Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rachel street and Lachine canal - unsafe bike paths?

For some strange, possibly insane, reason we took the Rachel street bike path last night.

This path is insane, and insanely dangerous.

It crosses many side-streets, is next to a sidewalk full of people who step off on to the bike path frequently without looking, is full of aggressive and not-traffic-law-obeying cyclists who pass with no bell-ringing or even space to pass, has roller bladers going side by side blocking the whole path, has dogs, kids, and a line of parked cars making cyclists invisible to the passing (and turning!) cars. There's probably a few more ways to die on this path that I didn't notice, but I was only there for ten minutes.

Basically this path is a nightmare.

For safe bicycling, we greatly prefer going a mere two blocks north to the east-west boulevard Saint-Joseph, which has a wide section of free space between the two lanes of car traffic and the parked cars. Cyclists are, therefore, visible to the cars and vice-versa. We are far from sidewalk madness. The occasional car door is a hazard, but cyclists can ride a metre from the parked cars and I consider this a lot safer than the old-school Rachel street bike path. I'll say it again, there is no crazier or more dangerous path than the Rachel path.

Cycle Fun Montreal believes that bicycle and car traffic must share the public roadways, with a well-marked bike pane integrated into the regular traffic flow, and cyclists must obey the same traffic laws and indications like stop signs and lights as car drivers.

The separate bike lane blind-to-cars-style bike paths like Rachel are obsolete. (And highly dangerous.)

For a look at a new-style segregated bike path, consider Avenue du Parc between Pine avenue and Rachel: it is wide and it is separated from the sidewalk, overall it is a much safer segregated bike path. Another example of a modern segregated path is de Maisonneuve downtown: there are no parked cars between the bike path and the cars. Visibility=safety in our opinion. (cyclists obeying stop lights = safety too, in our opinion.)

For even more craziness, try the Lachine canal after work sometime.

The Lachine Canal bike path is another outdated and obsolete and highly-dangerous path. This narrow and bumpy path is shared by pedestrians, baby strollers, runners, cyclists going slow, cyclists going fast, dogs, roller bladers side by side, clueless folks with headphones on and oblivious to everything happening around them, and they are all sharing a path that is very rough and bumpy, and is too narrow for the type and volume of traffic and the quantity of traffic that this bike path attracts (it does, after all, have a great location.)

A bicycle path should be a safe place to cycle.

Neither Rachel street or the Lachine Canal are safe paths.

This has been a Cycle Fun Montreal safety rant!


At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an avid cyclist, I can somewhat agree with this persons’ comments.

I have ridden these paths many times and have observed the same things.

However please keep in mind that this path (Rachel) is a VERY high traffic path for cyclist. It runs from the base of the mountain (Mont-Royal), along side Parc La Fontaine and all the way to the Olympic stadium!

With the increases to Montreal bike paths and the intro of the BIXI bikes, more and more people are getting out and enjoying the sport of cycling. This means that every year new inexperienced riders are on the paths.

I am not originally from Montreal (but have lived here for 9 yrs) so I can attest that Montreal streets are a lot narrower than those of Alberta and Ontario and I completely understand if people are uncomfortable riding with traffic and so chose to use the paths (that’s what they are there for after all).

If every one obeys the lights as the writer states, yes this path would be safer but find me a cyclist who hasn’t gone through a stop sign/light ever. Not very likely!

It’s exciting to go fast on nice paved paths and I can hardly blame anyone, as I am guilty of it myself. Fortunately am I very experienced rider and extremely aware of what other riders and pedestrians (and motorist) are doing around me for both our safety.

We are taught to look both ways before crossing a street, to stop at stop signs/lights and to signal when we want to turn and some of us actually do it. There are cautious and aggressive people out there and it would appear this person (these people)just encountered more aggressive people than they would have liked. I almost think that this person (these people)may be more of a danger to other people than vise verse. Almost like a new driver, wanting to follow all the rules taught in driving school. Too cautious can be very dangerous too.

Addressing the Lachine path now, there isn’t a designated path for cyclist for the most part true. Walkers, runners, roller bladders, etc. equally share this path and again it is a VERY high traffic path. I’ll give the writer credit about the headphone wearing because in case you don’t already know this. It’s a by-law that you cannot wear headphones while cycling/ rollerblading. Officers don’t really enforce this though.

This is not a training path although several racers do speed along it (myself included) but it’s a very good path in my opinion for a nice leisure ride. You can ride from Old Port to Parc Rene Levesque. There are bumps and other obstacles far worse in the streets then you will encounter on this path (getting caught in a car door is NOT fun). I recommend the use of these paths but as in every situation, whether you’re walking, running, cycling or rollerblading be aware of your surroundings. We don’t live in a perfect world.

If you’re looking to do some training I suggest you go to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the former venue for the F1 races. It’s located at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Notre-Dame.

What do you call a cyclist who doesn't wear a helmet? An organ donor. ~David Perry

The sound of a car door opening in front of you is similar to the sound of a gun being cocked. ~Amy Webster

The bicycle had, and still has, a humane, almost classical moderation in the kind of pleasure it offers. It is the kind of machine that a Hellenistic Greek might have invented and ridden. It does no violence to our normal reactions: It does not pretend to free us from our normal environment. ~J.B. Jackson

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~Ernest Hemingway

Happy cycling!!!!! :D


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