The McGill Cycling Working Group has released a report recommending that a “shared space” policy between cyclists and pedestrians on campus be implemented, beginning with a “carefully monitored” pilot project. However, the McGill administration believes that more research needs to be done before the implementation can begin.
“This is a complex subject that has generated strong feelings on campus,” Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Robert Couvrette, told The Daily in an email. “We have accepted the group’s recommendation for more study before the pilot project is implemented.”
However, Harald Kliems, a member of the working group and former member of the Flat Bike Collective, told The Daily that more research was not the conclusion the group came to.
“The administration claims to say that further research with no implementation is what the working group recommended, [but] if you bother to look at the recommendations of the group, you see that that’s not exactly what we recommended.” In fact, the report recommends the implementation of the shared space policy in the “short term.”
“I disagree with the opinion that more research needs to be done instead of […] actually implementing shared space and researching that,” Kliems told the Daily.
“Changing the policy would legitimize the perspective of scofflaws.”
Couvrette created the working group following negative reactions to the installation of the Milton bicycle gates in the Fall 2013 semester with the goal of discussing and researching whether McGill should allow cycling on the lower campus. Members of the group were selected among students, staff, and faculty; experts and representatives of groups likely to be affected by a shared space policy were consulted during deliberations.
The group’s 43-page report finds that the “dismount policy,” in place since 2010, is an ineffective means of ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists – since it is poorly enforced – and that a change of policy is required.
“I do get the impression that the administration, or parts of it, are pretty strongly opposed to having any cycling on campus, [and] that the call for further research is meant to be a stalling tactic,” Kliems said.
In fact, according to an internal document from the working group obtained by The Daily, Provost Anthony Masi criticized the project during a review period, calling the group’s report “biased” and stating that “the quality of the data is low [and] the risk to pedestrians is underestimated.” He also called cyclists “scofflaws,” according to the document, adding that “changing the policy would legitimize the perspective of scofflaws.”
Couvrette stated that “[a] decision on a shared space model will only be made once this next level of research has been completed. It’s [too] early to say whether it will be a yes or a no.”
“Hopefully something will come out of that, but I suspect it will take a serious amount of time,” said Kliems. “I’m somewhat pessimistic – I mean, eventually it will probably happen, but who knows when?”
—With files from Igor Sadikov