Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says Mount Royal will no longer serve as a “highway” even as it remains open to through traffic following recommendations from the city’s public consultations office.
Public consultations blast Montreals Mount Royal pilot project
The Office de Consultation Publique de Montréal (OCPM) released its long-awaited report on Thursday with several recommendations, including the suggestion to allow private vehicles to access the mountain.
The OPCM report recommends that car traffic across the mountain should be allowed to continue but that the road could be developed as a recreational road "that people would use because it is a pleasant drive, and not as a shortcut."
Plante says the city will respect the recommendations, several of which line up with its vision for making the mountain safer for all commuters.
“Ultimately, it did not come out exactly how I wanted originally but it shows how Montrealers are attached and love their mountain,” said Plante.
The report follows a five-month pilot project by the city, which only allowed emergency vehicles, company cars, buses and cyclists to access Camillien-Houde Way and Remembrance Road.
The contentious measure was prompted by the death of an 18-year-old cyclist in October 2017. Clément Ouimet was killed after he was struck by an SUV making an illegal U-turn on Camillien-Houde Way.
“From the perspective of the citizens, it was a pretty bad idea,” said OCPM president Dominique Olivier.
"Its important often to show people possibilities, for them to imagine, or to think that could be good or not, so I truly believe that this pilot project supported such a huge participation," said Plante.
The OCPM’s report found the results of the pilot project were disappointing and “inconclusive.” It said limiting car traffic on the mountain could not be done without boosting public transit options for access to and travel through the mountain.
“In terms of the objectives, of making the mountain accessible and enjoyable, we didn’t find the pilot project did that,” said Olivier.
The report also recommends overhauling Camillien-Houde Way in a way that allows pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to safely access and leave the mountain and suggests reducing the number of parking spaces and replacing them with green space.
Lionel Perez, Opposition leader at Montreal City Hall, said the results of the public consultations show Plante’s administration is “completely disconnected from the feeling of Montrealers.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says Camillien-Houde Way will stay open to private vehicles all year long, but it will no longer serve as a "highway" over the Mount Royal.
The mayor's announcement comes after the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) recommended it stay open.
The independent body released a report Thursday on the results of a pilot project that closed a stretch of the road near Beaver Lake last year.
"We believe in safety first and we will take any measures to ensure it," said Plante, noting the pilot project was launched in the wake of Clément Ouimet's death in 2017.
Several said the closure made the road less safe by encouraging more drivers to make U-turns and encouraging more cyclists to speed.
The young cyclist killed when he collided with an SUV making an illegal U-turn near the lookout at the northeast end of Camillien-Houde.
The voice of the majority of participants was clear: people intensely disliked the plan to ban cars from crossing the mountain.
"The OCPM report is clear, Camillien-Houde must take on a new [purpose]. Camillien-Houde will become a road that will be safe for all users."
Plante reminded residents that, back in December, her administration vowed to respect the OCPM's findings.
Temporary measures will be put in place as early as this summer, she said. Traffic will be allowed, but "today's report officially marks the end of Camillien-Houde as a highway."
The OCPM found that when cars moved to alternate routes, it caused congestion on surrounding roadways. The closure also created a perception accessing the mountain was harder.
Based on the data provided and the opinions expressed, the pilot project didn't seem to "solve the problem of security and sharing of the road," said Dominique Ollivier, head of the OCPM, on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
The pilot project from June 2 to Oct. 31 polarized Montrealers and did not produce conclusive results “in terms of access to the mountain, the user experience and safety improvement,” the Office de consultation publique de Montréal said in a 110-page report released Thursday.
"We couldn't recommend to go ahead with permanent measures" like closing it for good, she explained.
Instead, her office recommended that motor traffic be maintained along Camillien-Houde Way and Remembrance Road while providing for the "redevelopment of this axis as a pleasure route."
The public consultation quickly became the largest in the city's history as thousands of people shared their opinion with the OCPM on the project, and most of those opinions were not favourable to closing the popular route.
The closure raised the ire of motorists who regularly use the road as a shortcut between the Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce and Plateau-Mont-Royal boroughs.
The Café suspendu, on the Camillien-Houde lookout, was popular but many people pointed out it blocked the spectacular view, while the location of the belvédère Soleil caused safety risks because of conflicts between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, it said.
Buses, taxis, emergency vehicles and others were still allowed to use Camillien-Houde. Planters and signs were put in place to indicate the street's closure and hundreds of tickets were doled out to those who ignored the rules.
The OCPM's report is based on citizen opinion and data that the city collected over the run of the pilot project, Ollivier said.
She said the city should be looking at ways to improve the route over the mountain and ensure there is public transportation available.
Youssef Amane, a spokesperson for the executive committee, said the issue is not Ferrandez’s responsibility but rather Plante’s. He noted that Ferrandez is no longer responsible for large projects since Plante reshuffled the executive committee March 29.
It's also important, she added, that "all the different landmarks on the mountain are accessible before we can think about just shutting it down to through traffic."
Announced in February 2018, the pilot project barring private vehicles from using Camillien-Houde Way and Remembrance Rd. as an east-west artery contributed to ending the honeymoon with Mayor Valérie Plante’s administration, elected in November 2017.
There were no collisions on Camille-Houde Way throughout the pilot project, she said, and officials saw a 75 per cent reduction in the number of cars on the mountain.
Motorists were also driving slower, dropping their average driving speed from 50 to 40 kilometres per hour.
Opposition leader Lionel Perez is reacting, saying the pilot project was a total fiasco, something he says theyve been saying since the beginning
The city will install unspecified temporary measures this summer to improve safety, but the transformation of Camillien-Houde and Remembrance Rd. will only happen next year, since it will require long-term planning, Plante said.
The city is now working on a long-term plan, but nothing will be done to the detriment of the mountain or the safety of its visitors, she said.
"I have always said I would be the mayor of all Montrealers and I would listen to what they had to say," she said.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, opposition leader Lionel Perez said the closure was a "total fiasco" and that it's what he's said since the beginning.
Pierre Ernst, who was out for a run on the Mount Royal Thursday, said he finds the OCPM's recommendations "unfortunate" because there is no need to cross over the mountain by car.
"I thought we were going in a direction where we were promoting biking and running and walking and it's unnecessary," he said.
"It sure makes me feel bad for that young kid who got killed for no reason," he added, referring to the death of Ouimet.
After living on both sides of the mountain, Ernst said and going around it is "not that big of a deal. Especially if they fix the streets a little."
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.