People power: the secret to Montreal's success as a bike-friendly city | The Guardian
More than a third of Montreal’s 400 miles of cycle lanes are segregated from cars. Photograph: Mathieu Lamarre/Vélo Québec
When it comes to cycling Montreal has a few undeniable drawbacks. For a start, it’s hilly, the streets rising gradually from the riverside to Mont Royal, a tree-lined peak which reaches eye level with the tops of the city centre skyscrapers. And then there’s the winter, with several months of snow and constant below-zero temperatures, leaving the roads rutted and cracked.
But on a still-tepid morning in early summer the cyclists are nonetheless massing in the city’s Jeanne-Mance Park. Lots of them – about 30,000, in fact. Some are dressed in Lycra with lightweight road bikes, but the majority are wearing everyday clothes, many with children, either riding their own tiny machines or on one-wheeled add-ons to a parent’s bike, even toddlers strapped into trailers.
It is the start of the Tour de L’Île, an annual mass ride with routes of anything from 18 to 60 miles through streets closed to vehicle traffic for the day. It is both a celebration of Montreal’s unlikely bike culture and a yearly reminder to its politicians and officials of how numerous and varied is the local two-wheeled population.