Today, Montréal ranks among the most bicycle-friendly cities in America. All credit goes to the activists of the 1970s, notably Bob Silverman, Guy Rouleau, Claire Morissette and Michel Labrecque, who fought valiantly to ensure that the bicycle received the respect and recognition it deserved.
At the time, there was much progress to be made. With slogans like “On veut des pistes”, “L’essence de mon vélo, c’est moi”, “Mon vélo est payé, pas ton auto” and “Vive la vélorution”, cyclists made many demands, notably access to bike paths and the Montréal metro, as well as better road sharing.
Le Monde à bicyclette and Vélo Québec, each with a different strategy, but sharing the same goal, decided to show their solidarity on International Bicycle Day, celebrated around the world on the first weekend in June. As a result, from 1977 to 1983, the two organizations held a demonstration on this day. It was not unusual to see a procession of over a thousand cyclists set out on city streets at 10 km/h to bike the few kilometers separating La Fontaine Park and Dominion Square. It was one way of showing the City and motorists that cyclists also had their rightful place in Montréal.
These efforts ended up paying off. Regarding metro access, in June 1982, the Commission de transport de la communauté urbaine de Montréal – now the STM – issued a $5 photo ID bike permit providing access to the last metro car on weekends. As of July 1986, this permit was no longer necessary. In 1987, metro access was extended to evenings after 5 p.m. and then in 1990, to between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday to Friday.
As for bike paths, during the first half of the 80s, they were installed along Gouin Boulevard and Notre-Dame Street, as well as along the north-south corridor bordering Christophe-Colomb Avenue and Boyer, Brébeuf and Berri Streets.
To inaugurate these bike paths, Guy Tardif, Transport Minister at the time, asked Vélo Québec to organize the very first Tour de l’Île de Montréal in October 1985. Just three years later, this event was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest gathering of cyclists on the planet, a fitting tribute to the architects of the vélorution!