Montreal Week Finale

Here is a grab bag of assorted observations from my brief sejourn in Montreal earlier this month. Not everything is wonderful there. I did try in this series to relate the feature to the unique conditions that may have spawned it. Not everything can be transplanted to here and survive, let alone thrive.

But one way to improve our city is to observe what works elsewhere and steal that idea.

Bicycle friendly, in little ways: (see also the last pic in this set)


Surface drainage swales / stormwater gardens, in our climate, right downtown:



Imagine, a park you cannot walk in !


And in schoolyards too:


Three, five, and seven storey buildings all over the place. Funny how they are somehow economic in a big city like Montreal and absolutely unaffordable in Ottawa today. There is a reason we have single family homes and then highrises, with little in between:



A woonerf …in the style of Cambridge Street in Ottawa:




Wide, wide, wide crosswalks, that actually align with the sidewalk and direction of travel for people who walk. Ottawa once proposed saving money by not painting pedestrian crosswalks, but still installing stop bars for motor traffic. I noticed several areas in Montreal where stop bars were unmarked, but crosswalks were marked. Which city has their priorities straight? Why do we over complicate crosswalks to the point they get ignored? (Hint: it has to do with who we prioritize and who we transfer risk to and from)




Sidewalk cafes are huge in Montreal, but seem hard to get going here in Ottawa. The climate is the same, the road widths are similar, there’s a similar population mix, might it be the rules and the rulers that make the difference? In addition to “private” sidewalk cafes, here is a shipping container converted into a summer park, simply plopped down on the street to replace two parking spaces, filled with benches and plants, and a shade roof. I cannot imagine that happening in Ottawa where the parks dept cannot get its mind around even the idea of linear parks and sidewalk cafes rents are astronomical.




Bicycle signals.  I know, I know, coming soon to Ottawa, someday, in one “prototype” location for a five year trial.




Vacant storefronts papered over by the listing realtor with pretty paper rather than newspaper or used brown butcher wrap:




Giving away thousands of annuals to any interested residents for use on their balcony planters or front yards, providing professional landscape architects and gardeners to help community gardeners, and involving the public in greening the city:




Storefront daycares, everywhere, with tot lots squeezed onto former parking lots. No provision for delivery of kids via automobile.






Wonderful cafes squeezed into vacant lots, with a decent investment in decor, and no jail fence to keep the alcohol abusers segregated. It brought back memories of the wonderful old Bank Cafe and patio on Bank/Somerset before Hartman’s expanded.




Simple greening, in the smallest of spaces:




Park walkways paved in stonedust, a la Paris, not expensive interlock faux cobbles, which always heave and shift and get torn out by the city because its cheaper (they claim) to replace them than to pick them up, smooth the grade, and relay them for the next 20 years.




Curious architecture, sometimes with dubious results. Occasionally found in Ottawa, most often in Hintonburg?:




Buildings that incorporate simple nods to the past, like this spiral stair ( I presume a fire escape … sure to be illegal in Ottawa) camouflaged by a stone screen:




Now, back to the Ottawa environment. See any room for improvements?

5 thoughts on “Montreal Week Finale

  1. We do have bicycle signals in Ottawa: they’re on Churchill Ave already. It’s a smallish (but still compliant, I’m sure) traffic signal with a sign above it that says “Bicycle Signal” (plus the French translation). It would be helpful, I suppose, if the MoTO deigned to come up with an icon sign to replace the need to spell it all out in both languages, but as it is we do have the ability to implement bicycle signals anywhere they’re needed.

  2. Bravo for a lovely series. Last night, CBC news talked about the emerald ash borer and its impact on 3,000 trees in Montreal. We all know that this tiny pest is killing thousands of trees in Ottawa, too. What did you glean about the city’s stance on tree protection during your time in Montreal?

    1. I saw evidence of lots of new tree planting. I saw clear, plain language posters on trees about to be removed, trimmed, or with orders that they not be harmed. There was definitely some evidence that the city cared about its trees. What their survival rate is, how much soil they put in the roots, whether they reserve rights of way for the roots or just use leftover spaces like ottawa does, I could not tell from a visit.

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