Cycling is just one of many reasons to visit Montreal, though the city is getting props for its forward-pedalling ways.
The city has more than 500 kilometres worth of bike paths and was recently ranked by ForbesTraveller.com as one of “North America’s most bike-friendly cities.” And visitors can now rent bicycles for only $5 per day, while they wheel around the city’s downtown core.
But according to one cycling expert, Montreal has been making its downtown biking better for some time and has been making path improvements to some of its suburbs.
“From what I know, I think Montreal is in a pretty good position in terms of recent developments, especially in the downtown area,” said Jean-Francois Pronovost, executive director of the Velo Quebec Association, when speaking to CTV.ca by telephone from Montreal.
Pronovost points to the addition of a year-round bike lane along Maisonneuve Boulevard that opened up about two years ago. It allows cyclists to travel a bidirectional lane that is separated from other road traffic as they make their way through the downtown area.
Looking forward, Pronovost said Montreal needs to continue to cultivate its cycling culture with more designated bike lanes and paths. Then, he said, it becomes a question of sitting back and watching the bicycles hit the city streets.
According to statistics from Montreal police, 663 cyclists received minor injuries in traffic and road collisions last year. An additional 33 cyclists suffered serious injuries and two others died on Montreal roads in 2008.
With nearly a million Toronto residents claiming to be at least part-time cyclists, Canada’s largest city has taken strides to make cycling better.
There are more bike lanes than in the past, Toronto has opened the first of several planned public bicycle stations and Mayor David Miller has said it is the city’s goal to see Torontonians making twice as many bicycling trips as they do today.
And the city’s efforts have been noticed.
“Toronto has done a lot to try to become a lot more bicycle-friendly,” Greg Mathieu, the head of the Canadian Cycling Association, said in a phone interview earlier this week.
But the system is far from perfect. Toronto bike lanes often empty into very busy streets and there is a perception that cyclists and motorists are at odds with one another.
“It’s always the battle, it would seem,” Mathieu said.
So far, Toronto police have responded to more than 600 collisions involving cyclists since the start of the year, compared to 34,600 involving cars.
Bicycles are a common site in Canada’s capital city, during the warmer months of the year.
You can see them gliding along the lengthy Capital Pathway network, which has more than 180 kilometres worth of paved bike lanes that wind along the city’s public parks, museums, rivers and other attractions.
But Ottawa still isn’t perfect.
The bike paths can’t get you everywhere you want to go and city bike lanes are not available on all major streets, says Michael Powell, a cyclist who contributes to the Cycling in Ottawa blog.
And while Ottawans generally enjoy a relatively good relationship with other vehicles on city roads, Powell said that there are places where the infrastructure is lacking.
“Once you get up to the suburbs, it’s a little more scattershot,” Powell said in a recent phone interview.
But he admits that the city has a good long-term plan in place for city cycling.
According to the City of Ottawa, 262 cyclists were injured in collisions last year, out of a total of 4,115 people who were injured in traffic collision within city limits.
Residents of British Columbia’s largest city make an estimated 60,000 trips by bicycle each day, meaning that cycling safety is a priority issue in Vancouver.
The city says it has doubled its bicycle network over the past decade and Vancouver has identified cycling as its fastest-growing form of transportation.
The newest development in Vancouver’s cycling scene is the addition of a walled-off cycling lane on the Burrard Street Bridge — a packed downtown passage that sees as many as 8,000 to 9,000 cyclists, pedestrians and drivers cross it each hour during peak times.
In May, Vancouver’s city council voted to convert one lane of the bridge solely for bicycle use over an indeterminate trial period. The goal was to see if the bridge could be made safer for pedestrians while keeping traffic flowing.
The project was the brainchild of Mayor Gregor Robertson, a life-long cyclist who had long held misgivings about the busy bridge.
“I’ve been riding this bridge all of my life, and that’s the first time I’ve really felt safe crossing it on my bike,” he told CTV British Columbia after trying the bike lane for the first time in July.
So far, the project appears to have been a success.
Earlier this week, Robertson issued a pres release saying that 25 per cent more cyclists were making use of the Burrard Bridge than before the bike lane became operational.