New barriers go up to make campus safer

A pilot project at the Milton Gate has been launched in an effort to get cyclists to walk their bikes instead of riding through campus. New gates on the two sidewalks flanking the parking kiosk, along with longer gates across the roadway, are designed to enforce the “walk your bike” rule that is routinely flouted.
New gates on the sidewalks at the Milton Gates, along with longer gates across the roadway, are designed to enforce the “walk your bike” rule on campus. / Photo: Neale McDevitt
New gates on the sidewalks at the Milton Gates, along with longer gates across the roadway, are designed to enforce the “walk your bike” rule on campus. / Photo: Neale McDevitt

By McGill Reporter Staff

A pilot project at the Milton Gate has been launched in an effort to get cyclists to walk their bikes instead of riding through campus.

New gates on the two sidewalks flanking the parking kiosk, along with longer gates across the roadway, are designed to enforce the “walk your bike” rule that is routinely flouted, said Robert Couvrette, Associate Vice-Principal (University Services).

“We want to make the campus safer,” Couvrette said. “That’s the only purpose of this project.

“I know for sure we will make some people happy and some people angry. After the fall period, we’ll re-evaluate the project.”

The barriers, which do not have counters or other means of collecting data, are simply an effort to get people off their bikes, Couvrette said. “This is the only purpose of this project,” he said.

Signage indicating the purpose of the project that should have been installed at the same time as the barriers will be posted soon, Couvrette said.

Comments on Twitter have already brought sharp criticism from those who disagree with McGill’s longstanding effort to persuade cyclists to walk instead of ride through the campus. The issue regularly prompts heated debate between cyclists and pedestrians who have experienced bicycles being ridden through crowded roadways at high speed.

McGill has recorded at least four incidents of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians in recent years and anecdotes about close calls are numerous.


Comments on “New barriers go up to make campus safer”

  • Avatar

    There is no safe or legal route for bicycles from the upper campus (MNI, Victoria) down to the bike path on Milton/University. It’s a long walk, so people don’t walk–instead, they ride on the sidewalk or the wrong way down University, or through campus. Previously, a rather complex detour was possible through the Ghetto, but because of the construction on des Pins, this is no longer possible. There needs to be some way for people who work/study at the top of University to get down to the bike path without breaking laws. McGill is not thinking of those who commute (often in the rain/snow) and should at least make exceptions for hours when there are few pedestrians on campus (e.g. before 9 am/after 6 pm). Note that the people who park on campus get to drive right up to their buildings, and no one thinks this is dangerous (though as a pedestrian I have been honked and screamed at by drivers trying to get to their spots). I just came from a sabbatical at the University of Southern California where there are at least 100 times more bikes on campus than at McGill. Striped lanes through pedestrian areas and limited “walk” hours (10am-4pm) keep everyone safe.

  • Avatar
    David Krawitz

    This morning I stuttered on my way through the pedestrian barrier gates, banging a pedal against the back of my heel, causing one of those lovely bike-pedal scrapes. (I have just peeled off the curled-up skin and am daubing at the bloody mess.) What will happen with people in wheelchairs, children in strollers?
    The new devices make the University look dim and non-progressive, which has always been my primary objection to the anti-bike policy. If motor vehicles continue to be allowed passage through McGill, bicycles deserve a bike lane. We should be encouraging cycling, not driving.

  • Avatar

    I’m heartened to hear it’s just a pilot project as the results are already clear. It’s a failure. Completely apart from inspiring cyclists to dismount their bicycles, these gates serve as real disincentives to enter our campus and are particularly difficult for anyone with mobility issues: people with disabilities, in wheelchairs, using canes, accompanied by guide dogs, and pushing strollers. I even had trouble getting through them this morning carrying two bags of books. Additionally, anybody shorter than average, including children, could be struck in the neck or head by the swinging metal gate.
    What a shame to erect such a clear message of antagonism following former Principal Munroe-Blum’s positive emphasis on community engagement. Let’s remove the airport-style gates before the message is broadly communicated or someone is injured, and celebrate the campus as a public space where everyone is welcome.

  • Avatar
    Andrew Doyle

    On the plus side, these gates are remarkably easy to bike straight through (tested). The downside is that you’re more likely to hit a pedestrian. Doesn’t McGill have a $500+ million infrastructure deficit and better things to spend money on?

  • Avatar
    Isaac Gielen

    I vow to build a ramp over these dumb fences and bunny hop over all the poor guards you hire to enforce your silly “no biking” rules that they themselves feel ridiculous for enforcing.

  • Avatar
    Aaron Vansintjan

    Rather than allowing cars to drive through campus, regularly allowing security guards to bike to campus (and stopping other cyclists) McGill could do the same as the rest of the city and either disallow both vehicles and bikes for walking areas (and then provide adequate alternatives, as Jay says) or install bikeable areas, such as well-indicated bike lanes, throughout campus.
    The fact that accidents happen between pedestrians and bikers is not the fault of the presence of bikes per se but the fault of poor integration, signage, and alternatives for bikers. Furthermore, four accidents on a whole campus is not much, just the corner of Maisonneuve and Metcalfe has recorded 6 bicycle accidents:
    McGill employs many urban studies professors and experts, maybe it’s time that they heed their research?

