Pedestrian zone: an experience that ends too soon

Pedestrians can stroll down Mont-Royal Avenue one last time before it reopens to cars after returning from Labor Day. However, many people would have wished for the experience to be lengthened.

“I want it to continue in the fall. It’s too early and it’s still sunny,” admitted Sandra Ulloa, owner of the Rütrafe jewelry store.

In her eyes, the experience was very positive for both her and her customers. “I like it, it changes the mood, especially with all the things they’ve done in terms of layout. That makes the street beautiful. I love it,” she added.

She is far from the only one making such an observation. On Friday, the QMI agency met with traders on Mont-Royal Avenue. Almost all of the ten people we met would like the pedestrian zone to be extended by a few weeks in autumn.

“I would say another month wouldn’t have hurt. Or maybe open the pedestrian street earlier,” suggested François Crette, florist and owner of Les Champs Fleuris shop, which he opened this summer when the avenue was already pedestrian.

Since June 8, the avenue between Fullum Street and Saint-Laurent Boulevard has been closed to cars for a little over two kilometers. This is one of the ten thoroughfares that had the right to such an experience this summer.

Bubbles store manager Amanda Weisbrodt believes the initiative’s uniqueness will help improve the tourist experience in Montreal.

“I think it’s great. It’s been going well for us, there’s always a lot of people there. I think there’s a good energy,” she noted.

In the Boutique Séduction, Jasmine and Léa compare the experience of the pedestrian street to that of a shopping mall, allowing passers-by to stroll at their own pace and take the time to observe the shop windows.

“People have more time to stop and give a deal a shot. There are people who otherwise would not have come to the sex shop on their own. It also helps attract tourists,” said Léa.

“The facilities are beautiful. I wish we could continue [la piétonnisation] later in the season. It’s really pleasant but may lack shady spots,” remarked Jasmine.

For his part, Alex Renaud, owner of the boutique Adam et Ève, is already concerned about the forthcoming transition period.

“In the week before it becomes pedestrianized, the street is very chaotic. We’re losing a lot of people in the time they’re making the transition. And when they reopen the street, nobody will know that it is no longer a pedestrian zone and that people will no longer come by car. Our sales are going down,” he feared.

In 2020, back in the midst of a pandemic, the city first launched the project, banning cars from certain thoroughfares to allow for better social distancing for pedestrians.

City officials believed the experiment was a success and repeated it in 2021, with thirteen streets participating in the project.

Additionally, in April, the City of Montreal announced $12 million in funding to pedestrianize its commercial streets through 2024.

In the mayor’s office, we say we’re “proud” of the success of the pedestrian zones.

“We can confirm that the pedestrian zones are now standalone projects and not pilot projects. In collaboration with merchants, SDCs and the community, we are now investigating whether it is possible to create longer and more numerous pedestrian projects in the years to come,” said Alicia Dufour, spokeswoman.

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