The barrier segregating Montreal West from the Ville Saint Pierre district of Lachine is here to stay. The Quebec Court of Appeal this week upheld a lower court ruling that Montreal West was within its rights to setup a barrier to car traffic between the two towns. Though Montreal (which the Lachine borough is part of now) may appeal, I’d wager their chances of getting heard at the Supreme Court level are slim. If the barrier comes down, it’ll be because of a deal among neighbours, not because a hand was forced by the courts.
Montreal West argues this isn’t about building a wall between rich and poor (there’s no restriction on pedestrian travel), but the only issue is safety. I couldn’t find any evidence of a problem when I checked it out two years ago. But it seems to be enough to convince people that it’s necessary. And that’s why it’s the same argument used by other cities who erect barriers between neighbours.
View Fences among municipal neighbours in a larger map
This Google map shows a handful of examples of traffic barriers that happen to land right on municipal boundaries. They range from a concrete block with do-not-enter sign to a locked fence.
Most cases aren’t quite so conspicuous. Look at an aerial map and you can draw boundaries between cities (or former cities) by simply looking at where the roads stop connecting to each other, where two streets run parallel to each other for a long time without any connecting streets. It makes it easier to justify separating cities physically when there are limited access points to block off, as is the case in Montreal West.
And then there are all the connections that aren’t built because of a mixture of NIMBYism and other fears: the Cavendish extension, the second bridge to Nuns’ Island.
We won’t solve these issues through lawsuits. We’ll solve them when people in their suburban fortresses realize that road safety will be achieved by traffic calming, better urban planning, increased public transit and more transportation options.
Putting barriers between neighbouring cities only serves to divide us.