Our neighborhood of Park-Extension continues to be a battleground for residents, cyclists, and city planners as opposition to the removal of parking spaces intensifies. The controversial move to eliminate 250 parking spots in favor of new bike lanes has not only triggered growing dissent but has also resulted in acts of vandalism.
Last Thursday September 21st, the conflict escalated when vandals spread paint and oil on the roads and removed no-parking signs. The heart of the dispute centers on the intersection of Querbes Avenue and d’Anvers Avenue, where dozens of protesters took to the streets on a Friday September 22nd morning. Their aim? To prevent workers from the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough from continuing their bike lane development work. Police were on the scene to maintain order.
The Mayor’s Vision
Laurence Lavigne Lalonde, the borough mayor for Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension, defends the overhaul as a necessary step toward creating a more equitable and balanced neighborhood. She points out that 50 percent of Park Ex’s population does not use a car, and bike lanes occupy only two percent of the borough’s roadways. With numerous families and pedestrians in the area, the mayor argues that the changes are designed to enhance safety and accessibility.
In response to residents’ concerns about the loss of parking spaces, Lavigne Lalonde suggests that individuals may need to adapt to the new circumstances. While conceding that some may have to walk a bit farther from their homes to their cars, she emphasizes the importance of prioritizing the common good over individual convenience.
The mayor also promises solutions for those with mobility and health issues who require closer parking access, although the specifics remain unspecified. In a densely populated and intricate neighborhood like Parc-Extension, Lavigne Lalonde acknowledges the likelihood of pushback but expresses confidence that residents will eventually embrace the changes.
A Councillor’s Concerns
City Councillor Mary Deros, who represents Park-Extension, shared her perspective on the contentious issue. She expressed that many of her constituents are apprehensive about facing a challenging winter, particularly the seniors and individuals with disabilities in the neighborhood. The looming loss of parking spaces in an already crowded area has exacerbated concerns for these vulnerable citizens.
Deros also commented on the 1st protest, noting that she recognized almost everyone among the demonstrators opposing the current parking space reduction plan. However, she observed that the group supporting the bike lanes had fewer familiar faces, indicating that individuals from outside Park-Ex had joined the demonstration. Deros visited the scene at the most recent protest to engage with the protesters. “People are angry,” she acknowledged. Deros is part of the opposition camp, while the borough primarily consists of elected officials from Projet Montréal, the party of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante. This includes Borough Mayor Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde.
The borough’s development plan entails sacrificing parking on one side of the street to accommodate two bike lanes, one in each direction. While the protesters support bike lanes, they advocate for solutions that do not entail such significant parking space reductions in a densely populated neighborhood where few residents have driveways or garages. They argue that a more balanced solution would help alleviate tensions between different groups of residents.
Other protesters highlight the displacement of parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities to more distant locations, resulting in significantly longer commutes for those individuals.
The conflict came to a head at the last borough council meeting two weeks ago when citizens voiced their discontent. The turnout was so substantial that the police had to intervene to limit access to the council chamber.
When questioned by affected residents, borough officials defended their actions by asserting that consultations had been held regarding the new dedicated bike lanes. However, opponents claim that the decision to remove parking spaces was only announced in June of last year.
Beyond Parc-Extension, tensions have also flared in the Saint-Michel district, where a bike lane project on Legendre Avenue is also reducing on-street parking spaces. Demonstrations have taken place in this area over the past two weeks, reflecting the broader challenges faced by Montreal and other cities striving to balance the needs of different transportation modes in densely populated urban areas.