Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve victim of its popularity

If Formula One race cars are still the symbol of the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, it is mainly cyclists who use them for much of the summer season to train and have fun. Their numbers are also rising sharply, to the point that this raises safety issues on this runway on Île Notre-Dame.

Less than a week after the strong return of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit is in its final preparations to be able to host racing cars that can travel up to 350 km / h in this 4-speed race. track..3 km. At the end of this sporting event, however, it will be the cyclists who will once again become the main users of this circuit from 24 June, the configuration of which is also ideal for achieving speed feats on two wheels. .

“The proximity of a city like Montreal and Jean-Drapeau Park, which is accessible by bike, means that many cyclists go there to train. It is safe because there are fewer cars and it is convenient to train in a group and do race simulations “, says the experienced cyclist François Guimard.

The latter is the founder of the first edition of the Vélocité festival, which took place from 4 to 8 May in the metropolis. This event, which aims to be annual, culminated in a professional race, which attracted 430 cyclists to the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit. “It’s really a lot for a cycling event,” rejoices Mr. Guimard.

Data from the meters located on this track provided in Must They report an increase in the number of registered cyclist passages during the summer season, which lasts from April to November. Thus, this figure has gone from about 220,000 in 2018 to more than 318,000 last year, an increase of almost 45% in three years.

“However, we have seen an increase in traffic and interest in our facilities,” said Kaven Gauthier, a spokesman for the Société du Parc Jean-Drapeau, in an interview with Must.

More skirmishes

This increase, which testifies to the growing attractiveness of cycling in the context of the pandemic, also echoes the growing importance that cyclists have been given in the development of this space over the years. First improvised in the early 2000s, the presence of bicycles on the site was then marked by the presence of pylons, while car traffic, which used to go both ways, is now one-way and limited. at a top speed of 30 km / h.

The main problem of coexistence in this place today is not, therefore, between cyclists and motorcyclists, but between the cyclists themselves, without forgetting the fans of inline skating and running.

“What we have observed is that there are problems of coexistence between cyclists. This is because there are really two types of athletes who train with us. There are high-performance, high-performance cyclists, and we have more novice cyclists, ”who have less control over the rules to avoid crashes, says Kaven Gauthier. Thus, the Société du parc Jean-Drapeau (SPJD) has seen an increase in collisions between cyclists on this track, where paramedics are called upon to intervene “still regularly,” the spokesman said.

In May 2021, a cyclist also died in a collision with another cyclist on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, which led to the opening of an investigation by the forensic office, which has not yet been submit your report. His recommendations could help the SPJD improve safety on this track, said Jean-François Rheault, president and CEO of Vélo Québec. Because, right now, “there are still security issues, there are still development issues” on this site, he notes.

In this regard, Kaven Gauthier, of the SPJD, states that the dialogue continues with the members of the Jean-Drapeau Park cycling advisory committee, which includes, among others, elected officials of the City and members of Vélo Quebec. in order to “continuously improve the facilities” of the circuit so that it is “safe”. The visibility of the site has been significantly improved to call for caution among cyclists, while communication campaigns have been launched to facilitate coexistence in this place, the spokesman said.

A sporting vocation

The presence of sports cyclists on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit has also generated some twists in the last decade. Specifically, we witnessed a cry from cycling groups in 2010 when the former administration of Gérald Tremblay wanted to put chicanes in place to stop cyclists bothering pedestrians. These barriers were then removed.

Then, in 2017, the administration of Denis Coderre announced the closure of this circuit throughout the summer to allow the transfer of the events of the private developer Evenko to the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, before reversing in front of the popular pressure.

In fact, there are problems with coexistence between cyclists

Since then, the importance of this place has been better recognized for sports cyclists, who benefit in this circuit from a higher quality asphalt to pick up speed, but there is still a long way to go, believes Jean-François Rheault.

“For sports cyclists, the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, like the Camillien-Houde route [sur le mont Royal]”These are the two favorite places for training,” he said. However, in both cases, the sporting vocation of these venues “is not recognized for their fair value” by the City Council, he argues.

The Jean-Drapeau Park Conservation, Landscaping and Development Master Plan 2020-2030, the result of a public consultation held in 2018, also denounces a “lack of recognition” of the park’s sporting vocation, including its Gilles. -Circuit de Villeneuve, which received its name in 1982 in honor of the famous racing driver. Thus, the vast document recommends “affirming the sporting vocation of the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit by offering training time slots reserved for cyclists,” a view shared by Mr. Rheault.

François Guimard, for his part, believes it is important for this circuit to be “accessible to everyone”. “We need to start by communicating the existence of this circuit, the accessibility of this circuit for families,” before thinking about creating time slots reserved only for high-level cyclists, he believes.

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