Cycling like Copenhageners? Montrealers Dream about it

by Ilias on October 4, 2017 - 1:54pm


To anyone who has used his bike to go to Downtown Montreal, was it easy? It was probably not. The cycling network in Montreal is not sufficient for its inhabitants. The statistics clearly show that Montrealers don’t trust it: only 1.7 % of workers commute to work by bicycle. Across the pound, Copenhagen is showing the world how to make a city cycling-friendly. In November 2016, more people used their bike instead of their car: 265,700 vs 252,600, respectively. Something is going right for Copenhagen that is not going for Montreal.

First and foremost, Copenhagen has an elaborated and functional cycling network that Montreal could dream about. Though it has less tracks than Montreal (350 km vs 648 km), the network is organized to facilitate commuting to downtown (on the East coast), as this map shows. Compare it to Montreal. The problem is even bigger when you zoom in downtown Montreal. There is only one separated bike path going east-west, the one on Maisonneuve Boulevard, and one going north-south, on Berri Street. It’s not enough. If one wishes to go to the south-west of the downtown core, he cannot do it safely. Something must happen here if we wish to reduce congestion. Remember: more bikes mean less cars on the road. The messy system is probably a result of Montreal’s policies: the boroughs plan their cycling network, not the city itself. It would probably help if there was a central network for Montreal, like Copenhagen, who has a mayor of technical and environmental affairs. If it happens, there could be cycling paths crossing completely the island by the north-south and east-west axis. That would encourage people to take their bike or the Bixi.

The other problem Montrealers face when they take their bike is the lack of security. Last month, Montreal “opened” a new bike path on Atwater Avenue. Actually, it was just a bike path symbol painted on the sidewalk under Highway 20. That is not safe for either the cyclists nor the pedestrians. That is just one example. There is also a risk when taking an underpass. A study of them done after the death of cyclist Mathilde Blais in 2014 revealed that 57 of 188 of them present a risk in security. The situation in Copenhagen is totally different. James Thoem, a project manager with Copenhagenize, an organization helping cities to make them more bike-friendly, says, “You see people yawning - and we always say that's a sign of good bicycle infrastructure, yawning, because then you know people feel safe.” That means that with good infrastructure, cyclers are safer.

Montreal faces a big problem of traffic, like many other North-American cities. Public transport helps, but cycling is definitely another solution that would, but the network is insufficient and unsafe. The City should take inspiration from Copenhagen by investing in cycling infrastructure like separated bike paths that cross the city. With a central and united plan that focuses on connecting the boroughs to downtown, new cyclers will come. The first step is probably making new bike paths in the downtown core, so there are more options. René-Lévesque Boulevard and Peel Street are interesting pathways, but that’s just carrying water to the sea if Montreal doesn’t wake up and see what Copenhagen sees.


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