Cycling: Montreal in the footsteps of Amsterdam?

Cycling: Montreal in the footsteps of Amsterdam? 

Montréal has just been named the number one major cycling city in North America in PeopleForBikes.org's annual ranking. But can we compare it to Amsterdam, an excellent cycling city? There is still a long way to go. 

Among the giant steps taken by the metropolis, we cannot ignore the deployment of the first axes of the Réseau express vélo (REV), including the one in Saint-Denis, which allowed cyclists to travel there at a distance from motorists. . 

As soon as the situation allows it, the City also takes the opportunity to develop bike paths at mid-level between the roadway and the sidewalk that allow cyclists to circulate on their own lane. In addition, when Montreal undertakes the redevelopment of a street, it now does so with the objective that all users can share the space in complete safety. 

With these developments – and even more during the pandemic – the culture of cycling has taken off. More and more Montrealers are even cycling in the city in winter, according to observations from Vélo Québec, with 80% of bike paths now cleared of snow. 

However, can the metropolis hope to compare itself one day to the capital of the Netherlands, known to have more bicycles than inhabitants (880,000 bicycles for the 821,752 inhabitants according to statistics from the NPO specializing in tourism iAmsterdam.com)?  

A matter of culture 

S he is delighted with the increase in the number of infrastructures and the evolution of mentalities regarding the use of bicycles in the city, Jean-François Rheault, President and CEO of Vélo Québec, continues to believe that the bicycle is a subject that divides Montreal. And this is, according to him, the main difference compared to Amsterdam.  

“In Amsterdam, no one defines themselves as a cyclist. It's just citizens who decide to get around by bike and they do it just because it's easier. This is where we have some progress to make, in making it totally acceptable and accepted to ride a bicycle,” explains the man who has visited Amsterdam several times.  

It must be said that the city has many infrastructures and facilities designed especially for cyclists.   

“If we were in Amsterdam, a REV like the one on rue Saint-Denis, there would be one on almost every street,” compares Mr. Rheault. 

The bicycle is thus part of the DNA of Amsterdammers. The majority of them and they ride their bikes every day and this mode of transport is even integrated into their school curriculum since in the Netherlands, before entering secondary school, children learn to get around by bike safely. security (official exam, included).  

According to the CEO of Vélo Québec, if the bicycle still divides, it is also and above all a question of culture, education and habit. “The REV on Saint-Denis had created a debate because it was new, but I'm not sure that I would find people today who want to go back.” 

Cycling: Montréal in the footsteps from Amsterdam? 

Cyclists take the Laurier Street bike path.

Extend the network 

While it is now easier to get around the central neighborhoods of Montreal by bike, we must not forget the outlying neighborhoods, says Robin Black, project coordinator at Cyclo Nord-Sud.  

“Montreal could be a city like Amsterdam, but our concern is that there are corners like Amsterdam and others like Detroit [dominated by automobiles],” he says. 

M. Black lives in Villeray, where cycling is easy, but works in Saint-Michel, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods for cyclists and pedestrians.  

“The most outlying districts, which are also often the poorest, are the last to receive the facilities when they are the ones who need it the most [as they are not served by the metro]”, underlines- it.  

If the cycling network would benefit from being extended, according to Cynthia Falaise, spokesperson for the Ahuntsic-Cartierville Active Mobility Association (AMAAC), it could also be designed as a continuation of the public transport network.  

“We see this a lot in the Netherlands, where the public transport infrastructure is made to accommodate bicycles, with always, in particular, secure parking she explains.  

Follow the example 

The question of transport is surrounded by several major issues – environmental, economic, health – to which the bicycle could provide an answer, both believe Cynthia Falaise and Jean- François Rheault. 

“We are in a climate crisis. The report of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] leaves us barely a few years to change the trajectory, after that it's over. We know that transportation is the largest greenhouse gas emitting sector in Quebec. The bicycle offers a solution to that”, points out Cynthia Falaise. 

“Less expenses related to the car, that means more money for households, which is favorable to local businesses. In addition, in Quebec, as we do not produce cars or gasoline, it is therefore money that comes out of our economy, ”adds the CEO of Vélo Québec. 

In this context, focus the discussion on examples that work, such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen, or other Nordic cities such as Oulu, Finland, where children cycle to school on snow typed, pleads the spokesperson for the AMAAC. 

“Steps have been climbed, we must now redouble our ardor,” she concludes. 

Some numbers

Montreal: < /strong>711 km of cycle paths for 431.5 km² (city area) 

Amsterdam: 767 km of cycle paths for 219.3 km² (area of ​​the city) 

According to Vélo Québec, the number of trips in Montreal between 2013 and 2018 increased by 17%. In 2020, 1.1 million Montrealers cycled. Some 350,000 rode it at least once a week compared to 275,000 doing so five years earlier. 

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