The lockdown on bikes sucks, and the vast majority of the people at Thursday’s Open Forum on Cycling and Pedestrian Safety made that explicitly clear. Vice-President (University Services) Jim Nicell first went through his ten-minute PowerPoint on the “Planning and Design Principles of the McGill University Physical Master Plan,” stressing the words “viable,” “sustainable,” and “consultation” at every available opportunity before the floor was opened up for Q&A. But most people made clear that they hadn’t been consulted at all. Most were unaware of this policy until it was set in stone, as was I.
In fact, the most recent edition of the Master Plan is dated April 2008, and makes no explicit mention of the bike ban – just a single sentence buried on page 57 stating that “[i]n order to encourage a pedestrian-oriented lower campus, alternative recommended cycle routes and bicycle traffic-calming measures will be considered, in collaboration with City authorities.” That’s it.
At the open forum, only one statistic on the popularity of the bike ban was cited, and it was by McGill Urban Planning alumnus Jacob Larsen, who a few years ago had conducted a poll of 400-odd students. Only about 10 per cent favoured the idea of banning both bikes and cars from campus. And that was prior to the implementation of a car-free campus and the construction of the University bike path, which have substantially opened up space here and reduced the volume of commuters cycling through.
Have Nicell and his task force polled students at all on this? When I asked, all I got was yet another list of “stakeholders” I’d never heard of, but who, importantly, had been “consulted” in the construction of the Master Plan. Clearly they have no such data, and I genuinely would have appreciated an admission of that fact.
It might be smart, in the sense of Realpolitik, to consult a bunch of people and come out of the whole process with some arbitrary and unilateral decision, but it’s not classy, it’s not fair, and it’s undemocratic.