My daily commute to work requires me to pass several hazards, most of them places where pedestrians, cyclists, and cars come together at awkward intersections. The other day I was thinking about how the area between Côte des Neiges and Crescent street really lends itself to the name “The Concordia Corridor,” because it really is a corridor in which you can’t pass other cyclists safely. And McGill College Avenue is such a cluster …(your expletive here) that it really needs a good, solid, angry name like “Cape of Good Pox,” which also makes reference to the Cape of Good Hope, from which few ships used to return. So I decided to draw a map of all the major biking hazards on my way to work.
- Concordia Corridor: The Concordia Corridor is the place where you don’t pass people. Ever. Bixi’s go slower than usual, the road is more uneven than usual, there are tons of pedestrians, and the traffic lights are close together. Coast it out, or pass at your own peril.
- Drunkard’s crossing: This isn’t much of a problem during the day, but if you’re biking past Drunkard’s Crossing (corner of Crescent and De Maisonneuve) after dusk, be ware the drunkards! They’re easy to spot because they’re usually loud and obviously inebriated, but they cross brazenly and without mercy!
- Festival Bay: Crescent st. gets blocked off once or twice during the summer for silly little “festivals” that no one actually goes to unless they’re curious about why the street has been blocked off. There’s usually a stage with some bored looking musician and a bunch of cars on platforms. Oh yeah, and they divert the bike path to the other side of the street, with no proper way to cross the street, which is really hard to do safely. Just by the way.
- Tourist’s trap: The tourists driving in downtown Montreal don’t seem to understand that bikes have to obey the same laws as cars, and that vehicles going straight have the right of way. So if you’re going straight through an intersection, check the plates of the car turning in front of you, and pay extra attention if they’re from out of province.
- Impatient Driver’s Cove: This is where all the foot traffic from McGill crosses from the McGill side of De Maisonneuve to the opposite side. Because of the sheer volume of pedestrians, and the fact that the light is so short (maybe 45 seconds?) only one or two cars can turn from McGill College Avenue onto De Maisonneuve after all the pedestrians have crossed. They get impatient, and they get pissed.
- Cape of Good Pox: Turning up onto McGill College is practically worth your life. My opinion might be slightly colored by the fact that I was almost hit the other day by two taxis (at once) when I accidentally turned too early (my fault.) It’s best to cross to the other side of the street, wait for the light to turn, and go up with the flow of traffic. There are also a lot of taxis trawling for weary pedestrians here, so it’s even more dangerous (hence the “Here Be Taxis,” because taxi drivers are maniacs.)
- Straight of Sitting Cars: If you’re driving and you need to drive on St. Catherine street, then good luck to you; I’ll see you in a year. St. Catherine is always full of traffic, especially with the construction on Sherbrooke st. And if you’re on a bicycle, don’t even think about it.
- Sherbrooke St: Sherbrooke is where all the people who are too pissed and impatient to take De Maisonneuve drive, and they do so quickly. I never bike on Sherbrooke, and I never intend to. I value the intact-ness of my limbs, torso, and face.
- The Valley of Atwater (Pictured Below): I couldn’t think of a good, seafaring name for this one, and I didn’t draw it on the main map because it’s sort of out of the way, but it’s worth mentioning. I wanted the name to reference “Charge of the Light Brigade” (“Into the valley of death rode the 600”,) because riding through this area of the bike path is like passing through an enemy controlled valley, while being bombarded with pedestrians. First, there are the mall customers, who feel completely at safe and morally satisfied crossing in the middle of the street/bike path, leaving inches between themselves and the cyclists. I glare angrily at these people as I ride past. Then there are some wayward Dawson students who feel it’s ok to not only cross in the middle of the street, but to walk down the bike path, stand around taking their time as they cross it, or hang around and talk on the edge of the path. To make matters worse, there’s a driveway above the mall entrance, which produces cars when least expected. Hence the “Bumpery Death” denoted on the map.
The truth about Montreal traffic is that few people know and respect the traffic laws, even though cyclists take most of the blame because they’re the new kids on the block (and because existing traffic laws aren’t designed for today’s quantity of cyclists.) Cars take second place for blame, because 1) they’re bigger and more dangerous, and 2) taxis are some of the most reckless and dangerous drivers on the road. But the truth is that everyone is to blame. So I follow traffic laws to the letter when I’m biking (except for stop signs, which I slow down, check, and roll through, because it’s harder to stop and start, and I’m more likely to get hit by another cyclist if I stop all the way.) 1) I’d like to stay in one piece, and I’ve almost gotten hit multiple times while following the law, and 2) how can I expect other people to follow the laws if I don’t follow them myself?