In the latest sign of opposition to the Plante administration's campaign to remake Montreal into a metropolis of cyclists, a group of rue Saint-Denis businesses is threatening to sue the city to remove a controversial bike lane through the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.

The businesses — including a furniture boutique, an eyeglass store, and a wild mushroom shop — sent the city a letter threatening legal action on September 15, after months of opposition to the Réseau Express Vélo (REV) cycling network.  

It argues the proposed northbound and southbound cycling lanes will cause problems for delivery drivers, eliminate scarce parking and restrict the ability of pedestrians to cross the street.  

Saint-Denis shop owners have struggled through months of construction that took place from 2016 to 2017 — and then the pandemic hit. 

The addition of bicycle lanes would cause the remaining businesses to, "suffer harm that goes far beyond the usual normal inconveniences that usually result from public works," states the letter.  

"The timing of this could not be worse," it continues. "The administration must minimize the impacts of its choices on merchants who are at the end of their rope, failing to suspend or cancel the work in question."  

The bicycle lanes on St-Denis are part of the REV project, which will see the integration of 184 kilometres of bike paths across Montreal, including 17 paths that will be accessible year-round.

According to the city, the REV will be an environmentally-sound way to make the roads safer for cyclists, promising "vitalization of commercial streets and neighbourhood life," and "higher customer traffic in stores."

Mycoboutique owner Pierre Noël disagrees, however.   

Unlike cafés or small shops, his business needs street parking to survive, he said.

"Our customers don't come on foot or by bike," he said. "They need cars, and they need cars more in winter when it's snowing."

Anne-Marie Laoun, the owner of Georges Laoun Opticien, said it's not the right time to proceed with this project.  

"We've lost so many merchants and we were closed for two-and-a-half months," she said.

"As opticians, we cannot go online and sell our products, so this a huge thing, and now you're going with a nonessential project?"  

Laoun said the city has not addressed how the lanes could make curb access more difficult for the elderly and people with mobility issues. 

"Could you imagine a little old lady in the winter?" she asked. "It's nice to be young and agile but what about the older persons?"

Her shop is listed on a website calling for the boycott of Montreal businesses including Joe Beef, La Binerie, and Bar L'Barouf for speaking out against the REV and other bike lanes around the city.  

"Merchants only understand the language of money," states the website Boycott Montreal.

"Despite the risks to the safety of residents linked to the overflow of cars in central districts, merchants continue to use their economic powers, policy and media to maintain the status quo."

Laoun said these efforts are misguided.  

"I'm for survival right now," she continued. "I'm for the success of these businesses that have been around for 40 years. Every time one of them closes it takes away from the beauty of our neighbourhood."  

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