I have given a lot of thought recently to the suburb in which I live. As most suburbs in North America, it is difficult to get around without a car. However, at times I think it wouldn’t be so bad if the city were not divided in three by two highways and a freight–sometimes commuter–rail line. It is a sort of cruel irony that these pieces of major transportation infrastructure, built to increase accessibility to jobs and workers (mostly by personal automobile but to an extent by bus as well) actually decrease accessibility to destinations within the West Island, especially by active transportation.
One of the highways (for you locals, the 40) cannot be safely crossed on bicycle. There is just one spot to cross the 40 in Pointe-Claire, on boulevard St-Jean. This means that no matter where you are coming from or where you are going to, you have to bike or walk to St-Jean (or in an adjacent city, to Boul. St-Charles or Boul. des Sources) to cross the highway. On St-Jean, there is no space for cyclists and barely a sidewalk for pedestrians. This makes trips by foot and by bicycle even longer, more dangerous – and less likely.
At this point, the city is already divided by major infrastructure and this is difficult to change. What we can change are two things: 1) the number of points at which pedestrians and cyclists can safely cross major highway infrastructure and 2) the safety of existing crossings. All of the boulevards that cross the highways have heavy, fast-moving traffic and no designated lanes for cyclists. While it is not ideal that cyclists ride on these congested roads, they are the one means to cross the highways.
If we are going to start increasing the walking and cycling mode share in the suburbs, we need to make it easier to walk and bicycle – starting by making it safer and more convenient.