Main point I’m making with of this post: where’s the two-way, separated, “protected” bikeway in the Google Street View below? When I rode Montréal’s Boulevard de Maisonneuve bikeway in the summer of 2008, there were some nasty detours around construction projects. The Google Street View images in this post, shot at a later date, show an entirely different set of construction projects. Any great city is constantly renewing and reinventing itself, and so such problems are to be expected.
The Boulevard de Maisonneuve, an east-west arterial street in Montréal and Westmount, Québec, Canada, is one-way westbound and has a two-way, one-side of the street barrier-separated bikeway on its south side. The bikeway replaced a lane used variously for parking and for travel. Some sections of the Boulevard had two travel lanes, some three, before the bikeway was installed.
In June, 2008, I traveled the Boulevard and shot video with my helmet camera. In September, 2011, I decided to have another look by way of Google Street View. The Google photos are more recent than 2008.
One of the many concerns I have with this bikeway, or any such bikeway, is that it can’t accommodate construction projects in any convenient or comfortable way. There were three construction projects along the segment I rode in 2008. One required a detour to a very narrow temporary bikeway on the opposite side of the street; another mingled bicyclists with pedestrians; a third closed the sidewalk. I also had to cross several very wide driveways, in spite of the description of this bikeway as “protected”. During my short trip, I nearly collided with a pedestrian and with a car.
What I find most telling about the photos below is the entirely new and different set of construction projects impacting the bikeway. Some of them reduce it to barely wide enough for a single bicycle, between barriers. There are blocks where the bikeway has been closed, and bicyclists are directed to ride in a narrow channel demarcated by temporary barrels or bollards. Often, pedestrians are directed to use the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street; this would not be necessary, but for the bikeway. Motor traffic also is impacted due to resulting lane closures.
Utopian visions of a city would have it shining, complete and perfect, but a real city is always renewing itself.
Before I go on, let me suggest a real solution to the problems, and that would be to convert the entire width of the Boulevard de Maisonneuve into bicycle boulevard — that’s the technical term — a street which motor vehicles may use only for local access, controlled by bicycle-permeable barriers and diverters. Montréal could afford the loss of this one east-west artery among many as a through motor route, particularly considering that, as shown in the photos below, the Boulevard is already congested, even at times of light traffic, due the construction projects. Bicyclists would no longer be faced with the chaotic, pillar-to-post situation the photos show, and neither would they be required to negotiate with heavy motor traffic.
Though it has the longest on-street bikeway on the Montréal island, only the west end, not the the downtown part of the Boulevard de Maisonneuve was included in the famous and controversial Lusk/Furth study of Montréal bikeways. One explanation might be that this section is atypical. Another, perhaps to the point, is that its problems are too typical.
The following images are in order from east to west. You may click on any of them to look around, or on the four-way arrows at the upper right or the “view larger map” link to go to the full Google Maps application. Then, clicking on the plus sign will zoom in and clicking on the minus sign will give you an overhead view.
Boulevard de Maisonneuve at Rue St. Laurent — the Boulevard curves up to the right in the picture, and is closed off for construction, so the bikeway is detoured onto another street.
At Rue St. Urbain — the bikeway is routed north on the east sidewalk of Rue St. Urbain, whose two-way, one-side of the street bikeway (under the white car) is now occupied by motor traffic due to construction on the other side of that street. The Maisonneuve bikeway continues west (toward the lower right of the picture) across turning traffic.
348 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, at Rue St. Denis — The bikeway and sidewalk are fenced off and a temporary bikeway has been laid out behind a Jersey barrier, reducing travel lanes on the street from two to one.
390 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est — The bikeway has been reduced to half its width as it passes a construction site.
1220 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — truckers unload across the bikeway. The truck at the left in the picture went at least 1/2 block the wrong way down the one-way Boulevard to create a traffic-free space where the truckers could unload. Getting a fork lift across the bikeway is a chore. (The truckers’ legs appear distorted due to the motion of the Google camera car).
1328 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — this is the beginning of a construction area which runs for four long blocks. One lane of the Boulevard has been closed, as indicated by barrels, and provides parking for construction vehicles.
1515 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest, near Rue Mackay — that’s the bikeway blocked by a barrel, between the Jersey barrier and the fence. Just to the left of the fence, the large excavator is clattering and throwing up dust. Behind the excavator is where construction vehicles turn across the bikeway to enter the construction site. You can see their tire tracks.
1600 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — continuation of construction project in the next block. The bikeway is open, but most of the width of the sidewalk has been taken over by construction equipment, behind a row of posts. In the background, a sign has been planted in the bikeway, partially obstructing it, and a truck pulls out across it at an unsignalized intersection.
1693 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — next block: Both the bikeway and the sidewalk have been closed. Bicyclists ride in a temporary, narrow channel demarcated by barrels.
1803 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — Same block viewed looking east from the other end. The bicyclist in the picture is holding a cell phone in one hand. This might be called nonchalance in French, but I wouldn’t want to meet him head-on.
3400 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — trucks park outside the bikeway, blocking a lane of travel. Workers must carry supplies across the bikeway.
3900 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — the bikeway in the Westmount suburb of Montréal is demarcated by flex posts, which bend over, so they can’t keep a motor vehicle out — though they can take a bicyclist down. The wide driveways shown here are only one example among many along the bikeway. The markings in the bikeway identify them as “conflict zones” — places where motorists must look in directions they normally wouldn’t expect to have to and in some cases can’t. Most car-bike collisions result from mistakes made while crossing and turning.
4100 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — More driveways, very typical.
4392 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — a truck left-hooks across the bikeway. Bicyclists are expected to stay in the bikeway, and motorists, to look back behind them, and also ahead into the bikeway as they prepare to turn left. My near head-on collision occurred when the motorist was looking back over his shoulder for bikeway traffic and didn’t see me ahead of him.
4450 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest — Here, three trucks are parked in the last block of the bikeway before it turns into a path in a park.