Biking the West Island

Yesterday, I finally got around to biking out to my Grandfather’s in Dollard. A long trip (by my standards, anyway!) but reasonable. It was pretty neat to see all the different kinds of city biking that I passed through along the way – I think I covered just about all of it, from relatively heavy downtown traffic, gravel forest paths, terrifying high-speed not-at-all-bike-friendly roads, and very lazy suburban paths and streets.

Here’s the route I took:

  • Left from Lower Westmount
  • climbed Decarie (boulevard, not expressway!!!)
  • jogged over a few blocks on Jean-Talon to Lucerne, which turns into Ste-Croix after going under the 40
  • up Ste-Croix and then O’brien to Gouin
  • take the Gouin path through all its snaking around until it gets to the Bois-de-Liesse nature park.
  • Through the park and exit at Sunnybrooke. Stay on the bike path heading west until Lake
  • then onto the path at Salaberry.

On the way back, I took the South route:

  • the slightly insane route straight down Boul. St-Jean
  • Lakeshore rd
  • and then the Lachine Canal,
  • up Atwater

The trip up was fairly straightforward, but boring. I was really diappointed by the Gouin path on the short stretch I used it – it zigs and zags down all sorts of tiny streets, which can be nice since there’s no traffic, but it means that every 20 feet there’s a stop sign, and you have to cross the busy streets a few times without any lights or stop signs to give you a chance. Slow and tiring for no good reason… As well, except for the tiny jaunt under the bridge, you’re never near the water at all. I think if I had to take this route regularly, I’d end up just forgoing the path, and going straight down Gouin with the traffic instead.

Bois-de-Liesse was a nice surprise though! I didn’t know this park at all. Not great biking, since you share the path with hikers (lots of kids were out!) and it’s all gravel or dirt, but it’s so nice travelling through the trees!

After that, biking in the Suburbs on the other side was really dull. There are a surprising number of bike paths, but their design is…creative, if not effective.. Most of them are a relatively narrow bidirectional lane over to the side of the road. Normally, this is ok, but there’s nothing separating you from the traffic, and often not enough room to safely pass other bikers. Bus stops often interfere with the path as well, though with the scarcity of bus service out there, it’s not really a frequent issue. The real problem is that the paths tend to just end randomly, without notice! This can really suck when you suddenly find yourself coming up to a big intersection (crossing Sources on Hyman), in the middle of the road going the wrong direction! I don’t know if they expect people to just get on the sidewalk at these spots or what… Doesn’t make much sense though.

After the satisfactory, but fairly boring trip out, I decided to head to the South shore for the return trip. Boul. St-Jean is NOT a good road to bike on. it might be nice at 3AM, but at 4PM when I tried it, there was a lot of very fast-moving traffic, and no room at all to manoeuvre. I was tempted on several occasions to either turn around or get on the sidewalk, but I persisted. A harrowing 10 minutes, which I don’t recommend. I don’t know if there’s any better alternative for crossing to the south shore though.

I had biked along the south shore before, and was happy to repeat the experience. Travelling along a relatively quiet road, right by the water, with parks most of the way, lots of wildlife, and a cool breeze off the water is the way it should be! Lachine canal path was similar, but a little crowded, as usual.

All in all, a fun trip, but I wish I could travel along Lakeshore without risking life and limb on Boul. St-Jean. Does anyone have a better route to take? Is St. Charles or Sources any more bike-friendly? Or are there any tunnels or other ways to cross the highway that don’t show up on maps?

And geez, I’m wordy.

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