Viewpoint : December 2012

Seasonal opening and closing of bike paths: Vélo Québec offers a new approach

November 15 is the official closing date for most of Montréal’s cycling network. This year, Vélo Québec asserted that, given our increasingly mild falls and early springs, perhaps it was time to review current practices in order to allow four-season access to bikeways. This approach could also be applied in other Québec cities.

While the bike path season has been extended over the years, it is now necessary to take the next step: transform temporary sections of the network – those with bollards – into permanent sections, coordinate the snow-removal policies of the City and the boroughs, and use durable marking to make cycling strips more visible on roads that are theoretically cleared during snow-removal operations.

This need for a four-season cycling network is justified not only by more clement weather, but also by the ever-increasing number of cyclists on our bikeways and city streets. Take the case of Montréal: between January 1 and November 1, 2012, there were some 1,080,000 cyclists on De Maisonneuve Boulevard. Traffic on other bike paths has also increased significantly since 2011, with Berri Street and Rachel Street experiencing growth of 29% (920,000 cyclists in 2012) and 23% (884,000 cyclists in 2012), respectively.

More and more cities through the world maintain their cycling networks in winter. While the most obvious examples can be found in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, cities in Canada and the U.S., such as Madison (WI), Calgary and Ottawa, are gradually following suit. Vélo Québec plans to propose a new approach to the City of Montréal making it possible to develop, like many Nordic cities, a framework for the gradual implementation of a four-season cycling network in Montréal.