Montreal: winter cycling as difficult as you think?
Many still use the bike in winter, braving the cold and the snow and the lack of information on the state of the trails.
While Montreal is experiencing its first snowstorm, several bike paths are cleared of snow and frequented, in particular the various axes of the express bike network (REV), while others are still impassable, to the chagrin of people who travel by bike little matter the season or the neighborhood they live in.
Few options available
In Montréal-Nord, the Gouin Boulevard bike path is the only secure bike path. However, it is only safe three seasons a year since the bollards are removed in winter for snow removal purposes, forcing cyclists to take the boulevard to get around.
“We have to take the street because the track is blocked by snow, says Jean-François Gagné of the Association for safe mobility in Montreal-North (AMSMN) and himself a winter cyclist. In addition, the Gouin trail is discontinued in winter because it passes through Aimé-Léonard and Île de la Visitation parks, becoming cross-country ski trails.
He adds that he was confronted Saturday morning with mounds of snow left on Gouin Boulevard by snow removal companies, blocking bike paths. “It's not the first time it's happened but it's always frustrating to see it. It is illegal to put snow on the street and the municipal councilor Chantal Rossi even recalled it during the last city council,” he underlines.
Photo taken Saturday morning by Jean-François Gagné, showing a snowdrift blocking the bike path and Gouin Boulevard in Montreal North. Caption: Courtesy, Jean-François Gagné
Knowing the condition of the slopes in advance is possible
Although Facebook groups like Ahuncycle or Vélo d’hiver – Montreal inform users about the condition of bike paths in certain boroughs, few are aware of the tools available to know the condition of bike paths in their entirety in Montreal.
This is how a group of programmers recently put the VéloInfo application online, a ” crowdsourcing ” platform fed by cyclists to inform cyclists and the City of the state of bike paths in Montreal.
In interview with Métro, one of the creators of the application, Chantal Morin, explains that the interest in winter cycling in the Montreal community was the main reason for the creation of this program.
“This project began as part of HackQC, a programming competition,” says Ms. Morin. The City of Montreal challenged programmers to develop an application that would improve winter cycling. By doing a study of needs and interests, 80% of respondents said they would like to cycle in winter if the trails allow it.”
“It is this important public interest that has prompted us to develop the application. As soon as there are safety bollards, it is much more difficult for snow removal. However, we know that if the trails are better cleared of snow, there would be a snowball effect which would considerably increase the practice of winter cycling. With VéloInfo, everyone is better informed about the condition of the trails and it improves active transportation.”