Snow is falling, the temperature is in the negatives and Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI) has declared it is winter. Their decision signals the closing of the 2.7-km Jaques-Cartier Bridge bike path which straddles the Island of Montreal and the South Shore. The popular path connects off-island commuters to the City of Montreal, where 36.6 per cent of South Shore residents work. This year, Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI) has announced a $250,000 pilot project in which it will attempt to clear the bridge of snow using various methods. The catch? Only 25 volunteer cyclists will be allowed to use the bridge during the winter.
These 25 cyclists will be regularly asked for feedback and are required to attend an information session. According to the JCCBI, more than150 people signed up for the program in just a little more than24 hours. Those who were not quick enough to slip in to the first 25 spots will be offered the option of paying $3.50 to use the VéloBus Jacques-Cartier, a shuttle bus that comes every 20 minutes. The bridge was opened in 1930, and the bike shuttle has been running since December 2017, but this will be the first time the JCCBI will allow any cyclists on the path during the winter.
Many winter commuters are upset about the restricted number of cyclists who will be allowed to cross the bridge, posting photos and videos of their commute on Twitter and tagging local politicians. For the past 10 years, Montreal Bike Coalition has been asking the JCCBI to open the bridge in the winter, with no success. The Association des piétons et cyclistes du pont Jacques-Cartier, which advocates for year-round public access to the cycling path, welcomed the pilot project but is critical of the low number of cyclists allowed to participate. In a Facebook post the association wonders, “In an era where climate change is increasingly becoming an issue and active commuting is part of the solution, how is this decision to restrict access to the bridge justified?”