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Transportation

Montreal Tried to Close a Popular Park to Drivers. Why Didn't It Work?

After a fatal crash involving a bicyclist, the city tried banning private cars in Mount Royal Park. But public opposition to the pilot program was fierce.
Cyclists no longer rule the roads atop Montreal's Mount Royal: A 6-month traffic pilot banning private cars from the park's major thoroughfare proved widely unpopular.
Cyclists no longer rule the roads atop Montreal's Mount Royal: A 6-month traffic pilot banning private cars from the park's major thoroughfare proved widely unpopular.Taylor Noakes/CityLab

On October 4, 2017, a motorist struck and killed an 18-year-old competitive cyclist named Clément Ouimet in Montreal, Quebec. The crash occurred on Camillien Houde Parkway, a limited-access road that traces the northern edge of the Mount Royal Park, a 500-acre artificial wilderness in the middle of the city that’s home to Montreal’s namesake dwarf mountain.

Ouimet was following an SUV down the mountainside when the driver, an American tourist, pulled an illegal U-turn; the cyclist collided with the vehicle, suffering a fatal head injury. No charges were filed, but repercussions from the incident continue to reverberate through Montreal. The crash occurred roughly a month before that year’s municipal elections, bringing cyclist safety—and a host of related issues—to the fore. Montrealers would vote for a change that fall, electing the city’s first woman mayor, Valérie Plante, and a slate of lawmakers from Projet Montréal, a grassroots social-democratic party with a platform of sustainable urban development initiatives.