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  1. First the Main, now it's downtown's turn Construction. Major projects have merchants, drivers in grumble mode Motorists negotiate the traffic and construction at de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Guy St. yesterday. The statue of Norman Bethune has been removed while work is under way.DAVE SIDAWAY THE GAZETTE, JASON MAGDER, The Gazette If you want to know how much it has snowed this winter, head for Place Norman Bethune at de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Guy St. The square, which is the cornerstone of a $22-million facelift for the Concordia University neighbourhood, has been cordoned off with metal fences since October. As a result, snow banks have grown to three metres. However, the transformation of Place Bethune is only one of three major construction projects under way on the corner. Motorists negotiate the traffic and construction at de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Guy St. yesterday. The statue of Norman Bethune has been removed while work is under way Like the merchants caught up in the seemingly endless construction on St. Laurent Blvd., those in this corner of downtown feel choked by street work. While improvements are wrapping up on the Main, crews are just getting started on the Place Bethune beautification project that is expected to last at least until 2011. In the meantime, it' a corner of hell for motorists and pedestrians. "Nobody passes by here anymore," said Mohammad Saken, 28, the manager of Dépanneur Beau Prix on de Maisonneuve west of Guy. "It's already our second year with construction here, and it looks like we're going to have long-term construction. That's going to screw up our business big time." Some merchants complain the constant construction is also dangerous. Saad Salem, the kitchen manager at the Château Kabab restaurant, said he saw a man fall into a hole, which had been dug three weeks ago by the city's Electrical Services Commission to work on underground wiring on Guy north of de Maisonneuve. "A few days ago, a handicapped man fell right into the hole because he didn't see it," Salem said, adding the man wasn't seriously injured. "The company came the next day and put up a fence around the area. But they made the hole and then left it like that, without doing any work. That wasn't a great idea." Serge Boileau, president of the Electrical Services Commission, did not return calls yesterday. Merchants say they are pleased the city is spending money to beautify the area, but say the timing is bad, coming after a summer in which they had to contend both with construction on a new Concordia business school and jackhammers installing a bike path along de Maisonneuve's south side. The bike path is completed, but cyclists, pedestrians and motorists have an obstacle course of four construction sites to negotiate just to cross the street. A southbound lane of Guy is closed from de Maisonneuve to Ste. Catherine St. while crews working on Concordia's new John Molson School of Business building, as is part of de Maisonneuve west of Guy. The north side of de Maisonneuve between Mackay and Guy Sts. is also blocked by traffic cones and trailers, which are used by construction foremen as offices. "It's slushy and dirty and it hasn't been cleaned up in ages," said Melissa Ajamian, 21, who lives on St. Mathieu St. "You used to be able to just walk through this area, but now it's very difficult." Sylvain Ducas, the city's project manager of Place Bethune, said it will take two years to complete the work on the square. "We could have done it in one year, but we need to keep the street open," Ducas said. "I'm sure the merchants will agree with that."
  2. By Eric Moskowitz | GLOBE STAFF MAY 19, 2013 The city’s on-street bike lanes are marvels to US visitors. We had pedaled half a block from the vibrant Jeanne-Mance Park, past tennis matches, a youth league football game, and the filming of a music video, when it dawned on me: We were biking in one direction, and the cars were pointed in another. But this was no rogue move by our tour guide, leading us the wrong way down a one-way street. Pavement markings invited it. Stopping ahead, guide Martin Coutu pointed out a defining feature of the city’s residential neighborhoods: the cast-iron outdoor staircases leading to the upper floors of thousands of two- and three-story walkups, allowing the homes to achieve a gracious sidewalk setback without ceding interior space for shared entries and stairwells. Still, I couldn’t help marveling over that bike lane, beckoning two-way cycling down an otherwise one-way street. I could picture just a single block like it in Cambridge and none in Boston. But as we followed Coutu along Fitz & Follwell Co.’s ’Hoods and Hidden Gems tour, it became clear that, in Montreal, it was one of many. Coursing through the city, we followed all manner of on-street bike lanes — plain old painted lanes, two-way lanes, lanes protected from traffic by plastic rods or concrete curbs — and off-street bike paths. We even saw some bicycle-specific traffic lights. Painted markings guided us through intersections, and signs told drivers to give us the right of way. More remarkably, they obeyed. Related If you go biking in Montreal... On that four-hour tour, and again riding around the city on the bike-sharing network known as Bixi, no one honked at us, not even once. It was liberating, allowing us to follow Coutu — a cheerful character with the whippet build of a bike messenger, unafraid to give a playful squeeze to the bulbous retro horn affixed to his handlebars — without any white-knuckled worry about staying alive. “The majority of our customers are American,” Shea Mayer, Fitz & Follwell’s founder, told me later, “and they all say, ‘It’s unbelievable. I live in Boston, I live in New York’ — or California, or wherever it is — ‘and not only can I not believe the amount of lanes you have, but I can’t believe we haven’t been run off the road yet.’ ” And there was plenty to see following those bike lanes, on a tour inspired by Mayer’s idea of a perfect day off in Montreal, often ranked as the most bike-friendly city in North America. Riding a stylish set of Dutch-inspired upright bikes, we weaved through the colorful neighborhoods that fan out to the east and northeast of the verdant peak known as Mont Royal, including Mile-End, Outremont, and Petite Italie. We stopped to sample wood-fired, sesame seed-covered bagels on Rue Saint-Viateur; sip exquisitely prepared cappuccino at Café Olimpico; and explore the open-air stalls of the Jean-Talon Market, the larger, locally minded cousin to the tourist-choked Atwater Market on the waterfront. Mayer started Fitz & Follwell as a one-man outfit in 2009, soon growing it into an eight-guide business and a boutique in the hip neighborhood known as The Plateau, where he rents and sells bikes and offers locally made, bike-friendly products such as a leather crossbar holster for wine bottles. The outings now include a food tour by foot and winter toboggan and snowshoe expeditions in the city’s famed parks, but the bread and butter is still the April through October bike tour. It is designed not as a stop-and-go sightseeing tour that happens to be by bicycle, but a two-wheeled immersion in, and celebration of, a place with a deeply ingrained bike culture. Having written about Boston’s push under Mayor Thomas M. Menino to end its status as the scourge of the biking world, starting from zero to add 60 miles of bike lanes, and launching the Hubway bike-share network, I was aware of the basic facts about Montreal. It boasts hundreds of miles of bike lanes, and its Bixi system, with more than 400 stations and 5,100 bikes, is four times as extensive as Hubway. But the numbers tell only part of it. This is a rare city beyond Europe where bicycling is not just a form of daring recreation or reluctant transportation but an essential, accepted part of everyday life. It is the way urbanites get to the pub, the park, the office, the grocery store. I saw bikes as fashion statements and bikes outnumbering cars, three or four fastened to every parking-meter post on the bar-, cafe-, and boutique-laden Saint-Laurent and Saint-Denis avenues. Not that I had come to Montreal intent on geeking out on the bike infrastructure and scene. My girlfriend, Hannah, and I had been drawn by the city’s traditional allures: food, culture, architectural charm, and proximity to Boston. Before we went, Hannah made a Facebook appeal for suggestions, and a friend in New York quickly responded, declaring Fitz & Follwell “the best thing I’ve ever done as a tourist” — anywhere. A Google search yielded similar superlatives on TripAdvisor, where the company holds the top ranking among all manner of Montreal tour providers, so we booked. What distinguishes Fitz & Follwell was never clearer than at the end of the tour, after we had admired more outdoor staircases and followed Coutu through a world tourists rarely see: the intricate network of back alleys that were once the unremarkable setting for so many anonymous coal deliveries and trash collections, but that have been enlivened recently with lush gardens, ivy-draped terraces, and candy-colored murals. Winding down, we ducked into a boulangerie and pedaled behind Coutu to Parc La Fontaine, where he laid a blanket on a rare stretch of unoccupied grass and we sat down to a spread of ripe strawberries and cherry tomatoes from Jean-Talon Market, made-to-order sandwiches from the boulangerie, and ice-cold craft beers. As we sipped, ate, and laughed, another group biked into view on the far side of the lawn, gathering around a leader. Not only were they not enjoying a picnic, but they were clad in matching fluorescent vests, like members of a prison road crew. “That’s the other bike tour,” Coutu said, grinning impishly. “They’re people who get lost easily.” Watching them, it was easy to forget we weren’t locals ourselves — or, at least, visitors being shown around by a savvy friend. When we got back to the shop, we lingered, reluctant to let go of the leather grips on those Dutch-inspired bikes. So we did the next best thing, renting Bixis to explore places suggested by Coutu as we had buzzed by — only so many eating stops can be squeezed into one tour. Undaunted by intermittent rain, we rode in the evening along part of the Canal-de-Lachine, a 35-year-old bike path that traces a canal abandoned after the 1959 opening of a shipping channel in the mighty St. Lawrence River, and followed another bike path along part of the city’s active industrial port and over the low-slung Pont de la Concorde bridge, reaching Île Sainte-Hélène, the leafy epicenter of Expo ’67, still anchored by the Biosphere and an amusement park. Darkness settling in, we followed a path to the other side of the island and found a trail leading to the Jacques Cartier Bridge, an 11,000-foot steel truss span that rises 162 feet above the St. Lawrence, similar in size and design to Boston’s Tobin Bridge. However crazy the idea of biking the Tobin might sound, here we found an inviting bike lane — and an exhilarating one, high above the jet-black water — running along one side of the Cartier, protected from traffic. Pedaling back to downtown, I thought about something Coutu had said: Montreal wasn’t always so bike-friendly, it just had an earlier start. I considered Boston, where bicycle counts are rising, and new lanes, albeit unprotected ones, are striped every year. As the city lights came closer, I realized I wasn’t just pedaling toward the most bikeable city on the continent. I was seeing a vision of Boston’s future. http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2013/05/18/bike-tour-montreal/Q7r2F3g6TIuwiiITu0ypGL/story.html
