Quebecers’ passion for biking in 2020 is not attributable solely to the pandemic, but also to their desire to engage in an athletic, practical activity that brings them closer to nature and is good for their health and that of the planet.
During my weekly bike outings over the past few months, I have noticed a marked improvement in the quality of cycling infrastructure compared with the standards of the not-too-distant past. I was particularly impressed by the bike paths recently developed or renovated in Sainte-Catherine, Longueuil, Saint-Hilaire, Gaspé, on the Samuel-de-Champlain Bridge, along the Lachine Canal, etc. Today, we must recognize the progress made by our cities to create infrastructures that make biking more user-friendly and promote better road sharing with pedestrians and motorists.
On St. Denis and Bellechasse Streets in Montréal, two initial sections of the Express Bike Network (EBN) are confirmation that we have definitely entered another era. Developed on less than 0.4% of the Montréal road network, this new infrastructure – totalling 15 km – set the bar high for future construction.
Despite the highly publicized discontent of its detractors, an infrastructure like the EBN will change the lives of thousands of current and future cyclists. Indeed, the real challenge is how to get more citizens of all ages to choose the bicycle more often as a mode of travel. Since safety concerns are the main deterrent to biking, the EBN will allow cyclists to travel without fear of putting themselves in danger and realize that Vision Zero – adopted by many cities – is not just a hollow slogan. In this regard, it should be pointed out that over the past few years, two cyclists lost their lives on St. Denis Street and that the EBN constitutes a concrete realization of the Vision Zero approach, which advocates that human life must take precedence over traffic flow.
All responsible municipal administrations know that they must do more to provide safe options to those who want to travel by foot and bike. This fact is well understood by Paris, Rome, Barcelona, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, as well as Montréal and other Québec cities. We must pursue our efforts to make our cities more cyclist and pedestrian friendly and to promote developments like the EBN in order to demonstrate the added value of this type of infrastructure for urban dwellers.
Happy November biking!
President and CEO of Vélo Québec