Car-free in Montreal

This past spring, I spent a few days in Montreal right in the thick of the student protests. For those who are unfamiliar with Canadian politics, the protest began in response to a proposed increase in university tuition fees. Every night, a large mass of people meandered through the city parks and streets with their message of resistance.  It was something else – check out this video, below.

The lively street energy wasn’t just a product of the night-time protest — it was also alive and bustling during the day.  I think the lovely built environment and the transportation network are at least partially to thank for this phenomenon.  I was traveling with a friend who was five months pregnant and we had no trouble managing on foot, bus and subway. We did, however, choose to leave the bike share for next time.

Our hotel was located near UQAM (l’Université du Québec à Montréal) as well as the gay neighbourhood. Saint Catherine Street, the main street in the gay village, was closed to all car traffic and remained so for the whole summer. We wandered this festive street many times and enjoyed the people watching, the food, the art installations and the generally fun-filled atmosphere.  As I headed back to Geneva, I was exhausted by all the walking but exhilarated from the trip. Montreal is a great city for a number of reasons, not the least of which, is the ability to amble along and enjoy the action taking place on the street.

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