Montreal: The Most Bike Friendly City in Canada?
While Montreal is often celebrated for its European-esque buildings, restaurants and nightlife, the Old-World bike culture that permeates the very fabric of this city is often overlooked. I just spent a week in Quebec, and soaked up the bike vibe that la Belle Province has to offer.
In a move that hopefully will be replicated by cities all over North America, Montreal introduced the Bixi bike sharing program in 2009 with great success. This summer there are over 400 rental stations throughout the metro area, with 5000 bicycles in circulation. It is relatively cheap for tourists like me, and locals can buy season passes for only $78, which gives them free reign of the bikes for the entirety of the season.
The combination of these bikes and the incredible network of safe bike paths create an urban environment ripe for bicycle happiness. My girlfriend and I had such a good time in the city, and much of it was due to the fact that we could cover so much ground on these bikes, and see so much. I really hope more cities follow suit, the Bixi program works so well (ie Vancouver, cough, cough).
Montreal’s bike paths team with people at all hours, from students on junkers, to dapper old men on Bixis, to beautiful young people on classic 10-speeds coasting to the nearest café or sun drenched terrasse. My girlfriend and I marveled at this amalgamation of people constantly. One night, cruising home on Bixis from a delicious dinner we stumbled across the route of the Tour La Nuit, an annual bike event that takes place on the streets. We slipped into the mass of cyclists and followed the pack for some blocks, then pulled off to the side and watched as hundreds of garishly dressed bikers pedaled by under the streetlamps. All told this event attracted 12,000 cyclists. The Tour de l’Ile, which took place two days later, draws 30,000 riders for the daytime version of the tour through the city streets, costumes and all. These events are part of the Montreal Bike Fest, a yearly celebration of all things pedal powered.
One must simply travel to Montreal to experience the way people here embrace two wheeled travel, and spread a small part of the movement home to their own cities or towns. The city explodes with energy, and is a great place to hang out. Just minutes away from the city are two mountains with World Cup downhill courses and fully established bike parks, Bromont and Mont St Anne. More reasons to come to Quebec! The poutine is pretty good too……