Cycling is becoming as much a symbol of Montreal as smoked meat sandwiches and poutine. Cycling as a mode of transportation and recreational activity has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 30 years – and it’s a good thing because it’s a pragmatic way to burn off the extra calories accumulated by indulging in the city’s extraordinary cuisine. It’s the only North American city ranked in the top 20 bike-friendly cities in the world.
The city was cited for its growing Bixi bike-sharing system, celebrating its fifth birthday this year, and the increased number of cargo bikes tooling around the streets. The Copenhagenize Index, which establishes the rankings every two years, is based on several criteria including construction and design of bike lanes, establishment of parking spots for bikes and intermodal capacity such as bike racks on taxis and buses.
But the index says Montreal, which slipped from No. 8 in 2011, has to build on its fantastic foundation by developing better bike lanes downtown to cope with the increasing traffic. It cites the two-way bike lanes as needing new design. The index says the cycling lanes on Laurier East are a step in the right direction.
Montreal stands out because a lot of energetic people such at Mayor Luc Ferandez of the Plateau support cycling along with the people at Vélo-Québec. It’s been a real struggle to establish bike lanes in New York and I would not risk life or limb cycling in mid-town Manhattan which I visited three weeks ago. I noticed the path along the Hudson River was getting good use. I recall it as almost idyllic when I jogged along it in early May of 2001.
Toronto is not so hot either. The mayor, who would not be out of place in a Saturday morning TV cartoon, is not friendly toward public transit including cycling. On a trip along Ontario’s Waterfront Trail a few years ago, we rode across the southern edge of the city without seeing much evidence of bike paths east of Yonge Street while Montreal has excellent paths along the St. Lawrence River, including the Lachine Canal. The paths are well marked by Route Verte signs.
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