Motorless in Montreal

In Quebec, bikes are not just a sport but a transport

| March/April 2001



Life After Oil
-Jeremiah Creedon

Bill Ford Has a Better Idea
-Martin Wright

The Rail Revival
-Jay Walljasper

Car-Sharing in Portland
-Steve Gutmann

Motorless in Montreal
-Nick Peck

Discuss Life After Oil in Café Utne. Click here: café
The province of Quebec, where more than 1,800 miles of bike paths are either built or are well into the planning stages, is one of North America’s leaders in showing how bicycles can be an integral part of a 21st-century transportation system. Though the bike’s presence may not be as great as in Germany, Denmark, Holland, or China (where pedal power never died out), it has rebounded from near oblivion in Quebec to become an increasing part of the culture. This resurgence is due in some part to the relentless advocacy of Montreal residents Bob Silverman and Claire Morissette, founders of Le Monde á Bicyclette (a double entendre meaning both 'The World by Bicycle' and 'Everyone on a Bicycle'). This supercharged bicyclist collective has a 25-year history of conducting eccentric and effective demonstrations (dubbed 'cyclodramas') and applying pressure on public officials for better cycling conditions.

Bicycle usage is so prevalent in Montreal now that one sees intersections with more bikes than cars waiting for the light to change. 'Vélo culture' is so ingrained that the Canadian government is currently building a $250,000 tunnel for an urban bike path to pass beneath a highway, and the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec together just allocated $10 million to extend the city’s bike path system. Montreal is also one of the vanguard cities in North America that require new buildings to designate indoor space for bike parking.

Le Monde’s slogan—'The bicycle: Not a sport, a transport'—is confirmed by Montreal’s bike repair shops that specialize in winterizing bicycles, using old inner tubes to make rubber seals that keep the sand and salt and moisture from getting into ball bearings. Now there are increasing numbers of commuters who put off purchasing a monthly subway pass as November looms because they are equipped (with face mask and so on) for the cold and figure they’ll save money by cycling for another month.

From Orion Afield (Autumn 2000). Subscriptions: $30/yr. (4 issues of Orion Afield, plus 4 issues of Orion magazine, plus membership in the Orion Society), from 195 Main St., Great Barrington, MA 01230; 888/999-6568;

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