Mixed reviews on Bellevue
By Nick Zacharias
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
The new configuration on Hudson’s Bellevue Street has received criticism from some residents who feel the lanes are too narrow to allow for larger vehicles to safely navigate.
Phase one of paving and line painting have been completed on Bellevue in Hudson, representing a major step towards improving one of the three major thoroughfares into town. The work, which residents have been eagerly awaiting for many years, is not done however – there remains a second layer of asphalt to be laid down next spring, at which point traffic calming concrete planters (some of which are already in place) will be put back and the lines re-painted. The extra months will give the town time to assess feedback on the new layout; the redesign of the decayed road included dividing it into three 3-metre wide lanes – two for motorized traffic and one that is to serve as a pedestrian/cycling lane. Though council approved a zoning change in June that would allow the owner of the Hudson/Oka ferry to add an extra lane on his property to accommodate peak traffic, that change hasn’t happened and the new lane on Bellevue is now designated for overflow vehicle waiting, meaning cyclists and pedestrians will have to manoeuvre around the parked cars and into the narrowed traffic lane.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said local business owner Hugh Deboer, who runs an automotive repair shop on Bellevue where the new waiting lane for ferry traffic has been designated. “It’s great to have a lane for bikes or walking dogs, but it doesn’t need to be that wide. And there’s no shoulder at all on the other side, so when a truck or a bus has to move over there’s nowhere for them to go.” Deboer said the new layout looks like an accident waiting to happen, as drivers will have to swerve to go around the planters that are positioned in the middle of the two driving lanes. He pointed out the planters will become even more hazardous at certain times of day. “When that sun is coming down, it goes right in your eyes heading up Bellevue, and you won’t even be able to see those planters.”
Though members of the town council have said that concerns of local residents were taken into account during planning, Deboer said he wasn’t consulted at all, until one day he was informed that construction would begin the following week.
Said Bellevue resident Matt Penney, “Looking at it as a landscape architect, I know that a plan on paper doesn’t always match with what’s on the ground. This looks like a rubber stamp decision on something the experts designed that in reality doesn’t work at all.” He also said he had no chance to consult, nor did his mother June Penney, who has the contract for maintaining the town’s public plantings. They both said the town didn’t ask her about the cost of maintaining the planters, nor the fact that regular watering and weeding in the centre of the road would mean completely stopping traffic in at least one direction.
His biggest concern however is safety. “It would make a lot more sense to have two smaller lanes for bikes and pedestrians on either side of the road” he said, rather than one large one marked off by concrete-based bollards. “Vehicles are passing within an inch of each other and there’s no shoulder on one side. Who’s going to be responsible when a truck rolls over falling into that three or four-foot ditch on someone’s property? Or worse, what if someone’s kids are out there when it happens? It seems like they were just rushing to make it look like a West Island-y community without considering the reality of what’s there.”
Step in the right direction
Not all reviews are negative, however. Resident Andrew Skowronski, who has already been taking advantage of the new lane to ride his bike in spite of the November weather, says it’s definitely a step in the right direction. “I hope they leave it,” he says. “It’s so much better than what was there before, and it definitely feels a lot safer for biking and for people walking their dogs, I think it’s great.”
Safety was clearly in mind during the planning stages, as the narrow lanes and the planters were deliberate choices to force traffic to slow down on the residential road that sees significant through traffic, while also providing safe space for pedestrians and cyclists.
“The town made humongous efforts to make a safe road,” said Helen Kurgansky, councillor for District 1 which includes Bellevue. “The base and the foundation are done and they did a solid, beautiful job.” She said the town has heard the comments from citizens, and that there’s time to consider options before they complete the second layer in the spring. “Council will have to take the winter, now that the lines are there but the bollards are being taken out for snow removal, to see how the lanes are working and decide what action will be taken.” That action, according to Penney and many others on social media, should be to create a slightly smaller but still present bike/pedestrian lane (or lanes) in order to make the road more secure for all.
Kurgansky said they would also be looking into the large mound of soil that has been placed near the rail crossing, obstructing visibility at the intersection of Bellevue and Sanderson, and her hope is that in the future they could be able to add to the practicality of the multi-use lane by connecting it with more bike/pedestrian-friendly space on the adjacent area of Main Road.