There were so many great things about the bicycle culture in Montreal that it’s hard to decide where to start. I guess the biggest thing was the cycle track not far from our hotel. And all the bike lanes had sharrows painted through the intersections, so it was clear that bicycles were still in the road. And not just one sharrow, several. We weren’t sure about the diamond in the lanes, however.
The other instantly noticeable feature was the large number of people on bikes – all kinds of people, even EMTs! I’d say about half wore bike helmets, and most of them were wearing the “urban” style such as Nutcase or Bern. We did some some roadie-looking cyclists, both male and female, but they stood out because there were so few of them. A large percentage of the people we saw were riding Bixi bikes, and no wonder – those docking stations are everywhere! And what we consider a large station here is an average size one there.
Another great feature were the parking meters with built in bike racks. We saw tons of those. Also several different styles of bike racks, which is always fun. And almost every bike rack had at least one bike with a baby seat on the back, a very good indicator of the cycling community – if families feel safe enough to bike around with their infants, it’s a safe place to bike, period.
We also saw a surprising number of e-bikes.
The Metro not only indicates which Metro car bikes are allowed on, the stations have channels to run bikes up and down the stairs! This just about made The Mechanic and I cry. We even saw someone using it. So envious.
Naturally, we went into a few bike shops…
I noticed with some amusement that a church was located directly in front of a cycle track – and that it had a drop-off cut-out right in front! (I’m not sure what the technical term for that actually is.) But it made me think of the M Street cycle track-church drama.
Along one of the cycle tracks I noticed that where the bus stops were located, on the traffic side of the track, the track itself was raised so that a pedestrian wouldn’t have to step down into the track, but could walk straight onto the bus stop island. If one was in a wheelchair, or had a baby stroller, it wouldn’t affect them at all, crossing the cycle track. And the slight bump was barely noticeable from a bike.
The crowning glory of the bikey part of the weekend was hanging out in front of Velo Quebec – Maison des Cyclistes, a coffee and wine bar dedicated to cyclists. We sat for a long time just watching everyone cruise past us on bikes. That’s where we really saw all kinds – even someone in a motorized wheelchair zipped past in the cycle track! It was right next to a Bixi station (well, across the street), as well as a well-traveled intersection, plus a bike repair station (I think that’s what it was, anyway).
Across the street, next to the Bixi station, was a large sign with some history of Montreal’s cycling culture, as well as helpful descriptions of the different types of bike lanes. I thought that would be a pretty handy thing to have in every bicycle-friendly city.
Much like Copenhagen, Montreal came across not as a “city of cyclists” but as a city where some people choose to get around by bike, rather than by another mode of transportation. That is, not anything special, unique, crazy, or “niche.” After all, if regular clothing stores use bicycles in advertisements, how “niche” can that be?