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McGill switches gears on cycling Montrealers

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McGill is fed-up with being a through-route for Montreal’s two-wheeled commuters. Security guards were instated as gatekeepers to redirect bike traffic on campus in an effort to dissuade Montreal citizens from passing through McGill.

Jim Nicell, Vice-Principal University Services for McGill, noted that heavy bike traffic was not sustainable for McGill.

“We’re doing everything we can at McGill to preserve the campus, but this is not a thoroughfare – it’s McGill,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is become a highway.”

The problem is rooted in the missing link in Montreal’s bike-path system. With no connecting route between the de Maisonneuve bike-superhighway and the Milton bike lane, cyclists travelling west on Milton toward downtown must cut through campus or face on-coming traffic on University. According to Velo-Quebec, 3,000 cyclists pass through McGill’s gates every day, only 500 of who are McGill students or staff.

Nicell explained that the Milton-University biketrap that led cyclists right through Milton Gates necessitated circulation patterns designed to facilitate traffic flow.

“Measures are being taken to address the bike traffic issue, starting with security at the Milton Gates to ensure cyclists follow the direction of traffic, or for cyclists to slow down or dismount,” he said.

Cyclists must ride up towards the James Administration building and around, as opposed to the lower road which runs in the opposite direction. But reports of disgruntled cyclists swearing, yelling, and even throwing hot coffee in the face of these security guards suggests that the redirecting is not all-together smooth.

David Gruber, a member of the McGill cycling team, said that the re-routing shouldn’t be an issue for students.

“The extra 30 seconds doesn’t really make a difference…. Pedestrians don’t expect you to come the wrong way down the street,” Gruber said.

Nicell said that McGill still wanted to promote the use of bikes through initiatives like Car-free day.

“We’re blocking off more of the campus every year, and we’re growing and moving in a sustainable direction,” he noted, adding that a complete shift to bikes was not feasible at the moment.

“There will need to be a transition,” he said. ‘We need to figure out how we’re going to integrate with the city and generate more bicycle space.”

Nicell noted that re-routing issues were likely to worsen next summer, when upper campus would be under construction, limiting bike traffic to lower campus.