This past 4th of July weekend, ‘Merica celebrated by invading another country...Canada. I traded the burgers and the franks for that delicious poutine easily found in Montréal, Québec.
I’ve visited Montréal a few times over the past 10 months and it certainly won’t be the last. But unlike previous visits, this was the 1st time during the summer (finally).
No time was wasted.
BYC teamed up with the lovely Clémence, who was great company, in rediscovering Montréal during this titillating time of the year. If you've never been to Montréal, you'll quickly find it to be a beautiful and charming city with something for everybody. The city is a successful merge of features that resemble a city in France and Brooklyn. Pretty cool, huh?
Visitors will see no end to fine restaurants (e.g. Le Local), hip bars (e.g. Apartment 200), vivid street art (e.g. Saint-Laurent Blvd.), Brooklyn-style coffee shops (Café Névé), the legendary poutine (e.g. La Banquise), well-established museums (e.g. Musée des Beaux Arts), and endearing parks (e.g. Parc La Fontaine) just to name a few. I can continue, but where is the fun in that?
Unable to bring over my bicycle, I opted for a 3-day pass ($15) with Canada’s bike share - the BIXI. It's no coincidence they are like the CitiBikes at home: heavy, slow, and only 3-speeds. Both bike models are provided by PBSC Urban Solutions.
Bike beggars cannot be choosers. BIXI’s are used by locals all the time, so that's good enough for me. With Montréal's limited metro lines, it was the sure way to commute. You can get to places comfortably and easily without the worry of parking or breaking the bank.
While riding around the neighborhood catching the city's row houses and love for green, you'll realize you are not alone. The Quebecers take their cycling seriously. Bike culture has a big presence here with its vast quantity of bike lanes and parking accommodations. There are people on bikes everywhere!
I seized the opportunity to meet some of the very people who help keep the city's bike infrastructure strong and bring the cycling community together over at Vélo Québec. They were very kind to give me a private tour of their facility at the Maison des Cyclistes and talk bikes. (Merci Beaucoup François et Anne.)
Vélo Québec has been a non-profit organization encouraging the use of bicycles for over 40 years. Some of Montréal's bike lanes, such as on Rue Rachel, have been in existence since the 1980's. A bit behind the times are we? Considering NY has just started improving the city streets for cyclists these past few years, that is very impressive.
In addition to advocacy, they put together publications (e.g. Vélo Urbain), organize events (e.g. La Tour de I'lle), plans trips through their Voyages agency, collaborate with local government to expand bike paths (e.g. Route Verte), and repair current ones.
I am surprised and quite frankly a bit jealous on how advanced our friends up north are in their bike infrastructure.
Nonetheless, it is reassuring to know that our friends at organizations, such as Bike New York and Transportation Alternatives, are following a similar wave-length in getting New Yorkers together in creating better streets for all of us. We'll only get there if the people of NYC join the ride and speak out.
If you ever need a weekend getaway from NYC, a 8-hour bus ride or 1.5 hour flight will get you to Montréal. It is worth the visit.
You will find some photos of Montréal on the BYC Around the World Gallery.