  3. Publié: 2015-08-24 Canadian Press Newswire Skyward growth CHICAGO _ On an abandoned Chicago railway line cutting between the treetops, bike commuters zip by walkers and joggers, all traversing a ribbon of concrete undulating through a lush landscape where clattering freight cars once ferried everything from coal to furniture. This relic of the city's industrial past is now a vision of its future. Chicago and cities throughout the country are transforming hulking pieces of obsolete infrastructure into useful _ even inspiring _ amenities: In this case, a park in the sky that doubles as an alternative transportation corridor. Since opening in June, the nearly three-mile elevated path, called the Bloomingdale Trail, has changed how residents move through a section of Chicago's northwest side that in many places is starved of parks and inviting pathways for pedestrians and bikes. ``This trail opened up a lot of opportunity for me,'' said Luke Young, a 30-year-old web developer who now bikes the 10 miles to his job downtown instead of taking the train; it takes roughly the same time. Moving by bike, though, is more fun and a way to relieve stress, he said before tearing down a ramp that links the trail to Milwaukee Avenue, a busy thoroughfare popular with cyclists. ``This is really an innovative park for a resurgent city and it's an example of the way cities are coming back to life in the U.S.,'' said Ed McMahon, a senior fellow at the non-profit Urban Land Institute in Washington. After decades of decline, American cities are getting creative in rolling out new green spaces to sell their brand. With little real estate to expand on, McMahon said, cities are turning instead to the wreckage of past eras: old rail yards, landfills, utility corridors and riverfront areas cut off by freeways. Dallas built a deck over a freeway to create Klyde Warren Park. Virginia Beach, Virginia, turned a landfill into an expanse of lakes, hills, playgrounds and a skate park that it playfully calls Mount Trashmore. Savannah, Georgia, buried a parking garage to restore one of the original town squares laid out in the 1700s. Elevated rail lines especially have beckoned, tapping into utopian visions of parks and pathways in the sky. There's Manhattan's High Line and Paris' Promenade Plantee. But the Bloomingdale Trail pushes into new territory: It's longer, allows bikes and links a string of ground-level parks. The park and trail system is known collectively as The 606 _ a reference to the first three digits of the city's zip codes. Its linear shape extends access to a huge number of people across four neighbourhoods. The 17-foot-high rail embankment, once a physical dividing line, is now a connector and a gathering place for communities as diverse as Humboldt Park, the centre of the Puerto Rican community, and Bucktown, a recently gentrified neighbourhood that's home to cool cafes and doggy daycare centres. But some neighbourhood groups fear it could push lower-income residents out by contributing to rising property values, rents and property taxes. City leaders say they want to prevent that. ``How are working families going to be able to enjoy this trail and also be able to afford living where they're living?'' said Juan Carlos Linares, director of the Latin United Community Housing Association. On a hot August morning, bikers shot up and down The 606, office IDs fluttering, GoPro cameras mounted to helmets, earbuds piping in the tunes, as they zoomed to jobs, meetings and construction sites. In the glow of sunrise, joggers and moms with strollers glided along a narrow, rubbery strip along either side. An older man buzzed by in an electric wheelchair. Dina Petrakis, a 57-year-old remodeling consultant, biked with her tiny dog, Lucy, poking its head out of a shoulder satchel. Petrakis mainly uses the trail to get to yoga class. ``I used to have to drive because you can't really ride your bike over there. Streets are too busy,'' she said. Designers carved pleasing dips and curves into the path. Short gravel side loops take walkers into shady tree-filled groves. The embankment widens in places into spacious overlooks. The western trailhead includes a spiraling earthwork in the design of an ancient solar observatory, and there are plans for a skate park and art installations. The safety of the trail got Jim Trainor back on the bike that he'd ditched after his wife got hit by a car door while cycling. Now, the 54-year-old professor of animation at The Art Institute of Chicago rides every morning for exercise and serenity. ``It's kind of a godsend for me,'' he said. Follow Jason Keyser on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jkeyser1