Ste. Catherine Street. Photo by Kate McDonnell
Two years ago, when Ste. Catherine Street in the Gay Village was pedestrianized for the summer, it was organized like a festival, with a corporate monopoly on outdoor beer sales and over-the-top decoration (and not in a fabulous way, just in a tacky commercial one). Even worse, the Village is not the liveliest place on weekday afternoons, so the street felt a bit forlorn before the sun went down.
But the enjoyment of experiencing a street free of cars outweighed all of the drawbacks. The Village’s summertime pedestrianization was successful enough that it has continued for the two summers since.
Now it has spread to other streets. This year, for the first time, St. Paul Street in Old Montreal was closed to traffic, something that should have been done a long time ago. Despite being one of the narrowest commercial streets in the city, and despite the tourist crowds that throng it all summer long, most of the space on St. Paul was taken up by cars. Walking along it meant a choice of squeezing past fanny-packed day-trippers on the narrow sidewalk or dodging cars on the street.
St. Paul Street. Photo by Kate McDonnell
I’m very happy that seasonal pedestrianization has been finally embraced in Montreal. The challenge now is to ensure they remain useful to those hoping to actually, you know, get around. The biggest problem I had with the inaugural Village pedestrianization, as well as with the permanently-pedestrianized Prince Arthur Street, is that they treat the streets as entertainment zones than as multifaceted urban spaces. Something as simple as accommodating bicycles would go a long way in helping avoid that situation.
Tags: Cycling, Montreal, Pedestrianization, Pedestrians, Summer, Urban Design