14 January 2011

Montreal and The Bicycle

Montreal Bike Parking
If there are North American records for number of bike parking spots, Montreal seems to be keen on winning. Every few metres or so on avenue du Parc there were these posts with a ring for attaching a bike lock.

My friend Taras, whom I was visiting, explained that the number on the post corresponds to the parking spot on the street. Park your car, check the number, punch it into the parking ticket machine and pay. As an added bonus, bicycles can park there. Seriously... every few metres! What a brilliant idea.

Apparently businesses can opt out of having the bike rack ring on the post in front of their shops, and a thick plastic condom is placed on the post to prevent most U-locks from being attached - although a chain wouldn't be a problem.

These opt-outs were few, though.
Montreal Basket Montreal Snow Parking
I saw loads of bicycles on the streets in the four days I was there, which was brilliant. I wasn't taking loads of photos and just enjoying the company of my friends instead, but bicycles abound.

What really thrilled me was seeing so many bicycles parked in the neighbourhoods I visited. Outside flats, in bike racks on main streets, you name it. Most of them were untouched since the start of winter. Their wheels were still buried in snow. But why is that brilliant? It is one of the surest signs that a city is doing the right thing.

The citizens may find rusty chains and other bits in the spring, but Montreal seems to have crossed that magical line between bicycle fetishism and demystifying the bicycle. If you see bikes left out like that it means that the citizens regard the bicycle as a vacuum cleaner. A tool. And THAT is a step in the right direction towards re-establishing the bicycle on the urban landscape.
Montreal Friendly Sign
And here's a rather polite sign, which is always nice to see.
Montreal Airport Patrol
Just before disappearing through security I spotted these two bicycle security guards at Trudeau Airport. Dressed for Armaggedon but guite cool that an airport has two-wheeled security.

I'm hoping to return in June to see the city blooming with bicycles.


Kiwehtin said...

People do leave their bikes chained onto signposts along the sidewalks, all winter, or to fences in front of buildings, but doing so has a downside: when the little sidewalk snowplows come barreling along during a snowfall, they often hit and mangle bikes that stick out too far into the sidewalk. You can see the mangled carcasses all over town in the springtime.

And I recall seeing similar bike patrols at Heathrow, too.

Brian said...

I think Chicago may be able to go toe to toe with Montreal. A few years ago the city switched from the old coin-fed parking meters to the newer electronic ones.
However, they left about half of the parking meters in the city in place with a sticker that reads "Meter remains as a courtesy to cyclists".

François said...

See sad pictures of abandoned bikes in Montreal:

Green Idea Factory said...

Nice post about good things in Canada. But bikes for cops are not "cool" -- they are simply tools for whatever crap or not that they are up to.

Lim Soo 林蘇 said...

There are some vacuum cleaners on the street of Hong Kong. But it limits to certain groups, namely food shop delivery bike. And the no of bikes growing with food shop only.

Louis M said...

A lot of bike carcasses can be seen over the city. But if you are or know a handyman, you can build your own bike for less than 200$ by taking one that is clearly abandonned and giving it a second life with a few repairs. That's what I did just before winter began and I'm still impressed by the result: http://www.flickr.com/photos/louismazerolle/5199990275/

lagatta à montréal said...

The bicycle carcasses make me very sad. Many are perfectly usable bikes, some downright darling. I was so relieved when the owner (presumably) retrieved an adorable Raleigh Lenton (women's frame with lovely curve in the top bar, proper mudguards and all). It was small, and I was practically resolved to "rescuing" it.

Green Idea, think it was just a matter of the security guards using active transport rather than motorised equipment, such as those silly Segways.

Yes, we've made a lot of progress, but much remains to be done. I'm in continued discussions with my city counsellor (who is from bicycle-friendly Projet Montréal) about improvements to the bicycle connection between Le Plateau/Mile-End and Petite Italie (where I live) and about the cycle path planned along my street. We really need more dedicated paths if we want to achieve Copenhagen-worthy modal shares in the wintertime.

Zvi Leve (Montreal, QC, Canada) said...

Mikael, it was a pleasure meeting you on your recent visit here! I have quite a few pictures of Montreal bike parking, which includes quite a few 'dead bikes'. Here they are: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zvileve/tags/deadbike/