The Jacques Cartier Bridge bike path is not maintained during the winter months meaning Montreal cyclists who rely on it to travel around at other times of the year are left without the option once the snow hits. A group of activists regularly jump the fence in order to continue riding throughout the winter but without regular maintenance, it’s not an option to most. That could be set to change next winter.

“It’s completely absurd the bike path is closed. The authority says it’s because of security reasons, but it’s been four winters I have been using the path by jumping over the barrier,” Mike Muchnik told Radio-Canada.

The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., the federal corporation that manages the structures, erects barriers after the first snowfall but wants to begin clearing the bridge next winter as first reported by the Montreal Gazette. At the Winter Cycling Congress that wrapped up at the Hyatt Regency Montreal on Thursday, the bridge authority announced that beginning next winter it will begin a pilot project to test innovative methods to clear the path once the first snow hits next winter. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that cyclists will be permitted to use it.

“We recognize there is a growing demand to use the bridge in the winter, and we can no longer ignore that demand,” said Andy Woo, the director of planning for Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc. “We know that there is a group that uses it now, but they are quite expert. We want to be able to open the path for all levels of cyclists.”

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Woo explained that there are challenges because the path is narrow and has a steep gradient. Salting will also not be an option because the path sits on top of concrete structures that hold up the bridge. As a result, crews will be testing out different methods to heat up the surface in an effort to keep in snow and ice free Woo said. There may be a small group of cyclists given permission to ride the path on a trial basis.

“We can’t say yet we’re going to open it,” Woo said. “If it’s closed, we’re going to continue to discourage the use of the path.”

The news was welcome at the Winter Cycling Congress during which speakers from across Canada and the world spoke about different topics surrounding cycling during the winter. Daniel Lambert of the Montreal Bike Coalition said the pilot project is welcome news but that he’d also like to see traditional snow clearing methods used to keep the path open all winter.

There was also positive news for other parts of the city. In Côte-des-Neiges — Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, the de Maisonneuve Blvd. separated bike path has been cleared throughout the winter but painted bike lanes are harder to maintain because of the lack of physical separation from vehicles. The borough says that it will make a greater effort next year to clear these paths on main arteries.

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“We have been focusing much more on the priority paths, but we’re going to be focusing on other main thoroughfares next year,” the director of the roads and parks division of  Côte-des-Neiges — Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Chantal Hooper said.

The efforts to maintain cycling infrastructure during the winter did not go unnoticed with Steven Bercu of the Boston Cyclists Union noting Montreal appeared to be doing a good job maintaining the cities bike lanes. “It’s icy, so the conditions are never going to be ideal, but I’m impressed with the aggressiveness of the snow clearing crews,” Bercu told the Montreal Gazette. “Most cities typically scale back the network during the winter and focus on key connections.”


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