Montreal has been ranked the most bike-friendly city in North America, placing number eight on The Bicycle-Friendly Cities 2011 Index.
Copenhagenize, a Danish consulting firm that specializes in bicycle culture and traffic, surveyed 80 cities worldwide to create the Index.
According to Copenhagenize Consulting CEO Mikael Colville, Montreal’s extensive bike infrastructure, which has been growing since the mid-1980’s, has been largely responsible for the revival of the bicycle as a mode of transportation.
In an email to The Daily, Colville cited recent developments, such as the redesign of Laurier by Plateau-Mont-Royal Mayor Luc Ferrandez – introducing two bike lanes to one vehicle lane, more than doubling bicycle traffic in 2011 – and cycling NGO Vélo Québec, as contributing to Montreal’s high ranking.
Cities were ranked in a number of categories, with Montreal placing high in the categories of gender split, bicycle infrastructure, social acceptance, and bike share program.
The bike share program, BIXI Montreal, was implemented in 2009 as a result of the popularity of similar bike systems in Europe. Designed to complement public transportation, the service offers 5,050 bikes at 405 stations around Montreal, and is available from May to November.
“There are many stations close together, giving you the ability to park [the bikes] anywhere,” said Sacha Payette, a Concordia student and frequent BIXI user. “You don’t have to worry about them being stolen; the stations are secure.”
A representative of BIXI Montreal told The Daily in an interview that they are “happy to be part of Montreal’s high ranking on the Index.”
However, the BIXI system has been criticized for a number of issues since its introduction two years ago. Accessibilty and cost-effectiveness are among the issues for casual users.
“The system is cheap if you get a BIXI pass,” said Lucy Young, a McGill student and BIXI user.
According to Young and Payette, the fact that BIXI stations don’t accept cash or debit cards – only credit cards or passes – is a significant inconvenience for casual users.
Young and Payette were also critical that stations are often empty or at full capacity, making it difficult for users to pick up or drop off their bikes.
According to a September 21 article in the Christian Science Monitor, the service is also now relying on government loans to continue operating, given the high cost of transporting bikes out of the downtown core to stations on the outskirts of the city.
Montreal initiatives continue to promote awareness of the benefits of cycling as a mode of transportation. On September 24, 2011, Action Climat de Montreal hosted “Moving Planet Earth” at Jeanne Mance Parc, a global project designed to promote active transport, such as cycling, in Montreal.