Monday, October 24, 2011

Traffic calming tools

I cannot remember in which post I mention these. Bornes escamotables in French.

Random picture from the Internet

 They are awesome traffic calming devices. In parts of Europe, neighbourhoods will put these all around their entry points. Only area residents would be equipped with special cards/laser devices that are scanned directly on the thing. They then disappear into the ground to allow those residents to proceeds.

Marché Jean-Talon

Others walk or bike.
How come they are not more widespread? A perfect area to implement them is the Old Montréal with its narrow Nouvelle France streets.

A closer look. These ones do not look magnetic. Still...

Keeps off unwanted traffic, and especially, prevents any rat running in residential streets!
These are a cyclist's best friends, even more than cycle lanes. This is how Bordeaux became a cycle friendly place (from the mess it used to be), along with other adjustments, of course.

If we have them in Jean Talon, we can perfectly have them all around Montréal!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Montreal retrouvailles

Today, a guest post!
Fellow bicycle rider and former Montrealer, Peter comes back to his hometown with fresh eyes and gives a very interesting account of his take on the city's changes.
It has been 15 years or so...



First of all, visiting Montreal after a decade away was like running into your one true love after years apart and wondering what they have been doing all that time. All of the great things in the city are still there, minus a couple of derelict buildings that used to hold my fascination.

What is better is that Bixi has made the city more fun and enjoyable for the tourist and I am sure for fairweather and non-cyclists in the city. I couldn’t believe how well it interfaced with trips that would have involved looking into transit schedules and routes, or walking for blocks and blocks. After we purchased a 24 hr. subscription we had option after option to grab a bike and whizz to a new destination.

Bixi Report card

Ease of Use: A-/B+
Bike Quality/Ride/Usefulness: A

I only give it this low because on the 2nd morning, we tried to grab a bike at UQAM and the terminal wasn’t working. Luckily, the density of the system meant a working station was just 1 block away. These little niggling things might peeve a less determined tourist. The only other thing was a filled station at Duluth/St. Denis when we wanted to return. This meant I rode down to Roy and dropped mine off and walked back to where my wife was window shopping as she had managed to get the last spot in the Duluth station.

But oh, the convenience and speed of picking up a bike and dropping it off in seconds with no cumbersome lock to carry around with you. The bikes were well-maintained and easy-to adjust (although, I couldn’t get the seat high enough for my freakishly long legs!), you’re not going to win a race on Bixi but that clearly isn’t the point. They are so functional and built tough. I really like the rack with the bungee cord! I was invigorated by the whole experience. I think the thing that makes it all work is the density of the system Downtown and in the Plateau. Super easy to find a nearby station if there is a problem with the one you want to use.

We rode up the mountain on Sunday and it took us longer than the ½ hour which means I will have a little extra charge. I realize that putting a station up on the Mountain is futile as noone would ride up, and everyone would ride down leaving the station empty. What about this? There could be a check-in, where you could plug-in your code/credit card at the top that would give you an extra ½ hour to coast down to Parc. Put a check-in at the lookout and Lac aux castors. It would encourage tourists to take them all around the Mountain, one of Montreal's greatest assets. The ride up is easy but a little long with the gear selection and bike.

I find the perk of having Bixi is the spontaneity it inspires. It shows how bikes can conquer distances that tourists would have avoided conquering. Bixi encourages exploring and brings none of the negatives of cars into the confined urban streets of Montreal.

The city

Montreal as a Cycling City: B+

Montreal is set-up so well for bikes. Its relative size is so compact and dense. You can cover distances quickly, whereas Toronto will find it difficult to ever compete. They have dipped their toe in too lightly I think to give it a fair shake. It also costs a lot more in Toronto for the year membership. The only difference favouring Toronto is that it is flatter. That said, there were only a couple of challenging hills in 1st gear for my non-riding wife.

I was impresssed with the Claire Morrisette, and Rachel and Prince Arthur double lane thoroughfares. However, I found the route connectivity around Place Des Arts and St.Urbain/St.Laurent not very well marked and a little hard to navigate. I know the city quite well and found it hard to stay on dedicated cycling paths there and the lanes were blocked for work at Place Des Arts. Better on a Sunday than other times, but the detour was convolluted so we ignored it.

