When active transportation meets obstacles in Montreal

Country/area: Canada

Organisation: Le Devoir

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 03/12/2021

Credit: Laurianne Croteau, Cédric Gagnon, Olivia Gélinas, Antoine Noreau


This project was created by a team of four people: Laurianne Croteau, a data journalist who has recently joined Le Devoir after five years covering the daily news for the public broadcaster; Cédric Gagnon, a graphic and motion designer who has been refining the visual side of the team’s interactive projects for over three years; Olivia Gélinas, a data visualization developer with a master’s degree in computer engineering from Polytechnique Montréal and Antoine Noreau, who has also recently joined the team as data visualization developer with a background in biomedical engineering.

Project description:

Over a thousand pedestrians and cyclists were killed or seriously injured in a collision with a vehicle between 2012 and 2020 in Montreal. Le Devoir has targeted six of the city’s most dangerous intersections where these happen to try to find out how the planning could be at fault. We also created an interactive map where users can see and learn more about all of these collisions by filtering the year, the mode of transport (and whether a heavy truck was involved), and the gravity of the accident.

Impact reached:

Although the City of Montreal has adopted the Vision Zero approach, which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on its roads by 2040, our analysis revealed that there are still on average twenty vulnerable users dying every year – a number that isn’t declining. This series has empowered the readers to get a hold of what the city has been doing to increase the security of its streets and what blind spots still need to be addressed. Numerous open letters and op-eds have been written the following week with calls to action to legislate on limiting the number and the types of heavy vehicles rolling in the streets of Montreal and to deplore this “unacceptable situation”. Le Devoir also revealed in a subsequent piece that a member of Parliament intends to introduce a bill during the upcoming session to impose lateral bars on heavy trucks. 

Techniques/technologies used:

We have examined over 200 000 collisions involving at least one motor vehicle from 2012 to 2020 that occurred on the road network of the Montreal agglomeration (highways are not included) shared by the city’s Open Data website. They were then analyzed using Python and the pandas library. The interactive map was created with Mapbox and Javascript, using OpenStreetMap. The illustrated maps from the scrolly were created with Adobe Illustrator.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The most challenging part was to create a scrolly where the reader felt like he was on the field. We wanted an analytical piece that highlighted the problems with urban planning but we also wanted the reader to feel the insecurity faced by a walker or a cyclist on these challenging corners. Scrollytelling helped us navigate through the city with both perspectives, usually showing first and explaining later.This was also our first attempt at including videos in a scrolly piece.

What can others learn from this project?

Show, don’t tell! The strength of this piece is how we used a variety of visual elements – photos, videos, maps and Google Earth screen captures – to bring the readers into Montreal’s streets and force them to put themselves in the vulnerable user’s shoes. This was critical since a lot of Montrealers have been complaining that getting around by car has been longer and more stressful with the recent modifications of the city to the urban planning.

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