Concordia students advocate for a car free-zone around campus

The initiative faces backlash after occupying Mackay Street Friday morning

Students are fighting for a car-free campus Photo Alice Martin

Dozens of students were reunited on Mackay Street, and demanded that the road be a permanent car-free zone. Multiple drivers tried to barge their way through the human barricade, however, students stood up strongly to them.

Vulgarity and complaints were shouted at Concordia students on Sept.29 after cars and trucks were denied access to Mackay Street due to a mobilization organized by Concordia Pedestrianization Coalition and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA).

Situated in downtown Montreal, Mackay Street is a one-way street that leads to Boulevard Maisonneuve West. Major Concordia University buildings and offices encircled the area, which is why students have constantly crossed that street to get to their classrooms. However, many complaints have been made about the constant traffic clogging Mackay.  First-year liberal arts student Linnea Wiggers doesn’t think “it makes sense to have cars here when there are so many students around.”  

Cars, bikers, and pedestrians have to share a small street together which can be quite chaotic. Just a couple of days ago, Wiggers witnessed an accident: “I saw someone biking down Mackay, then a car pulled out and hit them. She was fine, but I don’t want anything like that to happen anymore. It’s kinda scary when it does, ” Wiggers said.

For those reasons, Lily Charette, the ASFA mobilization coordinator, worked in collaboration with other student unions and groups to organize the blockade. A few meters down the street, away from the barricade, organizers and volunteers were actively painting colorful street art on the road, firmly stating their opinions. 

Simon Forman, a McGill student, was one of the painters. “I go to McGill and we don’t have actions like this very much. So, it feels good to help other students with theirs,” he said.
Charette hopes to push the project forward by having Mackay permanently pedestrianized. She has understood that it will take time to reach that goal, saying,“we are expecting that it’s gonna be probably a project that will happen in phases.” Their aim is to begin with closing the street for the summer season and progress toward progressively shutting it down for vehicles. The student unions are currently in the process of writing a proposal to the City of Montreal on this issue. 

The organizers and the participants received backlash on the methods they used. While Charette admitted to having received criticism about painting the street, she said   critics, “haven't necessarily criticized the project goal in its entirety”

Despite the hostility of certain drivers, some were not afraid to show support to the students. A few pedestrians encouraged them and took the time to learn more about what was going on. Police officers were present to ensure traffic flowed without too much disruption.