The Intermodal Bicycle Transport Association (IBT) and Montreal residents are calling for the City of Montreal to build a downtown bike path that would give cyclists the option of biking as a means of daily transportation.
Peter Krantz, founder of IBT, was one of 76 cycling enthusiasts who set up a display table at the 3rd Expodium on Wheels bicycle show held at the Palais des Congres from Feb. 18 to 20. Unlike most of the presenters, who attempted to draw visitors in with new bicycle technology displays and gear, the focus of Krantz’s booth was a petition demanding the construction of a new downtown bike path. The response was overwhelming, with 1,660 people signing on to the initiative.
“Twenty-five tonnes of pollution are produced when a car is made,” said Krantz, “and each car produces four to five tons of pollution annually. If we could bike to work, that would eliminate 25 tons of pollution.”
Krantz blames the close relationship between Velo Quebec and the City of Montreal for the absence of a downtown network. He explained that despite Velo Quebec’s success in creating recreational cycling paths in the areas surrounding the city, the organization has failed to meet the demands for an urban cycling route.
“There are a lot of recreational paths in Quebec, but to get to them you need a car and this only creates more pollution,” Krantz said. “People forget that a bicycle is a transportation vehicle and is the only vehicle that is 100 per cent non-pollutant.”
The City of Montreal claims that Krantz’s demands are not falling on deaf ears. City spokesman Darren Becker explained that the city, along with Velo Quebec, is currently in discussions that may lead to the construction of a downtown bike path.
“We had Velo Quebec come to us with a mandate to improve bike access downtown,” explained Becker. “Now we’re waiting three or four weeks to hear the second part of the mandate.”
Becker admitted that in recent years the focus for cycling access has been on the suburbs around Montreal, and that 25km of bicycling trails have been created. Still, Becker said the city is now shifting its focus to creating downtown access for cyclists and is willing to invest $500,000 in the project.
He added that bike racks are be coming increasingly important in the city’s transportation policy. Becker said that bicycle racks will continue to be installed throughout the island, and warned cyclists not resort to other means when securing their bikes.
“We do not want cyclists locking their bikes on anything other than bike racks,” said Becker. “Otherwise, some instances might arise where a cyclist ties his bike to a fence, possibly infringing on someone’s private property.”
The city’s effort to limit this behavior is apparent on the corner of Ste. Catherine Street and Bishop Street, where cyclists are no longer able to lock their bikes to parking meters with U-locks due to the meters’ increased thickness. These changes, however, are causing difficulty for some students in securing their bicyclesat Concordia, as bike racks have been removed from the downtown campus.
“The racks may have been taken away because of snow removal,” explained Michel Champoux, spokesman for the borough of Ville Marie. “If a bike rack is ever taken away or misplaced, citizens should contact their boroughs in order to have it replaced immediately.”
Despite the city’s promises, Peter Krantz remains less than optimistic about the future of urban cycling. Krantz said he practically lived at the bike show the whole weekend, staying as late as 2 a.m. and having his car towed during the night. He does not know how much longer he can continue to fight for the cause without seeing any real change.
“One man from Dollard asked me why he should sign the petition if he wasn’t going to use the path,” Krantz said. “I said that the city’s air carries his way and he signed immediately. People have noticed the smog lately, and now we’ve got to do something about it.”