  • Avatar
    A Pedestrian

    Well this is exactly the way McGill should not handle this. I do not ride a bike. I am a pedestrian and these gates were justified to “protect me”. In reality, they do not protect me and I am against them. These gates do nothing good for anyone.
    Here’s what they’re intended for:
    – Preventing cyclists from riding bikes
    – Protecting pedestrians
    Here’s what they don’t do:
    – Prevent cyclists from riding bikes (cyclists can just ride right through them)
    – Protect pedestrians (as a pedestrian who takes this route twice a day most days I have never had an issue with dangerous cyclists — I have had plenty of issues with icy pavement and all of the cars/SUVs that continuously drive recklessly though…)
    Here’s what McGill should be doing:
    – Creating safe bike paths across campus
    – Encouraging healthy exercise, safety and responsibility
    – Cultivating a welcoming and non-ableist environment
    – Promoting a positive image of McGill and its campus
    Here’s what McGill is actually doing:
    – Discouraging healthy exercise, safety and responsibility
    – Ignoring their own responsibilities to create safe and welcoming environments
    – Wasting money. Let me say that again. Wasting money.
    – Actively oppressing diverse populations who should have equal access to our facilities
    – Promoting a negative self image
    – Shirking responsibility instead of addressing deeper concerns of mobility and safety
    – Endangering pedestrians (as mentioned, when people ride bikes through the gates they are more likely to hit pedestrians)
    In light of this, here’s what McGill should do:
    – Remove the new gates immediately
    – Apologize, or at least pretend it never happened
    – Build safe bike routes across campus
    – Make campus more accessible to all populations including those in wheelchairs, crutches, pushing strollers, etc.
    – Consider protecting pedestrians by disallowing or further restricting motor vehicle access to this area of campus if it’s such a big deal
    – Realize that four collisions in “recent years” is nothing considering the magnitude of people who use this entrance multiple times a day

  • Avatar

    Very strange opening volley from Robert Couvrette to the McGill community.

  • Avatar
    Will Vanderbilt

    Meanwhile, these longer roadway gates will ensure that 80% of the passage is explicitly reserved for the 5% (?) of folks who enter campus in a four wheeled vehicle.
    Reactionary stubbornness at its best.

  • Avatar

    So McGill has a school of urban planning…. and this is the best they could come up with? How about designated paths or areas for cyclists? Hire some of the urban planning students to figure it out. I’m pretty sure paint and less security guards dedicated to harassing cyclists is less expensive than what is currently in place.
    We live in Montreal, a city whose plan is to become the number one best city for cycling in North America. Why can’t McGill get it together? Why the antagonism?

  • Avatar
    Jimmy Gutman

    In 2004, McGill adopted the Office of Disabilities standards on accessibility titled “standards to barrier-free campus.”It seems they have short institutional memory. I don’t know why they pay their managers so god damn much if they can’t even follow their own bureaucracy. I think someone in the upper administration should get publicly fired over this. It is absolute stupidity.
    this is the document:

  • Avatar
    Pieter Sijpkes

    A pilot project to turn the Milton gates into what looks like the entrance to a Metro store? To make the campus ‘safer’?
    Let me suggest a pilot project:
    – Take down the silly ‘control bars’, and install friendly signs welcoming pedestrians and bicycles to the campus.
    – Ask the bicyclists to go at ‘pedestrian speed’, and stick to the special route in place, about 15 feet wide, surfaced with, maroon, smooth asphalt and embedded with a cyclist graphic symbol every 50 feet or so.
    – Presto! Behold: no more ‘incidents’ between cyclists and pedestrians !
    To blame the cyclists for these ‘incidents’ is blaming the victims of the deliberate campaign by the McGill powers-that-be to turn the Campus into some strange copy of a suburban lawn. (Complete with dreaded leafblowers)
    Of course, an even simpler solution would be to remove the concrete sidewalks and the asphalt roadway altogether-(they both hark back to the days of the old ‘campus-as-a-car park’). Then recreate the country feeling the Campus’ main roads used to have (see Notman photographs), by replacing the concrete and asphalt with fine, smooth gravel. Olmsted’s Mount Royal paths are the perfect model; even the signage, of a green pedestrian and a green cyclist happily moving along (on this, inherently dangerous, sloping Mountain path!) is ready-made to be copied.
    The experiment by McGill to bar cyclists from leisurely enjoying the short, but much-appreciated green oasis experience that the Campus has provided to cyclists since well before the invention of the car has created a great amount of ill-feeling among a large segment of the Montreal community. Longtime cyclists, like myself, clamoured for years for the removal of cars from campus. What motivated McGill to lump the silent, friendly bicycles with booted-out the cars has given me a sense of betrayal and has baffled me beyond belief. I’m patiently waiting for the day that this issue will be laid to rest. In the meantime, I will continue to silently cruise across the campus, at walking speed, getting off, occasionally, to commiserate with the guards.

  • Avatar
    Barbara Lewis

    I’d be interested in knowing if anyone feels this is a positive intitiative…

  • Avatar
    Laurens Verkade

    So, instead of putting back the wonderful wrought-iron gates which were such a welcome feature of the Milton entrance (can’t say the Milton Gates anymore) and were so in keeping with the character of the University as a whole and the architectural context, we have these monstrous sheet-metal booby-traps that fail in their intended purpose and please no one. And please don’t try to fool anybody by saying that the situation will be re-evaluated after the Fall – those obscene metal barriers are there to stay. I was told that the wrought-iron gates would be restored once the surrounding area had been rebuilt – that was several years ago and I am still waiting …

Comments are closed.