McGill took several steps to make campus more pedestrian-friendly this summer, drastically reducing the number of vehicles on both Lower Campus and McTavish Street.
On May 28, McTavish Street was closed to cars and non-official traffic was eliminated from across campus. Changes included the removal of parking spaces, restricted delivery hours, and the required dismounting from bicycles on campus.
“We wanted to create an environment that was free of parking and try to start dealing with some of the transportation issues,” said Jim Nicell, McGill’s associate vice-principal (university services). “We have cyclists, cars, delivery vehicles and pedestrians all in the same area.”
The move was part of the university’s broader Greening McGill initiative, as well as an attempt to create a safe environment for pedestrians on campus. Although cars are still seen on campus, fewer parking spots and restricted delivery hours between 7 and 11 a.m. have significanly reduced traffic.
“We had to make sure that whatever traffic that does occur there is the minimum possibility of an accident,” Nicell said.
Cyclists not travelling to the university have been asked to take the bike path on University and de Maisonneuve rather than cutting through campus. Those entering the campus are asked to dismount their bikes.
“[Cyclists are] not to ride their bikes on campus, so we ask them to dismount and that’s a difficult challenge,” said Pierre Barbarie, associate director of University Safety and Security Services, adding that disputes constantly arise between cyclists and security agents.
“We have issues with the cyclers in terms of not respecting the rules, challenging our agents, and our agents being verbally assaulted on a daily basis,” he said.
“[Security agents] are the messengers and they have taken abuse that nobody deserves to take,” he added.
Although happy with the changes, Students’ Society Vice-President Internal Tom Fabian explained that the initiative has also brought a lot of complications.
“There’s not a bunch of cars lined up all over campus and that’s great,” he said. “But it has caused tons of hell for us to not have any cars on campus during Frosh and Open Air Pub, too. We don’t know when [deliveries are] going to arrive. I don’t want to have a deliverfree campus.”
Fabian agreed, however, that cyclists should dismount on campus.
“There’s a lot of bikes that come in that are not McGill students because it’s a very convenient way,” he said. “[So] we just have a huge amount of bikes coming through and that’s just taking away from students walking around, which can be annoying.”
Barbarie said that every other form of transportation requires a certain amount of walking and that biking should not be the exception.
“Certain cyclers feel that sense of entitlement that they can get anywhere with those two wheels and nobody should be telling them what to do or how to ride,” he said. “You’re not supposed to be jaywalking, so you will get a ticket. Why should it be any different for bikers?”
Nicell, meanwhile, said he hoped that over time students will adapt and respect the rules.
“I don’t want our security officers to turn into police.”