Martin C. Barry
More than 100 people from Laval’s Vimont district as well as from other areas of the city took part in a demonstration march along parts of Saint-Elzéar and des Laurentides boulevards early last Saturday afternoon to protest alleged negligence by the City of Laval when it set up a network of bicycle paths without taking into account local safety issues.
Although Vimont city councillor Michel Poissant organized the demo to draw attention to the problem in parts of his district, he received support from other elected members of the Action Laval party, including Saint-Bruno city councillor David De Cotis and Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis.
Just as the city’s decision to paint blue and white safety markings on sidewalks near schools was widely criticized and eventually had to be withdrawn, Laval’s implementation of a large network of bike paths has also come under fire in some areas.
Both measures are part of a wide-ranging transportation plan implemented by Mayor Marc Demers and the Mouvement Lavallois which holds the majority of seats on Laval city council.
In an interview with the Laval News, Poissant said residents of his sector have been complaining, to the media as well as during Laval city council meetings, since the bike path was installed along Saint-Elzéar Blvd. in Vimont last August.
Bike paths criticized
Critics of the bike path along Saint-Elzéar maintain that it’s too narrow, and that it was laid down without taking into consideration the presence of senior citizens living in the area as well as people attending a community centre and Saint-Elzéar church.
According to Poissant, there is a consensus among local residents – including organizations such as the Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, the Chevaliers de Colomb, golden agers and others – that they never wanted the bike path and they don’t understand the city’s determination to keep it in place.
Wants city to reconsider
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Poissant. “We are living in a democracy. But the point we are trying to make is that the city should reconsider its strategy for the deployment of bicycle paths. That’s our message.” He pointed out that Saint-Elzéar Blvd. in Vimont was formerly a narrow country road that doesn’t adapt well to the implementation of bicycle paths.
“We’re not against bike paths,” said De Cotis. “We think it’s important to get people to be out there with their bikes having physical activity. But it’s got to be done in a very responsible way to make sure that the cyclists are secure, the pedestrians are secure, the motorists are secure. And we feel that the city really didn’t take the time to make certain bike paths secure.”
‘Lives at risk,’ says Revelakis
Revelakis said that in her district, the safety of bike paths along Saint-Martin Blvd. remains an unresolved issue as far as Action Laval is concerned. “We’re putting lives at risk,” she said, noting that in some areas where the bike paths pass, many drivers are uncertain how they should proceed when there are bike paths.
On May 3, L’Abord-à-Plouffe city councillor Vasilios Karidogiannis (Mouvement Lavallois) issued a Facebook post in which he solicited bicycling activists to help organize a counter-protest event in response to the demo organized by Councillor Poissant and Action Laval.
While there were no signs of counter-protesters in Vimont last Saturday, Action Laval reacted to Karidogiannis’s request a few days after he made it. “For Michel Poissant, Councillor for Vimont, in addition to being in ‘extremely poor judgement,’ this call for a counter-demonstration by an elected official is an affront to the democratic right to demonstrate peacefully,” said Action Laval.
Action Laval Public Safety Critic and Councillor for Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Paolo Galati called Karidogiannis’s post “irresponsible and dangerous. Mr. Karidogiannis calls on the population to block a peaceful demonstration and to ‘put Mr. Poissant in his place,’ which is intimidation.”