by Charlotte Gagnon-Ferembach
25 September 2017
A daily reality for many vulnerable road users in Montreal
Charlotte Gagnon-Ferembach has a background in urban design from the University of Québec in Montréal (UQÀM). She is currently doing an internship at the Copenhagenize Design Montreal office.
A car remains parked, on average, 95% of the time, monopolizing an incredibly important portion of urban space to the chagrin of all other road users. Even in some of the world’s most sustainable cities, including Copenhagen, the personal vehicle occupies a disproportionate amount of space compared to other urban transport forms, even if a minority of residents own a vehicle and fewer use them daily. The map below shows the amount of space taken up by all parking spaces combined in 2015 in the cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg – 3.23 km2. This is an enormous amount of space that could be transformed into parks, restaurants, gardens, living space, etc. The list of possibilities is endless.
Montreal is no exception to the rule when we talk about public land being occupied by a sea of car parking. Much like many of its neighbouring North American cities, the metropolis is organized along a fairly standard rectilinear street grid, which facilitates transport by many different travel modes, but has also facilitated the expansion of car-culture over the past century, leaving a mark on the urban landscape. On top of the typical issues that arise due to the dominance of cars in our cities, a major problem is the immense amount of land that we dedicate to car parking to the detriment of other activities. This imbalance is at the forefront for many urban residents world-wide and here in Montreal, causing people to take action and reappropriate space, finding solutions to fight car-culture with design that makes daily life better for all.
PARK(ing) Day, which celebrates tactical urbanism by revitalizing parking spaces for one day, is one of these action-oriented movements that is trying to make lasting change. This last Friday, the 22nd of September, Montreal participated yet again in this event, along with 161 other cities around the world. To mark the occasion, Copenhagenize Design Co. worked in collaboration with Piétons Québec, Ghost Bike Montreal, Friends of Gorilla Park, The Montreal Bike Coalition and le Conseil Régional de l’Environnement de Montréal.
The intersection of Beaubien West and Saint-Urbain streets captured the attention of our working group, as it is centrally located in the vibrant neighbourhood of Marconi-Alexandra but suffers from design negligence for all types of users.
The intersection is heavily used by all types of users and is populated with a high number of very large transport trucks. Conflict between users will be amplified as the plot of land on the north-west corner of the intersection is given back to the community as the much-needed green Gorilla Park, and as the University of Montreal opens up their new nearby science campus. The existing design of the intersection shows the areas that create significant safety concerns and increase risks of collisions, especially for the most vulnerable of road users – on foot or bicycle.
Among other issues, one can identify that there are no safe pedestrian crossings here, an abrupt end to the Des Carrières bike path sandwiched between two high-use parking lots spilling out onto a fast-moving 4-lane Beaubien street, a lack of signals or signage and traffic calming measures, and a number of potential zones where parked cars are positioned such that bicycles are almost guaranteed to get doored. A YouTube video by Simon Van Vilet demonstrates what this feels like at rush hour.