June 9, 2019 7:28 pm
Updated: June 10, 2019 9:25 am

Verdun Street merchants threaten legal fight over bike path pilot project

Verdun's pilot bike path project has local merchants angry over the city's lack of transparency and the removal of parking spots. As Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports, the fight may be heading to court.

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A growing number of merchants along Verdun Street are threatening legal action with the borough of Verdun over the installation of a new bike path.

White lines were painted on the three-kilometre stretch of road as the borough launched a new pilot project on Friday.

The borough has removed 275 parking spaces and drivers will no longer be allowed to park on one side of the street.

Verdun cyclist Jean-Francois Caron is enjoying the new cycling expressway through Verdun.

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“I’ve been using it with my daughter back and forth to cycle across Verdun to get groceries and other things,” Caron said.

Justin Etheridge, who owns MMA gym Angry Monkey, is not so enthusiastic. He’s among the local store owners along the stripe who are worried about the possible implications the loss of parking will have on their business.

Etheridge says that at the moment almost 30 businesses are on board with pursuing legal action and he expects that number to reach 50 by the end of the week.

They have sent a letter to the borough over the lack of transparency on the pilot project, lack of consultation with merchants and possible negative effects it could have on their business.

“It was very low key and low profile. A high percentage of the population didn’t know about the project,” Etheridge said.

Verdun borough mayor Jean-Francois Parenteau denies those claims, saying the borough held several council meetings on the subject.

Parenteau said the plan has been in discussion since 2017.

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The borough has extended parking hours and restrictions on side streets off Verdun Street to accommodate the loss of parking.

Etheridge says that will not help his clients, as the spots are often taken by residents who live in the area.

The owner of LaFloret, a flower shop on the street, says it is vital for her business to be accessible by car because of the many heavy flower orders she has. She says her clients cannot physically come by bike.

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The pilot project will be in place from May 1 to November 1 for this summer and the next.

Parenteau says the borough will asses the results and make a final decision on the future of the bike path by the end of fall 2020.

Parenteau, a former business owner himself, says he sympathizes with the merchants.

“I understand what they are going through.”

Parenteau emphasized that the bike path remains a pilot project, which means “it is not permanent.”

“If it is a disaster, I will be the first to admit it.”

The city has been given one week to respond to the merchants’ letter.

Parenteau could not comment on specifics but said a team of lawyers is working on a response.

“There has to be political consequences to this — the city has to protect its merchants,” Etheridge said.

 

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