Montreal’s Car-Free Street Network Gets Bigger All the Time

Montreal's Rue Ontario at Place Simon-Valois, free of cars. Photo: City of Montreal
Montreal's Rue Ontario at Place Simon-Valois, free of cars. Photo: City of Montreal

Every year, Montreal transforms more of its streets into public spaces where people can rub shoulders with their neighbors without worrying about car traffic. Block by block, experiment by experiment, the city’s pedestrian streets are growing.

In 2017 the city is adding three more street segments to its car-free network, Mayor Denis Coderre recently announced, awarding $1.7 million over three years to pedestrianize them. The streets will receive seating, landscaping, and pavement markings that as public pedestrian space. This allotment follows the addition of five car-free street segments in both 2015 and 2016.

Under Montreal’s system, the first year of a car-free street is treated like a trial. The city observes how well the space is used, as well as the effect on motor vehicle traffic and local businesses. If the first year is a success, the city will commit to permanent changes or bring the car-free segment back on a seasonal basis every year.

The city reports that public opinion of the program is very favorable, and most of the pedestrian streets last beyond the pilot phase, either as permanent car-free spaces or seasonal pedestrian zones during the warmer months, according to the CBC.

The new additions under Coderre brings the city’s total number of car-free street network to 45 segments covering seven kilometers reports the Montreal Gazette.

Here’s a look at how people use these streets once traffic and parking give way to benches and planters, via the city of Montreal.

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  • Bernard Finucane

    This is the pattern in Germany as well, where they first started shutting down a few crowded streets starting in 1973. The government mandated car free days during the “energy crisis” and the store owners were surprised by the crowds.

    That way the beginning. Step by step the pedestrian zones are getting bigger and bigger.

  • HamTech87

    These calm streets in a walkable, bike-friendly (for the most part) city has made Montreal a go-to summer vacation city for many Americans. One of the first cities in North America with protected bike lanes and bikeshare.

  • davididid

    You can say that again. Montreal just gets better and better every year, it’s remarkable, like every aspect of the city is improving. Surface lots everywhere downtown are being covered with parking-free buildings, bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements are everywhere and get done quickly, they’re massively expanding their metro system, it’s the job growth center of Canada… and the cost of living is not going up! They’re building like crazy up there (rather, allowing developers to build) citywide, and improving every neighborhood, so that demand for housing is distributed across the city. Wish we could import their model down here to San Francisco.


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