Saturday, September 23, 2017

Montreal for People

Montreal is a city that has real winter... on average, they get about twice as much snow as the Twin Cities, with slightly warmer temperatures (we're officially USDA Zone 4b and they're Zone 5b, which means minimum temperatures of –15F for them, –25F for us). Despite this, they have a lot of great infrastructure for bikes, plus excellent transit. And in the summer, they really work to make their spaces for people and not just cars (though there are also plenty of cars and I definitely saw areas where their negative effects are highly visible).

But there is lots of good to notice. First, temporary parklets were everywhere:

Parklets usually take up one parking space to add seating. One car, serving one or just a few people, loses out to serve dozens of other people.

For pedestrians, the downtown area has some diagonal crosswalks with pedestrian-only cycles of the traffic light:

I also saw this type of speed bump added in alleys in several spots. They look like possible tactical urbanism rather than major public works projects that took a year to plan...

...but they also appear to be perfectly effective.

I probably have the most photos of bike-related examples:

The BIXI bike sharing system dates back to 2009, making it the first large-scale system in North America. It's now owned by the city. The name is a combination of the words bicycle and taxi. I saw these bikes in use everywhere.

This is an example of what's called a bike box, which allows bicyclists to wait at the front of traffic queues so they are more visible to car drivers. (In this case, the VW at right is breaking the law.)

Bike parking was usually plentiful. These hoops, planned to go in when the trees were planted, were a particularly nice example.

There is indoor bike parking outside some of the Metro stops.

This, I think, is mobile bike parking. Maybe it's removed in the winter, or at least it could be. But it's hefty and provides lots of good space for locking bikes, much better than the wheel-benders we usually see here.

This is the coolest bike parking idea I saw: almost every parking meter pole has one of these metal donuts around it to allow you to lock a bike to it. If you're going to put in new infrastructure, like a new-fangled meter system, why not make it serve two purposes?

In some areas there are median-protected two-way bikeways. This one is near McGill University.

In others, there are parking-protected bike lanes with some plastic bollards to make sure the car parkers stay in their lane. (This one needs new paint, so clearly it's been there fore a while.)

Inside the Metro stations, bikes are accommodated in the first car of each train.

The Metro in general is fantastic. This is the inside of an Orange Line train, which I guess has the newest cars. Really well-designed, though they are oriented more to standing and fitting more people in than sitting. Check out that triple pole between the doors — lots of people can hold onto that. There's also really great aural and visual information for way-finding. On the left side of this photo on that black screen, there's a static map of the system plus a live graphic showing where you are on the route, with the next station highlighted.

The interior of the buses is also oriented to wide aisles to make sure people can get on, more than they can sit. The bus also had very good aural and pretty good visual way-finding. You can just make out the LED letter screen at top left, which lists the next stop.

Their bus stop signs are pretty similar to the ones our local Metro Transit has been rolling out lately. They tell which buses stop there, and give a stop number that you can text to find out when the next buses arrive. They also tell you the nearest Metro stations you can reach with each bus (in this case, that's the the down-arrow symbol that says Atwater below it).

Plantings of perennial and annual flowers were everywhere. Just like Minnesota, Montreal is crazy for plant life during the months when it can flourish:

I saw several of these planted bumpouts, which narrow intersections to slow cars and make the crossing distance shorter for pedestrians. They also allow more rain to soak into the ground instead of running off into storm sewers.

I'm not sure how successful these tree baskets are, but I saw quite a number of them downtown. I don't know if they have any negative effects on the trees, and I imagine they need to be watered more than a more substantial planter would. But an interesting idea.

I also have a few photos of other sustainable aspects of Montreal:

I happened to catch compost pickup day in one neighborhood... cute little cans, not much larger than a kitchen trash bin.

I saw several of these electric car charging stations on the street in various areas.

And this small electric truck, privately owned by a paper company, was evidence that it's not just the city that's trying.

Finally, there were two failures that I noticed:

This two-way bike lane is immediately adjacent to one of the Berri-UQAM Metro entrances, as you can see from the Metro sign on the right. That station is one of the major transfer points of the Metro system, and serves the University of Quebec at Montreal campus, so it's a busy place with lots of bikes and pedestrians. In this case, the bike lane is up on the sidewalk (I have no idea why), and crosses here just in the place where Metro riders and other pedestrians want to cross the street, toward where I took the photo from. When a bunch of people want to cross, there's nowhere to wait except right in the bike lane.

This bumpout, which is intended to be planted with perennials to add to the neighborhood's beauty, is currently detracting instead. It may be still under construction; I wasn't sure. But it raised the question of who plants and/or maintains these bumpout gardens, and how the plantings do over time. I don't know the answer to that.

So, two or maybe one-and-a-half fails for Montreal out of many successes. I give them an A!

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