Biking in Montreal?
When Portland State’s Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation invited Jean Francois Provenent of Vélo Québec to speak on cycling in Montreal and Quebec. This was my preconception of biking in Montreal…
Vélo Québec was formed over 40 years ago to promote cycling as a practical transportation mode and oppose the intrusion of parking lots and highways into Montreal. They publish guidebooks and run tours for cycle tourists and put on an annual ride for 25,000 but more importantly, they have been advocating for cycling infrastructure and publishing planning guides for engineers and urban planners on how to integrate the bicycle into cities and the countryside. Jean Francois told a bit of the history of Vélo Québec and of the bicycle movement in Montreal–despite the challenge of the climate. He outlined their formula for success:
- Biking is fun! Its an easy and enjoyable activity for all ages.
- Bicycles are popular because it doesn’t require expensive equipment and is easy to learn.
- Good infrastructure is key to increasing bicycle use, hence Vélo Québec’s emphasis on training engineers.
- Cycling is part of the solution to almost any urban ill, the bicycle promotes health, access to work, community, and clean air.
- Creating opportunities to cycle like community bike rides opens people’s eyes to the possibility of cycling.
- Creating partnerships with business and government is key to success.
In 1996, the provincial government asked its citizens for ideas on how to improve the quality of life in Quebec. Vélo Québec submitted the audacious idea of a province-wide system of bicycle routes, christened La Route Verte (the “Green Road”). 18 years later there are over 5000 km (3200 miles) of signed routes, much off-road, built with over 1000 partners (cities, businesses, property owners) and generates over $134 M Canadian from cycle tourists!
Oh. And how do you deal with almost six months of snow on the ground?