Biking in Montreal – the city’s effort to become cycling friendly
Many benefits come with riding a bike. It is a great form of exercise and is great for your health. Cycling strengthens your heart muscles, lowers your resting pulse, and reduces your blood fat levels. It gets you into great shape too. Cycling is also a pollution-free mode of transport. It reduces the need to build, service and dispose of cars. Moreover, it conserves valuable road and residential space, providing opportunities for less concrete and more plant life in urban areas.
And yet, in many major cities, biking isn’t very popular. There’s the fear of bike theft, lack of on-bike storage or fear of riding in the dark. One of the main reasons people aren’t biking as much in cities is the lack of separated or decently maintained/designed infrastructure. Cycling in the city can be dangerous, especially when there aren’t specifically marked spaces for bikes to ride in.
I’ve lived in Montreal, a metropolitan city, all of my life, and it wasn’t until 2022 that I began biking in Montreal. I became very fond of riding my bike to get to and from places. I don’t drive, and as much as I like the city’s transportation system, bike riding gives me the freedom to come and go as I please. It is also much faster and more enjoyable than walking. I never used to bike in the city because there weren’t any bike lanes (at least not any in areas I would be biking in), and I always associated biking in Montreal as being dangerous.
According to Canadian Affairs, biking in Montreal is popular. Montreal is North America’s cycling capital. The city has 901 km of bike lanes, making biking in Montreal easy for travelling all over the city, through parks and along the river. Over 200 km of the bike lanes are protected by physical elements such as concrete walls and poles, and more than 700 km have ground markings and signage. In some areas of Montreal, the bike lanes get plowed in the winter to encourage those who are brave enough to bike in the snow. The city has also added more bike racks and bike traffic lights at some intersections, allowing bikes to go before cars and making biking in Montreal a safe way to travel.
These efforts are part of Project Montreal, a municipal platform that aims to help Montreal be a leader in the ecological transition, make neighbourhoods safer, and focus on cycling as a way of connectivity throughout the city. In 2023, 53 new bike paths will be added to the city’s cycling network.
The city also offers a very successful bike-sharing program called BIXI which has increased the number of people biking in Montreal. From April to November 2022, the number of individual users increased by 52% in one year, reaching almost half a million users. The number of trips recorded exceeded 9 million during this period. BIXI has over 8400 bikes and 680 stations located around the city. And this year, the service announced it would keep some of its stations open in the winter to see if ridership continues during colder months.
Like most metropolitan cities, Montreal has a history of dependence on car travel. But it has made significant efforts to reduce this dependence. We have a really great public transportation system that is constantly expanding. The city recently opened a light metro rapid transit system to reach areas outside of Montreal. The addition of bike lanes is a game changer for the city, and I see more and more people choosing to bike places, rain, shine, and snow. There still are some safety risks with biking in Montreal, and we do have to be vigilant, but I think this biking trend will continue. I hope other cities in North America will follow Montreal’s example.