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Montreal short on safety for those with reduced mobility, study finds

 Yves-Marie Lefebvre said he has to avoid certain intersections in Montreal, and can't even go out on some days due to the lack of infrastructure for people who are blind.   (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC - image credit)
Yves-Marie Lefebvre said he has to avoid certain intersections in Montreal, and can't even go out on some days due to the lack of infrastructure for people who are blind. (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC - image credit)

For Yves-Marie Lefebvre, going blind has added a whole new dimension to exploring Montreal.

"It's given me another experience of life," he said.

But some areas are harder than others to navigate, he said, as many bus stops and Metro stations are difficult to reach.

The bus stop at the corner of Sherbrooke and St-Denis streets is an example of places he just can't go.

"It's impossible to cross it. There's no audible crossing light for a blind person," he said.

And Lefebvre isn't the only one struggling to navigate the city.

A new study by the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, research-oriented institute of the Université du Québec, suggests most bus stops, Metro and train stations in the Montreal region are hard to access for people with low income and for those with reduced mobility.

The study's lead researcher, Marie-Soleil Cloutier, said only 25 per cent of the some 22,000 stops and access points in greater Montreal are both safe and walkable.

Cloutier is a professor at the research institute's Centre Urbanisation Culture et Société. She said downtown Montreal is usually easier to walk through, but more dangerous because of traffic.

Meanwhile in the suburbs, sometimes there are no sidewalks, but fewer cars.

More co-ordination needed

Cloutier said there are bus stops in places where there is no safe place to cross the street, and a passenger has to walk a few hundred metres to a traffic signal.

"Those are all issues that make the life of the people using transit more complicated," she said.

To Lefebvre, that means he needs to plan his every move.

"OK, today is snowing, so I have to stay at home. OK, so there is construction so I have to stay at home. OK, the audible crossing light doesn't work, I will stay at home," he said.

Marie-Soleil Cloutier said cities and transportation agencies need to plan better to improve safety.
Marie-Soleil Cloutier said cities and transportation agencies need to plan better to improve safety.

Marie-Soleil Cloutier said cities and transportation agencies need to plan better to improve safety. (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC)

Cloutier said cities and transport agencies need to have more co-ordination so more people can access public transit safely.

Montreal spokesperson Hugo Bourgoin said in a statement that the safety of pedestrians and those with reduced mobility is a priority for the city, which continuously implements measures to improve security and accessibility.

"There is still work to be done to ensure universal accessibility across the entire city, but the city is firmly committed to this goal," he said.

He said it is essential that Montreal develops and implements "relevant and innovative solutions to eliminate barriers to participation and access to municipal services and environments" for all residents.

He said there is ongoing collaboration with Montreal's transit authority, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), to promote the accessibility of Metro stations.

The city's transportation and public works commission recently consulted the population on universal accessibility, he noted. That said, he added, the city is interested in reviewing the institute's study as a potential tool to raise awareness across the Montreal region.

Public transit agencies respond

As for the city's new light-rail network, universal accessibility has been a "fundamental priority" since its inception, according to Michelle Lamarche, spokesperson for CDPQ Infra.

A committee with universal accessibility groups was founded in 2019 to give feedback, improving the development plan, and the work is ongoing, Lamarche said.

Isabella Brisson‑Urdaneta, a spokesperson for the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), said the ARTM is supporting its partners in their commitment to improving quality, safety and accessibility.

"Several stakeholders are involved in these issues, and we are working in close collaboration with our municipal partners to improve accessibility for vulnerable users," she said in an email.

CBC News reached out to the STM as well but did not hear back.