Controls needed on guns and on cars – Memorial to cyclist killed on Mt Royal
A major controversy is brewing in the aftermath of a tragic mass shooting in a high school in Florida. This controversy pits the rights of gun owners against the rights of the general public to be safe from guns.
Proponents of stricter gun controls in the USA describe the situation there as an “epidemic” with almost 39,000 deaths from shootings in 2016. Many gun advocates there also point to the First Amendment’s guarantee of a “citizen’s right to bear arms,” presumably referring to single shot muskets common in the 1780s. They interpret this to mean that they have a right to keep and carry guns in a way that makes schools, houses of worship, convention halls, and universities unsafe places.
Guns have their place, especially on farms and in small northern communities, but controls are needed. However, it has been difficult to put these controls on guns, partly because of a powerful gun lobby supported by companies with a lot of money.
Meanwhile, there is another controversy brewing in Montreal after authorities suggested closing the Camillien-Houde/Remembrance corridor in Mount Royal Park to private automobiles.
This controversy pits the rights of car owners to get wherever they are going as fast as possible against the rights of non-motorists enjoying the park. There have been many confrontations and close calls between these two groups.
Last October saw the tragic death of an 18-year-old cyclist descending Mt. Royal when a car driver did an U-turn just downhill from a hairpin turn; the cyclist had no chance. Presumably the only way to stop drivers from doing this dangerous and illegal maneuver is to stop automobiles driving through the park.
In a moving memorial to the deceased cyclist, hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians slowly climbed from Park Ave up the hill and past where the young cyclist died. Probably everyone of them hoped and prayed that something can be done to stop such senseless deaths.
Each week, cars kill about 300 cyclists and pedestrians around the world. We need cars for transportation, but traffic needs to be properly controlled. Much of the public space in Montreal and other cities has perversely become appropriated for the use of cars instead of people. Many parts of our city have become dangerous as a result.
Our tools for fixing this include driver education, lowering speed limits, various types of road closures (partial, full, temporary, seasonal, permanent) and other traffic calming measures.
Frederick Olmstead, who designed Mt Royal Park in the 1870s, never wanted people to rush through the park nor for a road to cut through it. The OPCM (Montreal’s office of public consultations), round table discussions on the future of Mt Royal Park, together with various urban and transport plans for Montréal all conclude that car traffic in Mt Royal Park should be regulated or eliminated.
The details are still under discussion; certainly buses, emergency vehicles, taxis, and bicycles should be allowed through Mt Royal Park. Perhaps private automobiles could be allowed through under special circumstances…
Possibly the City of Ottawa could serve as a model; many major roads there are closed to motorists on Sunday mornings during warmer months. Cyclists and inline roller skaters there can get up early to enjoy a safe ride, but car traffic is not impeded during work days.
The way ahead will not be easy; the car lobby is much more powerful than the gun lobby. But this is the right direction.
Feature image: Memorial to cyclist killed on Mt Royal