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A Montreal Intersection Morphs Into a Wonderful Neighborhood Space

On a Bixi bike excursion to get some ice cream in Montreal, my wife and I stumbled upon the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and Rue Clark, recently upgraded with colorful new street furniture, traffic calming treatments, and a two-way protected bike lane. The space is teeming with street life. When you arrive at this lovely place your first instinct is to stop, sit down, and enjoy.

This intersection is a prime example of how a neighborhood street should cater to people. All local streets should strive to make pedestrians feel welcome, slow traffic speeds with physical infrastructure, and provide art and greenery wherever possible.

Since we were only there for a short time and could dig up only scant information online, I don’t have much backstory to share about how this space was created. If anyone can provide more info in the comments, please fill us in.

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Marg E-Y

    I wasn't able to find much more and nothing really substantial, just a small article from the neighbourhood newspaper about the new 'placette', mentioning the replacing of the traditional street furniture with these benches to create a space promoting neighbourhood interactions:
    http://www.leplateau.com/Vie%20de%20quartier/2013-08-14/article-3347708/Un-arcenciel-de-rencontres/1 (in french)

    Also, a tweet from the borough mayor mentioning the widening of the sidewalk, planting of trees and flowers, and addition of new furniture: https://twitter.com/LucFerrandez/status/364913252435644416

    And, this 'placette' along with other 'placettes' in the neighbourhood:
    https://twitter.com/LePMR/status/370267376471650304/photo/1

  • Daniel

    How this happened? Previously, it was not only a pretty forlorn intersection but it was a dangerous one, with the heavily used north-south bike path but no stop signs for the east-west vehicles. So the borough (for whom I work) decided to build the curb extensions to slow down the east-west car and truck traffic and allow, we hope, for the installation of stop signs. (Quebec highway and road rules are pretty strict about where and how stop signs can be placed.)
    While we were at it we spoke to local businesses about getting rid of some parking spaces to create a small place publique where people could hang out, eat their ice creams, have a coffee or sandwich and congregate. Commercial life on the strip had been pretty iffy and the merchants like the idea, so we decided to make one one curb extension much longer than it would have been otherwise: 25 metres or so instead of 5 or 6. And in the new space we put those fun benches and, of course, lots of plants and greenery as we do on all our curb extensions - we have built dozens and dozens in recent years.
    And why we haven't been making much noise promoting it? Partly because our administration is action- rather than p.r.-oriented. And partly because we think it is normal that streets and intersections be hospitable, people-focused places.

  • Catherine
  • http://www.amourdesthes.com/ amourdesthes

    We also have public pianos on the street...
    Watch this !
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oS-cfN04_MQ#t=58

  • Guillaume

    2 words: Luc Ferrandez

  • Catherine

    Interesting projects in the Plateau :

    Street pianos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBfphgabDhU
    Green alleys : http://on.fb.me/17mrAK1
    New public space : http://on.fb.me/17mrCRY
    Public markets : http://on.fb.me/17mrHoT
    Before I die wall : http://on.fb.me/17mrMsu

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Daniel, thanks so much for all the information. It's great to hear. It is a wonderful spot that should be duplicated a thousand times in every city.

    Another reason I started thinking there hadn't been much publicity...when we do something remarkable in the U.S. we hold lots of press conferences, etc to promote it. But that is because sometimes we need to let our residents know it is a good idea. But the true fact is that this should just be happening without much fanfare, everywhere. It should be a normal thing that is expected.

    Until then, I hope people love the images I have provided and the work your borough has done. Many more!

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Catherine those green alleys are amazingly cool! I would have done another film on those had I seen (and also hoped to get some interviews with people instead of just me talking,)

    Perhaps next year I can return with a full set of gear instead of being on vacation and just picking up 5 minutes of footage!

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I did see the many public pianos being played while there. They are awesome.

  • James Wilson

    Thank you for this. I visited Montreal 2 weeks ago for the first time:

    http://www.bikede.org/2013/08/16/i-slipped-over-the-border/

    I stopped for Lime and Mint sorbet twice at that intersection. When cycling on the Rue Clark cycle track, it is exactly as inviting and tempting as you say in the film.

