Make tracks and cyclists will come

We are in the midst of a climate crisis.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

We have more health problems related to physical inactivity and excess weight.

We have recently been faced with a significant increase in the cost of living.

If only there was an active means of transport that does not emit CO2which allows you to exercise without arriving sweaty at the office, and which does not cost much…

Of course this means of transport exists. More than 15,000 cyclists will use it today in the streets of the city for the Tour de l’Île.

It’s the only day of the year when cyclists have the streets to themselves. An experience that has something unreal.

Let’s face it: cyclists who use their bike as a means of transportation are not pampered in Quebec.

Of the 4.5 million cyclists in Quebec, 2.1 million (including 1.6 million adults) use the bicycle as a means of transportation. Sometimes every day, sometimes occasionally.

The problem is that our governments are not investing enough in cycle paths. More specifically, safe bike paths separated from cars, such as the REV (Réseau express vélo) in Montreal.

The Ministère des Transports du Québec invests approximately $50 million per year in active transportation (cycling and pedestrians). This represents 1.6% of the road budget and 1.0% of the transport budget (roads, public transport, train, plane) in the Quebec Infrastructure Plan. We do not know the modal share of the bicycle for all of Quebec, but the bicycle represented 1.9% of all trips in the greater Montreal area in 2018. (The popularity of the bicycle having been on the rise for decades, it has most likely increased since.)

We often hear that the Plante administration favors bicycles to the detriment of cars. Really ? In 2022, the City of Montreal will invest $17 million for bike paths. That’s 3.3% of the city’s road budget. On the island of Montreal, cycling accounted for exactly 3.3% of all trips… in 2018. It has certainly increased since (the figure has not been updated). In central neighborhoods, cycling accounted for 5% of trips in 2018 (13% in Plateau Mont-Royal, 7% in Villeray).

It’s a well-known fact that Projet Montréal loves cycling. But in its budget for transport, the Plante administration probably invests a little less for bike paths than the share of cycling in all trips in Montreal. We are far from an administration that wakes up at night to find a way to replace the car with the bicycle.

There’s also the “If you build it, they’ll come” factor. This famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams also applies to cycle paths.

According to a study of the 50 largest cities in the United States, 12% of Americans in urban areas would like to use the bicycle as a means of transportation regardless of the type of bicycle paths (ex.: paths shared with cars such as the street Saint-Urbain in Montreal). This figure increases to… 63% of Americans if there are safe cycle paths (ex.: separate paths from cars like the REV Saint-Denis1).

In terms of cycling culture, we cite – with good reason – the example of the Netherlands and the countries of northern Europe. But the Dutch and the Danes are not aliens. Over the decades, they have simply improved their roads and made the necessary public investments to give pride of place to cycling. Result: the Dutch make 27% of their trips by bicycle (reminder: it’s 3.3% on the island of Montreal), which increases their life expectancy by about six months.

If our governments begin to adequately fund safe bike paths separate from cars, Quebecers will also take up cycling more. At least 8 months out of 12.

Built in controversy, the Plante administration’s REV Saint-Denis is a success beyond expectations after only a year and a half. Over the past year, there have been 1.2 million passages on the REV Saint-Denis. This is 4.7 times more than in 2018 (250,000 visits). Proof that if you build a safe urban bike path, cyclists will come.

We are obviously not pleading for the streets of Montreal to become a permanent Tour de l’île 365 days a year. No one is claiming that the bicycle will replace public transport and the car (particularly because of the harsh Quebec winter). It is essential that public transport remains the backbone of our urban transport strategy. But for relatively short distances (less than 10 km) in urban areas, there should be as many incentives as possible to favor cycling. Not a minimum.

Even with underfunded infrastructure, approximately 2.1 million Quebecers already use their bicycles as a means of transportation in urban areas. A growing number of Montrealers, Quebecers, Longueuillois, Gatineau residents and Sherbrooke residents would obviously like to use it more often.

They do not demand preferential treatment.

They only want treatment equivalent to that of motorists: safe tracks dedicated solely to their means of transport.

1. The study was carried out by Professor Jennifer Dill, a specialist in transport and urban planning at Portland State University in the United States.


Average annual cost of a bicycle

Source: Vélo Québec


Average annual cost of a new crossover car (ex: compact SUV like a Toyota RAV4). This cost includes vehicle depreciation, gas (20,000 km at $1.92 per litre), maintenance, insurance and registration. The average annual cost of a new compact car is $8,062 in 2022.

Source: CAA-Quebec


Percentage of Montreal cyclists who also cycle in winter

Source: Vélo Québec, The state of cycling in Quebec in 2020

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