Montreal to convert some streets to help pedestrians, cyclists get around amid coronavirus lockdown

Montrealers will have more space to travel on foot and bike this summer as the novel coronavirus health crisis continues to bear down on the city.

Mayor Valérie Plante announced on Friday the city will temporarily transform part of its streets into a “safe active transit circuit,” composed of more than 100 reconfigured kilometres for cyclists and pedestrians.

“We want to encourage people to go outside and move, but safely,” she said, adding the fight against COVID-19 has transformed how residents get around.

As part of the plan, some streets will get new bike paths or expanded sidewalks for pedestrians. Others, such Mont-Royal Avenue in the Plateau-Mont-Royal, will no longer accommodate car traffic.

READ MORE: Montreal-area schools to stay closed until September amid coronavirus crisis

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The warm months will be different for residents amid confinement measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 and that means fewer people will be travelling, according to Plante.

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“It will be a very different summer for all of us,” she said. “Most of us won’t be able to travel and most of us will have to stay in the city.”

With more people likely forced to stay in Montreal over the summer, Plante maintains that strong measures are needed to enforce social-distancing measures and ensure the city’s streets and green spaces are accessible.

“We can see that the scope of the crisis of Montreal requires strong actions in order to respect social distancing while allowing people to have a breath of fresh air,” she said.

READ MORE: STM to provide masks to commuters as Montreal’s reopening looms

The plan means less space for cars or parking on some streets, but the mayor said there has been a significant decrease in traffic since the pandemic began and the city has to “re-balance the sharing of the road.”

The reconfigured streets will be rolled out in two phases, starting in June and then expanded throughout the summer. With previously announced bike routes, temporary corridors and the city’s existing 900 kilometres of bike paths, cyclists and pedestrians will have access to more than 1,200 kilometres of routes to get around.

Montreal is the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak in Canada, with more than 20,000 cases to date. There have been more than 2,000 deaths attributable to COVID-19 on the island.

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With files from the Canadian Press

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