Viewpoint : March 2014

Winter Biking: The New Trend

On February 16th, 500 enthusiastic cyclists participated in Vélo sous zéro, the very first winter happening organized by Vélo Québec, in partnership with ENvironnement JEUnesse. Since the 500 places for this event were snapped up in less than a week, it is clear that it was highly anticipated! It attracted many types of cyclists: those who are accustomed to 4-season biking, some who were experiencing winter biking for the first time and others who made it a family activity. Vélo Québec members have been clamouring for a winter event for years and the enthusiastic response tells us that winter biking is definitely a growing trend. The idea behind Vélo sous zéro was to demystify this practice among the general public, elected officials and members of the press. In addition to the strong turnout, the impressive media coverage made this a very successful aware-raising exercise.

Vélo sous zéro was an idea that we had been bouncing around for some time. Vélo Québec wanted to offer a new, off-beat activity that would interest cyclists and surprise the rest of the population. There is a parallel to be made with the Tour de l’Île de Montréal, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. In 1985, it took a lot of conviction to ask the City to close 50 kilometers of streets one fine Sunday! There is definitely a link between the popular cycling events that have emerged since 1985 and the growth of biking over the past few years. Vélo sous zéro is just the latest in a long list of successful cycling gatherings.

It is true that cities are becoming increasingly open to the concept of winter biking. Worth mentioning are the efforts of Montréal, Longueuil and Westmount and the tenacity of cyclists who convinced Outremont to maintain the Côte-Sainte-Catherine bike path. Interest in winter biking is developing virtually everywhere in northern cities. Moreover, Vélo Québec just took part in the second International Winter Cycling Congress in Winnipeg in February, where we presented our recommendations to the City of Montréal regarding the development of its white network and learned about interesting experiences elsewhere in the world. One thing is for sure, winter biking is here to stay.

Suzanne Lareau
President and CEO