Pedestrians will have the streets of Montreal’s Gay Village to themselves this summer, according to a recent car-ban announcement from the Ville-Marie Borough.
The roads between Papineau and Berri will be blocked to traffic allow to for a vibrant cultural and commercial atmosphere from June 17 to September 3.
Ville-Marie mayor Benoie Labonté, who announced the ban with Village Merchants Association president Denis Brossard, estimates it will cost the borough $50,000.
According to Ville-Marie spokesperson Jacques-Alain Lavallée, the ban is integrated with the borough’s efforts to reduce car traffic.
“The borough’s position has always been to reduce the number of cars in the downtown area,” Lavallée said. “That is part of our sustainable development plan of 2007. We do support public transportation.”
Last summer the street was closed for six consecutive weekends, following a request from the Village Merchants Association. Locals greatly supported the decision. The street often closes for festivals.
“This year [merchants] came by again, and we consulted with various groups and the police forces, and after several discussions our elected representatives have decided we will proceed,” Lavallée said.
With alternative routes mapped out and accessible public transportation, city officials do not anticipate visitors to the area will have difficulty getting around.
“We feel that there are less people working during the summertime, so congestion will not be as difficult as one would expect,” Lavallée said.
“Certainly it won’t be an easy situation, but we have estimates that the number of cars used on St. Catherine is much slimmer than one would think. There are not too many cars being used during the weekdays, especially during the summertime,” he added.
In the past, many merchants’ associations have staunchly opposed the Car-Free Day and the downtown bike path, and other efforts to reduce car presence and make routes more pedestrian-friendly.
But, with the success of last year’s venture, along with the long-standing success of Prince Arthur and de la Gauchetière, which are closed to cars, the Societé de Développement Commercial du Village conceded that closing the street may benefit commerce.
“I’d say the area is mostly pedestrian, because we already have three metro stations,” said Bernard Plante, executive director of the society. “Many people use the metro, and of course, people come here for the nightlife. You can’t drink and drive so many people come by metro.”
Plante also noted that with so few parking spaces on the street, the ability of people to park in the area and walk around will not suffer.
“I think there are approximately two hundred spaces on Ste. Catherine. The ban is going to change a lot of things for people,” Plante said.
However, the proposal is not universally welcomed. According to The Montreal Gazette, in February more than 50 Village residents demanded to talk to the borough about the proposal. They cited increased crime and loud streets.
Christian Cloutier, Commander of Montreal Police Station 22 in Ville- Marie, which has remained neutral on the car-ban, cited 106 total noise complaints last year, with 28 of them occurring during the car ban.
“We don’t know what will be the big problem,” Cloutier said. “This year there may be more noise complaints, or may be less, but we would like to be sure, to meet owners of bars and restaurants and meet about concerns.
“I would like respect for all. We should be able to live together, bars and residents. We will be there to respect the law.”