McGill Closes Portion of McTavish Street to Traffic

Pedestrians on the newly closed Mctavish Street. Photo Christopher Curtis

McGill students are sheepish about stepping onto the campus’ new pedestrian street. Although the southern half of McTavish Street has been closed to motorists and cyclists since May 28, pedestrians are still clinging to the sidewalk.

“People haven’t gotten used to [the pedestrian street] yet,” said McGill student Elise Lepine. “Once the school year starts I’m sure that will change though.”

The closure of McTavish Street is part of McGill University’s Greening of Lower Campus, an initiative led by the school’s Office of Sustainability in collaboration with the city of Montreal.

“We’ve been working with the [city of Montreal] and the neighbours for several years,” said Chuck Adler, director for Campus and Space Planning. “The project is going to evolve—it’s still a work-in-progress. We’re slowly discussing how to blend the sidewalk and the street.”

The same concept has been applied to McGill’s entire lower campus. Cyclists are now forced to dismount and walk beside their bicycles in this area, a city law imposed on all pedestrian zones.

“Some people get off their bikes and walk, and others ride right through; they don’t listen,” said Pierre Canel, a security guard on duty at the entrance to the pedestrian zone.

The environmental effort is also partly an attempt at increasing safety and preventing accidents between cyclists and pedestrians.

“There have been a few collisions,” said Lepine. “Cyclists play chicken with security guards.”

A bike path has been laid out on University Street as a healthy compromise to the recently inaugurated pedestrian zone.

“It’s a multi-phase project with the city,’” said Adler. “The bike path is just the first phase.”

The new regulations are not there to dissuade students from cycling to school, as the organization has stated that the move is intended to double the current amount of bike racks on campus.

Certain motorized vehicles, like delivery, service, construction vehicles, as well those used by people with disabilities, will still have access to the street, though only during specific times and at a reduced speed of 15 km/h. Parking license holders have also been relocated to other areas. The project will continue throughout the winter.

A similar project to the Greening of Lower Campus took place in the Plateau this summer, where a portion of St. Dominic Street between St. Joseph and Laurier was converted into a pedestrian zone. This was an attempt to re-route traffic and persuade motorists to travel on the city’s main arteries rather than clogging up residential streets, according to Michel Tanguay, communications officer for the Plateau.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 02, published August 24, 2010.