June 17, 2015

The Daily Durning: Montreal’s success

Durning found this in The Guardian:

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People power: the secret to Montreal’s success as a bike-friendly city

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This is, of course, a relative boast. By comparison with somewhere like Copenhagen, Montreal remains dominated by cars. But there is a thriving bike culture, helped by nearly 400 miles of cycle lanes, about 150 miles of which are separated from motor traffic. Even on a normal day – at least outside the depths of winter – cyclists are everywhere. The city also has around 5,000 of its Bixi public hire bikes, familiar to anyone who has used the near-identical London scheme.

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Montreal

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The genesis of all this can be traced back to people like Robert Silverman, better known to his fellow citizens as Bicycle Bob. Now 81, he was among the founding members of Le Monde à Bicyclette in 1975, a loose collection of mainly artists, activists and anarchists who, styling themselves the “poetic velo-rutionary tendency”, pioneered many of the direct action tactics common to modern protest movements.

“We had a lot of what I call cycle frustration,” Silverman says. “At the time there was no infrastructure, nothing to encourage biking, all the transport spending since the war had gone into cars.”

As well as campaigning for cycle lanes – one tactic was the “die in”, using ketchup to mimic blood – Le Monde à Bicyclette sought access to the city’s metro system for those with bikes. This involved deliberately absurd theatrics, for example taking ladders, skis and cardboard cut-out elephants on to trains, as well as an ultimately successful legal challenge to the rules. …

When you have 10,000 or 15,000 or 20,000 or 40,000 cyclists on the streets, politicians can’t say: ‘Nobody cycles here.’”

And Montreal’s politicians don’t say that. Denis Coderre, a former Liberal MP in Canada’s federal parliament who was elected the city’s mayor in 2013, is undeniably in touch with his two-wheeled constituency. He has promised to double the network of bike lanes, using the week of the Tour de L’Île to announce a brand new protected route through the centre. Coderre even took part in the Tour itself, following a much-publicised health kick which saw him lose almost 20kg.

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More here.

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