Twenty years ago, Montreal hosted the first world conference focusing on cycling as a viable transportation alternative. Spearheaded by Vélo Québec, and held in conjunction with the Bicycle Federation of America (Pro Bike) and the European Cyclists’ Federation (Velo City), the Conférence vélo mondiale Pro Bike•Velo-city
drew more than 600 participants from 30 countries from September 13 to 17, 1992.
The Velo-city and Pro Bike (now Pro Walk/Pro Bike) events had been around for a decade prior, but Vélo Québec’s involvement made it possible to establish the very first official activity that covered six continents. The conference was held under the patronage of UNESCO and the United Nations Environment Programme, with then Quebec Minister of Transportation Sam Elkas serving as the honorary chair.
Locally, the Ville de Montréal (Jean Doré, Mayor) and the Communauté urbaine de Montréal (Michel Hamelin, President) were the lead partners in this adventure. For the occasion, the Montreal-based company Victoria Precision made a fleet of 350 bicycles available to conference participants to give them the opportunity to discover the city.
The event itself was a one-of-a-kind experience, not only for the Vélo Québec team, but also for the Montreal and Quebec-wide cycling community, as well as the various public- and private-sector sponsors. The week-long conference – which was three years in the making – was not only magical, it was a major leap forward in the history of cycling at the local and provincial level. In addition, it was the impetus behind the development of the Quebec government’s first cycling policy, released three years later. The plans for the Maison des cyclistes were also presented at Pro Bike•Velo-city, the expected location of which was to be alongside the Lachine Canal. Also unveiled was Quebec’s cycling plan for the year 2000, which would eventually lay the groundwork for the development of the Route verte, launched in 1995.
Pro Bike•Velo City set the tone for subsequent international events, including conferences in the Netherlands (2000) and South Africa (2006), and more recently Velo-City Global in Vancouver (European Cyclists’ Federation) and Pro Walk/Pro Bike, now an international event organized by Project for Public Spaces, which just wrapped up in Long Beach, California.
Jean-François Pronovost (Vélo Québec)
From left to right : Jean-François Pronovost (Vélo Québec), Michel Labrecque (Vélo Québec), Thomas Krag (Dansk Cyclists Forbund, Danemark), Tom Godefrooj (Fietserbond, Pays-Bas), Waren Salomon (Bicycle Institute of New South Whales, Australie), William C. Wilkinson (Bicycle Federation of America, Pro Bike Conferences, États-Unis)