ​​ ​Londres,​ ​ils​ ​sont​ ​souvent​ ​utilisés avec​ ​les​ ​passage​ ​piéton.​ ​L’effet​ ​est​ ​de​ ​forcer​ ​l’automobiliste​ ​​ ​ralentir​ ​au​ ​fur​ ​et​ ​à mesure​ ​qu’il​ ​s’approche​ ​du​ ​carrefour.​ ​En​ ​effet,​ ​de​ ​tels​ ​dos-d’ânes​ ​se​ ​retrouvent dans​ ​de​ ​nombreux​ ​arrondissements​ ​de​ ​Montréal​ ​et​ ​curieusement,​ ​ils​ ​sont absents​ ​de​ ​l’arrondissement​ ​Ville-Marie​ ​où​ ​le​ ​besoin​ ​est​ ​encore​ ​plus​ ​grand.

Ces​ ​quelques​ ​suggestions​ ​amélioreraient​ ​du​ ​jour​ ​au​ ​lendemain​ ​la​ ​sécurité​ ​des piétons​ ​au​ ​centre-ville.​ ​L’installation​ ​au​ ​centre​ ​ville​ ​d’intersections​ ​​ ​quatre​ ​arrêts seraient​ ​également​ ​utile.​ ​Ils​ ​permettent​ ​aux​ ​piétons​ ​de​ ​franchir​ ​les​ ​intersections en​ ​diagonale​ ​s’ils​ ​le​ ​souhaitent,​ ​et​ ​ont​ ​même​ ​l’avantage​ ​additionnel​ ​de​ ​faciliter​ ​la circulation​ ​des​ ​automobiles.

Face​ ​​ ​toutes​ ​ces​ ​idées​ ​il​ ​y​ ​aura​ ​de​ ​la​ ​résistance.​ ​La​ ​mairesse​ ​Plante​ ​doit​ ​se montrer​ ​capable​ ​de​ ​tenir​ ​tête​ ​​ ​la​ ​culture​ ​automobile​ ​fortement​ ​enracinée, marquant​ ​depuis​ ​trop​ ​longtemps​ ​l’amour​ ​de​ ​l’automobile​ ​au​ ​détriment​ ​de​ ​la sécurité​ ​publique​ ​dans​ ​les​ ​rues​ ​de​ ​Montréal.

Au dessous, une rue Ste-Catherine désagréable en 2015