Earlier this year, I was contacted by Velo Quebec with a remarkable opportunity: spend four days cycling around the beautiful city of Montreal with a notepad and a camera, to document the Go Bike Montreal Festival, including the two massive group rides ('Tour la Nuit' and the 30th Annual 'Tour de l'Île') that attract an excess of 15,000 people EACH. I didn't hesitate for a minute, and this past Wednesday night, found myself on a plane to one of my favourite cities in North America, if not the world.
Despite the late arrival and three hour time difference, I forced myself up bright and early on Thursday morning, to walk the downtown cycle tracks and take some pictures. Being in the heart of the city on a weekday morning afforded me a rare opportunity: to witness the incredible hoards of bikes heading into the city. And what a sight it was to behold! I'll be guest blogging for Montreal Cycle Chic all weekend, so please head over there to see some of the stylish cyclists I managed to capture with my lens.
After walking around downtown for a couple of hours, I decided it was time to get on a bike of my own. At which point I swiped my credit card at one of the many BIXI bike share stations, undocked a machine, and took it for a spin. Despite its recent, highly publicized financial issues, BIXI remains a massive point of pride among Montrealers. The mayor has openly called for citizens to support the program as best they can, in this, a do-or-die year. And that they have, almost half of all the bikes I saw on the road that day were BIXIs! Here's hoping they can find the funds needed to save the program, as it clearly provides a valuable service as a viable, inexpensive form of public transportation.
While getting to use the bike share was fun, I needed a pair of wheels of my own in order to participate in some of the longer group rides this weekend. So I met my friend Anne Williams from Velo Quebec at Fitz & Folwell, a beautiful little boutique bike shop in the Plateau Mont-Royal borough. There I rented a sexy red Linus Dutchi, much like the one I ride on a daily basis back in Vancouver.
I then spent the next couple of hours criss-crossing the city on my upright bike, exploring some of the magnificent public spaces they have to offer. Nearly all of which was done from the comfort of a protected bike lane, of which Montreal can boast the largest and longest network in North America. I managed to visit the now renowned (in urban panning circles, at least) musical swinging bus stop in Place des Arts, a public art project known as 21 Balançoires (21 Swings). Despite not traveling with the kids this time around, I delighted in the diverse ages, shapes, and sizes of people taking time out of their day to play on the street.
The final event the day had me headed to bar Alexandraplatz for the Rendez-vous Cycle Chic, the third annual event held during Go Velo by Montreal Cycle Chic. There a good-sized crowd circulated between the interior bar and pop-up parking lot patio, enjoying some of the craft beer brewed on site, and some culinary delights from a food truck parked across the street. I also had the privilege of presenting the Cycle Chic Films, which are always a treat to watch with a live audience, many of whom are seeing them for the first time. Then it was time for the leisurely ride back to the hotel (all via protected bike lane, of course), to recharge my batteries for the next day's adventures, including the spectacle of the Tour la Nuit. Be sure to stay tuned on Twitter and Instagram for updates, as they happen!