    I had meant to email StreetFilms with a request to do a Montreal video...but you guys are so efficient that you made one before I could even compose an email. One extra request, though. If you have additional (unused footage)of Montreal's cycle tracks, it would be very, very, very, very helpful for you to do a second film just about those.

    James Wilson

  • PierreLe

    The problem in Montréal, like you can clearly noticed in your film is that NONE of the bikers respect road sing, no stop no light and the pedestrian ....Whatch out or you will get rn over by those cyclist ;)

  • Upright Biker

    I also noticed that bit of disrespect.

    Bikers, let's all agree that rule #1 should be "Yield to Pedestrians."

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    James - serendipity! Pretty funny, I have already seen quite a few tweets on the video...

    - 2 people that live really close to the intersection that had no idea of the changes and

    - 1 person that just visited Montreal and took a photo a month ago enjoying ice cream but the benches hadn't been installed yet. (The neckdowns were there, however)

    Also, you'll find more footage of the cycle tracks here in the 2nd video in this post: http://www.streetfilms.org/experience-montreals-car-free-rue-st-catherine-bustling-bike-rush-hour/

    If I wasn't there for vacation I would have come back with even more footage, but I tried to enjoy myself and not film all the time for the sake of my wife. :)

  • Kevin Love

    At the 45 second mark in the video, the camera operator fails to yield to a pedestrian while blowing through a stop sign.

  • Alex Norris

    Thanks for this piece, Clarence. I'm the city councillor for
    Mile End, the district where this new public space is located. It was an
    initiative of our borough council administration, headed by borough mayor Luc
    Ferrandez. Our municipal party, Projet Montréal, is committed to making our
    public spaces greener and safer and more inviting for pedestrians and cyclists and we've done many other similar projects since being elected in 2009. In a previous comment, Daniel Sanger, a member of our staff, laid out the rationale for this particular project. Drop me a line next time you're in Montreal and I'll be happy to show you some of our other initiatives elsewhere in the borough!

  • Wheeled Pedestrian Cycling

    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/research/reports/530/docs/RR-530-Reallocation-of-road-space.pdf

    Here's some research to support the observations made in this video. 'The role of pedestrians and cyclists are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas'.

  • HamTech87

    Isn't this where Wilensky's is? A huge tourist destination, like going back in a time machine to the 1930s.

  • fafacious

    The KemCoba Lime Mint sorbet loving wife. It's the reason we went back to the intersection the third time, remember?

  • lagatta à montréal

    I agree, Upright, and always do, but the above commenter is a serial cyclist-hater worthy of Rob Ford.

  • Upright Biker

    Ah, I failed to do my opposition research. Haters of all stripes are never very useful when it comes to forging solutions, but they are very clever at pointing out the obvious if it helps them puff up, aren't they?

  • HC Edelmann

    riding on the wrong side of the street is not wonderful

  • lagatta à montréal

    I live just north of the Plateau, in "Petite-Italie", which is part of the Rosemont - La-Petite-Patrie borough. Our council is Projet Montréal as well, and we also have a lot of green lanes, new cycle lanes and "saillies de trottoir" (expanded street corner sidewalks, with greenery). It makes life much more pleasant and improves safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike.

    I do wish the police would do more to enforce the 30kmh areas in front of schools.

  • lagatta à montréal

    Well, I happened to have time to read through his posts. Despite the ill will, he is correct that cyclists should yield to pedestrians, and at least do a rolling stop and be prepared to stop (hands on brakes) at stop signs. (Before Pierre weighs in about the letter of the law, drivers also systemically do rolling stops).

    I would also like to remind pedestrians to look both ways, as we were taught to do as children. So many step into the street while texting now, and it is not always easy to stop on a dime. A particular danger is the electric vehicles that sometimes make no sound whatsoever.

