On a bleak day in October 1985, more than 3,500 people participated in the first edition of the Tour de l’Île de Montréal. The Vélo Québec team’s dream of organizing a major city tour — following the example of New York and its Five Boro Bike Tour —, became a reality, thanks to the Québec government and its Transportation Minister at the time, Guy Tardif, who wanted to create a cycling event to inaugurate the new bike path network in East Montréal.
The First Tour de l'Île de Montréal
In 1986, the event was held in warmer weather, on the first Sunday of June - International Bicycle Day. Without medals, chronometers or champions, the Tour de l’Île de Montréal became a main event. During the 1990s, its popularity grew: in fact one year, a total of 45,000 people from across Québec registered within ten days! The local residents provided encouragement from the sidelines of this impressive procession — the image of which circumnavigated the globe —, surrounded by thousands of enthusiastic, friendly volunteers.
Today, there is no denying the impact the event has had on its city’s reputation and on the development of a Québec-wide biking culture promoting a healthy, ecological lifestyle. For example, in 1991, the World Health Organization sponsored the Tour de l’Île to underline the event’s contribution to Montréal’s health-oriented approach. Four years later, work got under way for what was to become the Route verte, the best bike trail in the world according to National Geographic, visited by an increasing number of touring cyclists from near and far. In 1999, the popularity of the Tour de l’Île led to the creation of the Montréal Bike Fest, a full week of recreational and cultural activities. The same year, the magazine Bicycling voted Montréal the best cycling city on the continent. In 2008, the GreenApple Canada SMART Transportation Ranking Report placed Montréal first among Canadian cities in the category of active transportation, including biking.
In 2009, the Tour de l’île de Montréal successfully celebrated its 25th edition, welcoming no fewer than 35,000 participants — thereby bringing the total number to over one million since 1985 —, in addition to seeing its friendly volunteers named personalities of the week by La Presse and Radio-Canada.