Understanding the distribution of the benefits of Montreal’s new active transportation infrastructure in response to COVID-19

Authors: Linnea Soli*, , Kevin Manaugh, McGill University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: equity, active transport, COVID-19, bike lanes, Montreal, sidewalks
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The closing of non-essential businesses and reductions in public transit service which took place during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic put increased pressures on the capacity of local walking and cycling infrastructure to allow residents to access important destinations such as grocery stores and public parks. Furthermore, COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on people of colour, lower income households, the elderly, and otherwise marginalized populations, making these the most critical groups to prioritize in pandemic relief efforts of all types (Afifi et al., 2020; Berger et al., 2020; Dahab et al., 2020; Gaynor & Wilson, 2020). In response to the pandemic and these pressures, the city of Montréal released plans in May 2020 to expand active transportation infrastructure in order to create more outdoor space for physical distancing during travel. These plans included sidewalk expansions, additional bike lanes, and pedestrian-only streets. By examining official documents and maps and analyzing census data, this research explores the degree to which these proposed interventions serve populations most in need. An analysis of socio-demographic characteristics of the population served by the new infrastructure allows us to understand which people in Montréal are best able to stay safe and maintain physical distancing while
engaging in active transportation. Key findings include that the changes and the distribution of their benefits have not been equitable throughout socioeconomic groups in Montreal, further illuminating disparities embedded in the design and provision of the pedestrian realm.

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