MONTREAL – The historic cemetery atop Montreal’s Mount Royal offers a tranquil space for the dead to rest — but management says the living aren’t being granted the same courtesy thanks to speeding cyclists who are soon to lose their privileges.
The 166-year-old non-profit that manages the cemetery recently announced it would ban bicycles from the picturesque spot as of Aug. 1., citing “flagrant disregard of the safety of pedestrians and of the character of the cemetery” by certain cyclists who use the sacred ground for “high speed training and other agressive sports.”
In a statement on its website, cemetery management said it had sought to avoid a ban by repeatedly bringing up its concerns with cycling groups.
“We regret that these efforts have been unsuccessful and that we now must in the interest of safety proceed to a prohibition on cyclists, as we have previously indicated would be the consequence of failure to respect the rules,” the statement read.
But the news isn’t sitting well with some of the city’s cyclists, who said they’re being punished for the bad actions of a small group.
As the cemetery buzzed with cars, electric scooters, dog walkers and picnickers enjoying the perfect Saturday weather, some cyclists who paused from their training wondered why they were being singled out.
“I find the cars much more dangerous than the cyclists,” said Therese Ryan, a local cyclist who has been coming to the cemetery for 25 years.
She pinned the problem on a small number of elite cycling clubs, who train in large groups and at high speeds.
But she said it’s unfair to ban regular riders from a “famous and lovely spot” that is beloved by all Montrealers, especially since the cemetery’s winding hills and leafy pathways are one of the few spaces where average riders can train without many cars whizzing by.
Patrick Prevost, a nearby resident who rides over the mountain on a near-daily basis, agreed.
“It’s pretty much the only green spot we have (to cycle) within the city limits,” he said as he paused on his ride. “It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, it’s fun to be here and there’s not many cars.”
Prevost said he would be in favour of adding speed bumps and signs to slow down the truly fast riders, but argued the vast majority of cyclists are respectful.
“The cemetery should be available to everybody: runners, bikers, walkers whatever, as long as everybody respects everybody, and I think everybody does respect the grounds.”
But two other cyclists who rode through the cemetery on Saturday said they believed the ban was the right call, even though they were sad to lose one of their favourite spots.
Lyne Raymond and Chantal Bergeron, who rode up the mountain together, said even they sometimes feel intimidated by the groups of competitive cyclists who blow by them at high speed.
“They don’t stop, they’re cycling very fast, they’re not respectful of those (who are) in the cemetery to be there to take time with their family,” Bergeron said.
Raymond agreed, noting that a high-speed cyclist had almost forced her off the path that very morning.
“It’s very sad, but I understand the decision,” she said.