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Montreal mayor causes uproar with plan to limit cars in iconic Mount Royal park

Last Updated Feb 20, 2018 at 3:00 pm EDT

Cars drive through the fog on Calmillien-Houde Way through Mount Royal park Tuesday, February 20, 2018 in Montreal. Montreal's new administration is forging ahead with a plan to ban drivers from using the scenic road through the city's iconic Mount Royal park despite public outcry,THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL – Montreal’s new administration is forging ahead with a plan to ban drivers from using the scenic road through the city’s iconic Mount Royal park despite public outcry, Mayor Valerie Plante said Tuesday.

The mountain road that stretches along the city’s famous cemetery and Beaver Lake, offering gorgeous panoramic views of the island, was never meant to be a main artery, she said.

“We have to reappropriate the park and we have the political courage to do so,” Plante said in response to questions about a 14,000-signature petition that demands the city change course.

Montrealers shouldn’t be too surprised Plante’s new government is taking away a favourite shortcut to get from one end of the city to the other.

Her party campaigned on a promise to “gradually reduce transit traffic on the access road to Mount Royal Park.”

Additionally, the consequences of her decision to name Luc Ferrandez as head of the city’s big parks shouldn’t shock anyone either.

Ferrandez is the popular mayor of the Plateau district and the bane of many of that neighbourhood’s business owners. He is renowned for turning the Plateau into a nightmare for motorists after he limited parking and rerouted street directions to force traffic to use main arteries.

“I thought it was going to be a formality,” Ferrandez said in a recent radio interview when asked about his decision on the Mount Royal road. “I thought this was understood by everyone.”

The city had been talking about reducing traffic on the mountain for years and several municipal reports favoured the approach his government is taking, he said.

“I won’t backtrack on this,” Ferrandez said. “At some point things need to advance.”

The opposition at City Hall is calling for Plante to launch public consultations before taking away the mountain road, citing the petition they say demonstrates the public is against her plan.

“We understand your goal to prevent future accidents, but eradicating the car from Mount Royal is not the solution,” reads part of the petition.

The accident in question occurred last October when an 18-year-old cyclist was killed after a driver allegedly made an illegal move on the mountain road and struck him.

Clement Ouimet’s death renewed calls to make the road safer or to ban cars on it completely.

Plante’s plan doesn’t entirely prohibit access to the mountain by car. Drivers will still have access to parking lots from each end of the road, in order to visit the cemetery or places such as Beaver Lake.

Drivers won’t be able to cross through the mountain, however, as the city plans to cut the road in half and force motorists to make a U-turn and go back the way they arrived.

The city’s plan is a pilot project, and the administration will make a final decision at a later date about whether to permanently ban cars on the road.

Plante, who is so far refusing the opposition’s demand for public consultations, said she is aware of the petition and “takes it seriously,” but “there are a lot of people for and against.”

“I can understand that for people who have the habit of taking this shortcut, they are a little shaken by this,” she said. “Changing our habits are not easy. I hear you.”

The pilot project is expected to begin in the spring.