Thursday, 6 October 2011

Caring by not car-ing (car-free week in Montreal) -- by Elise Favis

This article is republished from Concordia University student paper The Link of 26 Sep 2011.

Protesters in bloody bandages enacted an accident en masse on the corner of Ste. Catherine St. and University St. on Sept. 22. Photo Nicolas Martel

From Sept. 19 to 23, the Agence métropolitaine de transport, in partnership with the Société de Transport de Montréal and POP Montreal, presented In Town Without My Car All Week Long, an event that showcased eco-friendly events, concerts and conferences to educate citizens on the effects of car-use and alternative transportation.

“Whether by train, subway, bus, walking or cycling, planned activities this week will be easily accessible and will allow the public to examine the impact of public transportation from all angles,” said AMT CEO Joël Gauthier in a press release prior to the events.

Events were also held outside the city, in Trois-Rivières, Blainville, Longueuil, and Lachine, among the places promoting a car-free culture. 
Closer to home, workshops, student-oriented discussions, guest-speaker conferences and information booths were set up at Philips Square all week, free of charge.

Thousands of Montrealers and tourists attended the festivities in the square each day, with around 50,000 people strolling through the park on Sept. 22, the only day traffic was closed through much of the downtown area. Cross streets, however, remained open to reduce congestion.

“I love the fact that [the street] is closed to cars,” a Westmount citizen said while walking down Greene Ave., which was exclusive to pedestrian use last Saturday. “It’s wonderful to see families and people enjoying the area. People are too attached to their cars. Most cities in Europe have pedestrian zones all year ‘round.”

“The primary aim of the event is to raise awareness, educate citizens and let them know about the many alternatives to driving in a car alone,” explained Charles Durivage of Morin Public Relations. “The AMT works in collaboration with other public transportation organizations and experts to do so.”
On the first day of events, several Radio-Canada and La Presse journalists spoke to the crowd about the status of public transportation and its future use in the city, while on Wednesday, AMT members discussed their plans for the train system and what they will be implementing to make it more relevant in citizens’ lifestyles.

Other events included a ‘Die-In,’ a bicycle spin on the traditional ‘lie-in,’ which took place on Ste. Catherine St. on Sept. 20. Participants dressed as wounded cyclists, lying on the pavement, surrounded by ketchup blood and bent bicycles. The event was held to raise awareness for automobile-related cyclist accidents. According to Statistics Canada, 14,135 people were killed in road accidents in Canada between 2000 and 2004, and 263 of them were cyclists. In 2007, 65 cyclists died, which made up for 2.3 per cent of deaths caused by road accidents.

In the evening, Place des Festivals was closed off for a free concert by local Montreal band Arcade Fire. The event was part of POP Montreal, and sponsored by the AMT, to mark the end of the no-car festival. There were approximately 101,000 spectators.

“We can definitely say ‘mission accomplished,’” concluded Gauthier. “We are elated with the success of our awareness-raising activities. I’m confident that they stimulated a lot of worthwhile discussion and enabled the general public to see the brilliant future that public transit and active transport have in our city.”

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