Otherwise, I am really impressed by how many people actually cycle and the city feels friendlier and more livelier for it. I wish I could give it an A, but there is still some distance to go, although it is light years ahead of anything I know of in North America (I don’t know Portland or Minneapolis!). I think those double lanes are the key. You need them running at regular intervals going North and South and East and West. I now see what you mean when you say biking lanes that are not separated are not bike lanes. The feeling of having 2-way cycle track with a buffer of curb and parked cars between you and traffic is truly liberating. This is from someone who wouldn’t have dreamed of using one of these 15 years ago. I used to like tangling with cabbies and STM drivers on Sherbrooke and Ste. Catherine. But now, as a visitor to an urban environment, I look at things through my wife’s eyes. She was totally comfortable in the 2 lane separated tracks and still quite leary elsewhere. Build more and link them well and the city will be untouchable in North America.

Overall Montreal is still my dream North American city. I loved hanging out across from Parc Lafontaine at Maison des Cyclistes. Every city needs a place like that. Unfortunately, Montrealers are the only ones living that dream in Canada. I can't wait to go back.

We live rurally, and are slowing developing a plan for my wife to start market gardening on our property. On my salary as a teacher, and our desire to live from our property, I doubt I will ever get a chance to "live" in Montreal again. I love travelling and commuting to work by bike. I know that bikes can change the world, I'm just happy in the knowledge that my old love, the city that I was born in and returned to for school clearly knows that too.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It takes two

Seen the other day, while cycling in Outremont.

A tandem.

With swept back handle bars.

And a "double-mixte" frame.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Yesterday evening, sitting around in a café, patiently waiting for a natural health conference to begin, I meditated over the deeper implications of my post-surgical situation.
No efforts for the next few weeks... Early end of the bike season?


All of my friends and colleagues came in biking, which was such a bummer when if found myself walking back to the metro while everyone cycled away. Ugh.
Through the window, I could see the devil tempting me... And I should answer his call ASAP!!

Well, whoever knows me enough knew it could not happen any differently. Already in the hospital I began using alternative medicine in the doctor's (amused) face. Then, barely out, I didn't take all of the prescribed medication, and dropped the only one I used after two days. The alternatives simply were much more effective.

So here I am, less than a week after the intervention, feeling better than I should after two weeks, staring at my bag, darting envious looks at those on the lane.

Come on, this is too pathetic. I shall try it out before the end of the week!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Childhood memories

Martine is just one of those sweet, marshmallow type nostalgia-inducing book series.
Mind you, like most of of the literature aimed at children in those days, the stories and characters are highly genderized and the whole thing was, in retrospect, pretty condescending and stereotyped.

But I survived all right and those images send me back to the bygone days of pink Barbie bicycle rides throughout the neighbourhood, pedaling furiously not to be late to rendez-vous with similarly prepubescent lovers... exchanging melted M&Ms... smooching in back alleys...

No comment!

Early editions

This bike seems so huge! When her feet are on the floor, her nose isn't even on the handlebar, come on!
Well, I guess children will swallow everything...
And notice how she bends her knee inward so we cannot see her underwear. So old-fashioned, who cycles (or sits!) like this anymore? 

More recent editions

Notice how she switches from an urban, nice, up-right bike with dynamo, mudguards, chainguard, and rack to a kid-shit mountain bike from El-Cheapo?
No wonder this one is titled: "The accident".

Friday, October 14, 2011

Undress Peter to dress Paul - part 2

Additional local examples.

This  portion of the Berri Street is wide enough to welcome a cycle path: it is three lane wide each side for a portion of road in which traffic is not that intense and should not anyways.

Yet, nobody was brave enough to carve out a cycle path in this giant six lane portion of road located smack downtown. So they took off the sidewalk.

To the point that this stupidly created pedestrians/cyclists conflict caused the death of one cyclist a few years ago.

I hope it is clear to all that pedestrians don't have much choice but walk on the cycle path, which is dangerous as, right before this section, cyclists come down quite a steep slope.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Undress Peter to dress Paul

Actually, I found out pretty late in my life that the proper expression in English is "Robbing Peter to pay Paul". In French you say déshabiller Pierre pour habiller Paul which I transglibberished into English for this post's title.
Just like a lot of Montrealers I find Franglish a lot more fun than plain English or plain French. Go figure!

