Quebecers identify with the Route verte. They bike it, they’re proud of it and they’re attached to it. And with good reason. The provincial network now stretches 5,075 km and covers 16 administrative regions, 81 RCMs and 382 municipalities, making it the longest cycling route in North America. Its beauty and virtues are regularly extolled by international media, most famously National Geographic in May 2009 in the book Journeys of a Lifetime, with its article entitled The Route verte: Best biking trail in the world!
The idea for the Route verte dates back to the late 1980s, when the architects of Vélo Québec, inspired by European and American cycling routes, crafted what became the Plan du Québec cyclable et des corridors verts de l’an 2000, a document presented at the Conférence Vélo Mondiale, held in Montréal in September 1992.
In 1994, Vélo Québec submitted the Route verte concept to the Québec government. The idea was accepted and, in 1995, the Ministère des Transports and the Secrétariat à la jeunesse entrusted the coordination of this project to Vélo Québec, which was to establish the final route layout in cooperation with the regions. The plan at the time was to develop a 4,000 km network over a ten-year horizon. The official inauguration finally took place on August 10, 2007 in Québec City and was followed, in September 2008, with the announcement of a second development phase for an additional 1,000 km. The 5,000 km milestone was reached in 2012.
In November 2014, despite the overwhelming success of the Route verte and the major economic and social spinoffs it generated, mainly through the Bienvenue cyclistes! accommodation network, the Québec government, as part of a fiscal agreement, decided to abolish its $2.8 million annual maintenance program. Vélo Québec immediately asked the government to reconsider its position and subsequently organized a major citizen mobilization campaign Let’s Save OUR Route verte throughout Québec, which lasted for nearly a year and a half and included a petition put forward by Équiterre signed by 48,000 people. In March 2016, the government finally announced its intention to reinvest in the maintenance and improvement of the Route verte. This period of instability definitely allowed Quebecers to show their strong attachment to their Route verte through a fine demonstration of solidarity!
Today, more than 20 years after its launch, la Route verte remains a viable, stimulating project. Vélo Québec is busy upgrading and completing the network – about 300 km – and improving users’ experience in terms of safety, comfort, signage and services. In short, the future will involve further development and improvement, all with the invaluable, unfailing support of some 1,000 regional partners. There is good reason to be proud of this provincial treasure!