24 Aug 2012

Bikes on a roll in Montreal

Posted by Mike Rubbo

As some of you know, I used to live in Montreal, was there for 25 years, ending in 1996,

In those days, Montreal was not a bike town. I knew hardly anyone who ride a bike.

But since the Bixis arrived a few years ago, ( they’re the public bikes, and there’s 5000 0f them on Montreal streets.) the city by the St Lawrence river, has become one of the great bike cities of the world.

Bixis made bikes cool in Montreal

My friend and helper,  Violeta Brana-Lafourcade  is there right now.  Here she is, enjoying a perfect Montreal summer.

She’s loading her facebook page with bike photos which I want to share with you.

Actually she’s been on assignment for me in Holland, filming bikes which I’ll use for movies and bike art, and now she giving me a Montreal bonus.

Here’s couple of her offerings.

She explained that she was in a market area which is why everyone was pushing their bikes.

Several things stand out for me. There are only two Bixis in the twenty or so  photos. The rest are private bikes of various sorts.

When Bixis primed the pump as it were,   non riders realized how much they liked being on a bike,  and went out and bought their  own.

The second thing is that quite innocently, she’s  not making propaganda to suite my prejudices, not one of the riders Violeta finds, is wearing a helmet.

Now, I know many of you will find that a boring observation. You may love your helmet and can’t imagine rolling even a meter without it

But as some of us   muster the arguments for helmet choice in Australia, we do need to grab evidence like this, that riders in cities elsewhere feel perfectly comfortable and safe riding without lids.

Do these riders look nervous, stressed?  Are they wearing  those alarmist iridescent vests, and another sign of the fear culture here.

Note too that none of the riders are on separated cycle ways, though there are now many in Montreal.

So far it’s  all women, another big change over there..  Here,  of course, male cyclists still outnumber women two to one. That’s because  riding a bike is perceived as dangerous here, and maybe the helmet hair question plays a part as well, keeping women off bikes.

But the guys  In Montreal are equally head bare. (not thread bare)

Now, notice something else. These riders are all in a street of….

….small shops. They are browsing and probably buying.

I think I’ve just hit on a useful truth. I’ll preface my revelation with telling you that our local Coles is  expanding and driving other shops out of the  Kincumber shopping centre.

Coles used to share the center with  an independent green grocer, PJ’s , a pastry shop,  etc. Now they are all gone and in days,  we’ll have a very big Coles.

With the expansion and the renovation of the car park, have gone the few bike racks there used to be. Now there are none.

I’ve just realized that Coles must know that few bikes  come to supermarkets. Nor do they go to corner stores in Australia, not yet at least, one must add.

But in Montreal and Europe, I bet small store love cyclists since  with their small carrying capacity, they surely tend to shop in small stores .

I’ve asked Violeta to find out if this is true. Because is it is, then we have a great new weapon with which to fight for bikes as transport.

There must, for example,  be small business associations who  could be brought to see that a campaign for bikes, could be mutually beneficial.

Perhaps a 10% discount for whoever rides up with a basket on the handlebars, offered at participating small shops.

I don’t have the evidence as yet to prove the point.  but these photos are a good start. Almost every bike she photographed is set up to carry stuff,  often with baskets front and back

This is surely an angle to pursue. Because if small business came to see cyclists of this sort, not the sports cyclists but the shoppers, as their friend, they might join us to lobby for helmet choice, if, taking them a step further, we can show this will get a lot more women, shoppers all, onto bikes.

You might not believe it, but right now if you were to go to any suburban main street,  with it’s cluster of shops, some probably doing it tough, you would be lucky to see a single bike shopper.

They just don’t exist, except for me that is.

For the rest of  Violeta’s photos, here’s  her page.

I await my info from her on this link between small shops and bikes





Subscribe to Comments

One Response to “Bikes on a roll in Montreal”

  1. There’s some interesting reading on the relationship between local shops in Edinburgh and their customer base here.




Leave a Reply