  • http://rwrc.tumblr.com wrcmontreal

    However, if you walk around the corner up Jeanne Mance Street, you'll find it absolutely filthy - everything from dirty diapers to broken glass in the tree squares. The fact of the matter is that gentrifying beautification projects like this are great (for some), but when basic sanitation is lacking, you have to wonder where the priorities are. And the fact that Alex Norris has to move districts next election says it all. Good riddance!

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    For sure I will. I am looking at coming back next summer. It's quite an easy jaunt, especially since I live right next to the airport in NYC.

    I've been amazed how many articles and publicity have been generated by my little short here. 2 newspapers and the CBN just called to talk with me. These are great projects that have a lot of effect on the neighborhood. I can't wait to see more!

  • Louis-Philippe

    Short video of our green alley here in the Montreal borough of the Plateau: http://youtu.be/N7kg62ZBr6o. More videos and pictures on our Facebook page (see "Ruelle verte Cartier-Chabot"). If the Administration continues to invest in green alleys, those could soon become Montreal's equivalent of the New York High Line...

  • Walker P

    Actually, since Projet Montreal got elected, the Plateau has been cleaned up significantly. Switching from open recycling boxes to bags made a huge difference. Luc Ferrandez and Alex Norris actually came to my street on a Sunday after the spring thaw and shovelled garbage up out of the gutters.

    There is a hate on against Projet Montreal by anybody who drives, which I suspect is where wrcmontreal is coming from. I don't even know if he has been up to Jeanne-Mance, because it is one of the most desirable real estate streets in the city.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I suggest if someone isn't heavily documenting these now, that this could be a transformative video to make in the future. Much like I have encouraged many in San Francisco that their parklets movement should be heavily documented as possible, like weekly, these green alleys have the potential to be the next big thing in cities!

  • Kathleen Mannion

    This semester, I will be teaching visual arts to grade 12 students. One project consists in creating an architectural space that must take into consideration the environment, the community, the impact on the future users of the space, etc.,
    Your Vimeo, description, and the subsequent comments generated will provide the students with a greater understanding of the creative process - the questions they musk ask themselves, the pros and cons of each solution, the impact on the communities living in the chosen areas, etc., - required to design a piece of architecture.
    Thank you for your donation to my class,
    K

  • Kathleen Mannion

    This semester, I will be teaching visual arts to grade 12 students. One project consists in creating an architectural space that must take into consideration the environment, the community, the impact on the future users of the space, etc.,
    Your Vimeo, description, and the subsequent comments generated will provide the students with a greater understanding of the creative process - the questions they musk ask themselves, the pros and cons of each solution, the impact on the communities living in the chosen areas, etc., - required to design a piece of architecture.
    Thank you for your donation to my class,
    K

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Kathleen, you are quite welcome. Please feel free to play or even download the video for free via Vimeo (and any others) to show to your class. We provide the world tools to make the world a better place and having students learn these lessons is always great to hear!

  • http://rwrc.tumblr.com wrcmontreal

    Actually, I live in the Mile End and I work in Cote des Neiges, which despite the unreliability of the 51 bus, is still the best way to get there. I don't hate Projet Montreal, I just hated seeing my neighbours' kids drawing hopscotch squares on the pavement next to bags of trash that had been sitting there for days. I'm sorry but an annual sortie for photo-op doesn't suffice for me.

  • Amanda C

    I don't think that this is a case of lacking sanitation, but more that some people choose to throw their garbage out whenever they please. Already the Plateau is lucky to have twice weekly garbage pickup, unlike other areas that only have once a week pickup. But if the residents of an area choose not to be respectful of their neighbors, I hardly see how that is the fault of the administration. What should they do? It's hard to find the culprit to fine them in such a densely packed neighborhood. Hopefully projects like this will encourage the delinquents to take more pride in their neighborhood.

  • John Oliveros

    It's funny - I just saw "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" 3 days ago. The action in that movie always comes back to that corner, where Wilensky's was - and still is. Some things change, others stay the same.

  • http://rwrc.tumblr.com wrcmontreal

    Yes, very PR oriented. You can hardly open your mouth on social media without some appartchnik trying to shout you down.