Viewpoint : August 2019

From one shore to the other by bike: we’ve come a long way!

On June 28, I was pleased and honoured to be invited to the inauguration of the new Samuel-de-Champlain Bridge, linking Montréal and the South Shore. It was all very impressive. First, there was the infrastructure itself. The old bridge still standing beside it looked like a Meccano toy! Then there were the many dignitaries: ministers, municipal officials, public transit organizers – the transportation sector was well-represented. But what impressed me the most was that the speeches given by François-Philippe Champagne federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and François Bonnardel, Québec Minister of Transport, both emphasized the fact that this bridge featured a bike path which, additionally, would be accessible year-round. Veritable music to my ears!
 
In our daily crusade to have biking integrated into transportation infrastructures, we sometimes feel as if we’re getting nowhere. However, on June 28, it seemed to me that the tide was changing. The soon-to-be-revamped Île-aux-Tourtes Bridge (west of the Island of Montréal) will include a dedicated bike path. Same thing for the Pie-IX Bridge, where renovations are already under way. In Ontario, the Gordie-Howe International Bridge linking Windsor and Detroit, two auto manufacturing cities, will also feature a bike path! One could say that this marks the end of an era where such a concept wasn’t even part of the preliminary discussions.
 
We are therefore living at a time when many bridges are reaching the end of their useful life cycle. While progress is evident in speeches and reality, this doesn’t mean that the future is without challenges. A case in point is the famous Turcot Dalle-Parc, initially included in the plans of the Québec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) and then quietly withdrawn. After the Montréal community rallied in protest, the issue became the subject of a preliminary agreement between Montréal and Québec before the 2017 provincial elections. However, announcements by the current government have yet to be made. At the time of writing this editorial, the case of the Monseigneur-Langlois Bridge had also not been settled. This MTQ bridge must replace the regional link of the Route verte passing over the Beauharnois Power Dam, which will be affected by construction work for ten years. Even though the bridge belongs to the MTQ, the project involves Hydro-Québec and the two Regional County Municipalities (RCMs) (Beauharnois-Salaberry and Vaudreuil-Soulanges) that manage the regional bike network. Hydro-Québec is acting as a good corporate citizen and financing the lion’s share of the $1.6 million required over 10 years to secure the crossing. The MTQ, after being pressured by local cycling clubs and Vélo Québec, is boosting its contribution. As for the two RCMs, they must share the balance (about $15,000 annually each), which we hope to see paid quickly. However, once the dust has settled, the MTQ will have to take stock of the situation and reconfirm its full responsibility when a cycling route, particularly the Route verte, borrows its network or infrastructures. A route is a route. Whether users circulate by car, by foot or by bike, the manager of this route must take into account their different needs and assume the related costs. Which goes to show that there’s still more to be done!
 
Happy bike crossing!
 
Suzanne Lareau
President and CEO