Yet the very issue underlined by these sayings cannot be better illustrated than by this little video. It was posted on and was sent from a Romanian cyclist, illustrating the recently "completed" Bucharest cycle tracks.

This, below, is what happen when dumb-asses are in control:

They meet up and sit around wondering how they can deliver the freaking cycle tracks folks are asking, without affecting the current status quo. Do not affect motor traffic. Do not touch the automobile circulation.
In order to achieve said cycle network, they simply take the space away from pedestrians, who are supposed to just shut up and somehow accept this nonsense.

Bullshit like that only achieves one thing: pitching pedestrians against cyclists and vice versa.

We have our very own gems, among which, the infamous Place des Arts oh-so-smart stupid design

As well as several other for which I unfortunately do not have any picture.
We must stop compromising on such half-assed infrastructures and start demanding respect for both cyclists and pedestrians.
Urban planners around the world: please grow the balls to face motorists and take away from them what has been confiscated from all of us, i.e. the public space.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cream tires do not cut it

I had Schwalbe cream tires installed on my bike in mid-July.
I absolutely love the look of cream tires and fantasized about cruising around on a nice old-fashioned looking bicycle.
Well, within a week they were disgusting.

I stood it and washed the bike, thinking I had done something wrong I had not noticed, like rolling in mud or whatever. Few days later, again they were filthy dirty.

I washed the bike again. Few days later, damn it, can't believe it, those bloody tires are disgusting again.

I chose to ignore it this time. We went on a long week-end and, oh miracle! the gravel cleaned the tires pretty nice through some sort of scrubbing effect.

Back in town, within days, they are disgusting again. Now I am wondering how others manage to keep theirs clean.

- Is it that they don't really cycle? Impossible, a lot of these folks load on serious mileage. I don't. I only run errands. I cycle for transport, that's no sport to me; if I have no business outside the house the bike stays parked.

- Maybe I got shit tires. Well, I ordered them through a pretty decent bike shop who got them through their usual distributor. And they look pretty standard. Can't be that.

- Duh, the tires are white, what did you expect? Well, other people's aren't that dirty. So there is something going on.

- Maybe people are frantically washing theirs after every ride... Sounds very neurotic but hey, you never know...

- Maybe Montreal is a particularly filthy city, which I am slowly becoming convinced of.
Alas, this was later confirmed by folks who know what they are talking about. The situation is hopeless!

In any case, enjoy the sight of it and, if you live in Montreal, think carefully about those romantic cream tires you felt like ordering...
Still love them by the way, just a pain in the ass to keep clean.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In the Ghetto

In the last post, I had quite an outburst of vulgarities and curses.
Hum, well I am not apologizing. I admit it was not very elegant but hey, this not a column here, it's a blog, a private one at that. And the issue was quite serious. I am totally bewildered by the level of incompetency we have to put up with sometimes.

Well, this post will be a lighter and nicer one. A photo-balade through the Ghetto.
When I was still in U, this used to be the name of the residential area around the McGill campus. That, of course, was in the days before the regressive ban on cycling around campus.

All photos random. Taken around 3 pm, outside of rush hour. Comments to a minimum. All right, let's start!

University St. corner with Milton.

University St. bike path, going down towards Sherbrooke St.
Notice the shitty road quality. This city is crumbling apart really.

Bixi station on Milton St.

Corner of Milton St. and Parc Av.

The Montreal Urban Ecology Centre.

Looking onto Prince Arthur St. (I think) westward.

This below is the reason why painted lanes are absolute bullshit.

Another Bixi station, only one or two blocks away from the one above.

A serie of random shots in the area, i.e. I can't remember where!

This lane below branches out from the renovated Des Pins interchange but I never figured out where to take it!

Finally, back to McGill's Eastern entrance, corner of Milton St. and University St., exactly where I had the car in bike-box incident.

Make no mistake...

Even though it looks like they relate to the construction work next to it, the real point of the wire fence is to prevent/discourage cycling through campus...