Montreal pedestrian-only streets – The idea of closing off streets to cars in Montreal and turning them into pedestrian-only areas began to gain momentum as far back as 1981 when a section of Prince Arthur Street in the Plateau was turned into a Pedestrian Mall. The cobble-stoned stretch between St-Laurent Blvd. and Carré St-Louis had been closed before for special events to much success – and at the time, Mayor Jean Drapeau decided to put his stamp on the area. Although the street had its good years and bad years, it was the ‘go to’ place for the hip and unique and tourists alike for several decades – but has now become more of an afterthought.
Flash forward to 2008 when Montreal’s Gay Village on St. Catherine St. E. between St-Hubert St. and Papineau Ave. became a Pedestrian-Only street during the summer – and it has remained closed to cars every summer since then from late April to late September.
Come spring for the past 6 years, the Gay Village has been lit up with a magical canopy of 180,000 pink lights. This year, as part of Montreal’s 375th celebrations, a new installation of 18 different colors, a rainbow per say, reflecting the many identities in the LGBTQ community will be strung along 3333 lines, running 1km long over the street. By summer the village has a festival-like atmosphere with all types of free exhibits, street performers and kiosks, attracting visitors by the millions. The annual closure of the street has been a huge success and has inspired further projects.
This season the Quartier des Spectacles, often closed off to cars in the Place des Festivals area for festivals and events during the year, will be completely shut between Bleury St. and St-Laurent Blvd on St-Catherine St. W. from May 4th and September 4th. As well, Jeanne-Mance between Sainte-Catherine St. W and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. will also be closed to vehicle traffic.
Along with big ticket events like the Montreal Jazz Festival and FrancoFolies, the Quartier has become a very popular area for Montrealers and tourists. There is something for everyone there, from giant-board chess games and musical swings, to entertainers and a huge fountain lit up with lights, offering a refreshing mist of coolness of a hot summer day.
This summer Montreal is adding several more streets to their pedestrian-only list. Mayor Denis Coderre announced in January that the city will spend close to $1.7 million to turn three streets into ‘pedestrian walkways’. It is a pilot project and funding for the boroughs will be spread out over three years during the different phases – and if they prove to be successful, the city will consider making them permanent or pedestrian-only for the summer season.
The sites to be transformed this summer include:
– Roy St. in Plateau-Mont-Royal, between Coloniale Ave. and de Bullion St.
– Atwater Ave. and St-Ambroise St. near the Atwater market and Lachine Canal.
– Wellington St. between Galt St. and de l’Église St. in Verdun.
“The massive addition of seating space, designer furniture, greener streets as well as cultural and sports activities held by boroughs and community groups are just a few measures that help residents reclaim their streets and get better acquainted,” Mayor Coderre said at the time of the announcement.
It is all part of a plan to give the streets back to cyclists and pedestrians. The areas will have benches installed, swings and greenery alongside them, giving neighbors and communities an opportunity to come together.
Also in the works but not yet completed, is the city’s ‘river-to-mountain’ walkway – a 3.8 kilometer long pedestrian pathway, running from the edge of the St. Lawrence River all the way up until it connects to the Mount-Royal entrance. With the exception of the east side of McGill College Avenue possibly becoming a permanent pedestrian walkway, there should be no other permanent roads closed to cars due to the project.
There are plenty of other areas that have more recently become pedestrian-only for the summer. Here are a few as the list is too long to mention all of them:
– St-Paul St. in Old Montreal between St-Laurent and the Bonsecours market from late May 20 to mid-September.
– Place d’Youville from mid-May 14 to mid-September.
– Part of Victoria Street near the McCord Museum from late May to early October.
– Avenue du Musée beside the Museum of Fine Arts from the end of May to late October.
As well, besides the many festivals and parades periodically closing streets, there are many Montreal neighborhoods and commercial associations that have their own temporary street closures for special events and sidewalk sales:
– Crescent St. is closed for the Grand Prix, during early June, with the Little Italy area of St-Laurent Blvd joining in the festivities.
– St-Catherine Street holds one of the largest streets fairs in the country, between Atwater and St-Urbain for a few days during mid-July.
– The Plateau’s ‘Main Madness’ street fair closes St‑Laurent Blvd. between Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal for two weekends each summer.
– Verdun is slowly becoming very pedestrian-friendly with their early spring Cabane à Sucre event at Promenade Wellington near the de l’Église metro and last year they held 2 summer street fairs along Wellington as well.
And those are just a few from a much longer list. For more detailed information about Montreal’s Pedestrian Streets program you can go to:
Montrealers love their city and love to party – even in the dead cold of winter, but especially during the warmer weather. The summer season is short, but the city soaks in every minute of it and the idea of giving more space to residents and tourists seems to be a very welcome one indeed. But if you like driving around in your car with the windows open or the roof down, you might not find it as friendly as you try to navigate the island’s extensive network of detours.
In fact, you might want to leave your car at home and stretch your legs while taking in the unique opportunities Montreal’s Pedestrian-Only streets offer – unless of course you are entered in the Formula E race, scheduled to take over 2.75 km of downtown streets on July 29th and 30th.