Pedestrians, cyclists to share space on campus

A message from Robert Couvrette, AVP (Facilities Management & Ancillary Services)

Starting next week, McGill’s downtown lower campus will become a Shared Space where cycling will be permitted. This means mounted cyclists will circulate on the same pathways as pedestrians. Pedestrians will remain the primary users of this shared space and will have the right of way at all times.

This pilot project replaces the measure requiring cyclists to dismount their bicycles, implemented in 2010 as part of McGill’s efforts to create a pedestrian-friendly campus but which has proved difficult to enforce and therefore ineffective in ensuring pedestrian safety. The new procedure does not affect McTavish St., which is a public space under the City of Montreal’s jurisdiction, where cycling remains prohibited.

The University’s decision to adopt a shared-space approach follows a three-year consultation and research process led by McGill’s Cycling Working Group (CWG), which I struck in the fall of 2013. The CWG included relevant experts and representatives of a broad range of perspectives from across the McGill community (see membership here).

The CWG studied several scenarios – from maintaining the “walk your bike” measure to creating dedicated cyling paths – before concluding in its report that a Shared Space regulation would be the best approach for McGill. This approach, which aligns with similar approaches at other university campuses in urban settings, was validated by Vélo Québec, an independent external body.

Community support and safety as priorities

Before proceeding, we wanted to ensure the McGill community agreed with the idea of allowing cycling on campus. A survey of the community in the spring of 2015 concluded that approximately 60 per cent of the respondents “agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that cycling should be allowed on campus.

And of course, we wanted to make sure safety would not be compromised. We asked McGill professors Kevin Manaugh (Dept. of Geography) and Luis Miranda-Moreno (Civil Engineering) to look into the real and perceived risk of collisions between mounted cyclists and pedestrians. Their research concluded that cyclists travel at relatively reasonable speeds (11.4 km/h on average) and that those speeds decrease as pedestrian density increases. (Read the working group’s follow-up report here.)

As part of the new Shared-Space procedure, we will install signage, along with several speedbumps on campus to ensure that remains the case and include speed-mitigation elements in any future redesign projects on campus. 

I want to thank members of the Cycling Working Group, as well as Profs. Manaugh and Miranda-Moreno, for the time they devoted to helping our community arrive at what I hope will allow for a harmonious cohabitation between pedestrians and cyclists on our downtown campus without compromising any of our community members’ safety. Thank you also to all the other members of the McGill community who have communicated with us and provided input since the start of this process.

As mentioned above, this is a pilot project. We encourage the community to remain vigilant in ensuring respectful and safe movement across campus of all community members.  We will continue to monitor circulation on campus closely and make further recommendations or adjustments as required. I invite you to continue cycling [at] (writing to us) should you have any questions or concerns.