a, Opinion


Living in Montreal, there’s a lot to be proud of, even more to be healthily suspicious of, and sometimes, quite a bit to complain about. Construction blocking your path for the fifth time this week? Narrowly avoided getting sideswiped by a rampaging cabbie yet again? Tuition fees continuing to rise while your wallet only gets lighter and lighter? These are all valid concerns, and are all felt by many of us here at McGill. Sometimes, however, people get up-in-arms about something so trivial that it begs the question of why anyone cares in the first place.

The latest controversy to stir up the community comes courtesy of a recent project by McGill University Services, which some see as an attempt to build an imposing, fortress-like enclosure out of our once peaceful and scenic campus—no doubt with the intention of frightening the university’s 38,779 students into simultaneous obedience. “What could possibly be so terrifying and/or dramatic?” you may wonder.

As it happens, bike barriers were installed at the Milton Gates over the summer. Three foot tall, dinky, metal bike barriers. ‘Gate’ is a bit of a misnomer, considering that anyone with an agenda can easily barge (or cycle) right on through if so desired. They even swing.

As anyone who has wandered down University Street can attest, the Milton Gates entrance is jam-packed full of students, professors, and assorted Montrealers on any given day. If you were to poll a random sample of these commuters, chances are very few would welcome getting run over by a speeding cyclist, which is why these barriers were installed in the first place. A recent article by the McGill Reporter describes “at least four incidents of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians in recent years,” as well as numerous anecdotes about near-misses; the implementation of these bike barriers, modest though they may be, is purely in the interest of public safety.

And even if it weren’t, these gates are so unobtrusive that for most of us, walking through them doesn’t even register as an event, much like opening a door, or putting on pants in the morning. If ever there was a definition of anti-climatic, it is the gentle brushing aside of a weakly protesting turnstile. The whole process is forgettable and insignificant in the extreme, yet these gates’ mere existence has provoked members of the student community to the point of necessitating a 700-word essay denouncing them (in which, by the way, these relatively innocuous turnstiles are painted as instruments of anti-environmental, anti-francophone, and anti-intellectual sentiment, all in one go).

The fact that such an argument is considered worthy of anything but the paper shredder indicates one of two things: a lamentably slow news week around McGill’s downtown campus, during which absolutely nothing of note occurred—or, failing that, the beginning of the end for journalism.

Between its vibrant social scene, dubious political schemes, gang presence, monetary issues (felt especially at McGill), and more, there’s quite a bit to write about in this city, and even more to gripe about, if one were so inclined. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t protest things with which we disagree; that’s how democracy works, after all.  If you don’t like something, tell the people in charge and if enough people share your view, that something may get changed to a better something.  But whining about bike gates? That’s just a waste of time.

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