Montreal, Canada is a winter city. From November to March (and sometimes even April) the city grows cold, the days are short and it snows - sometimes a lot. Even so, in recent years cycling in winter months has increased dramatically, according to Vélo Quebec.
As I write this post, it is a beautiful 6°C (43°F) in Montreal, over five degrees above the average temperature for this time of year. Nonetheless, on December 27th we were hit with record snowfall, as a total of 45 cm of snow fell in less than 24 hours. While it is warm today, the temperature can fall well below -20°C (-4°F) in the dead of winter. This poses a challenge to year-round cycling, as many people retire their bicycle in the winter, preferring public transit or driving. This is something Environnement Jeunnesse, a Quebec environmental not-for-profit group, is trying to address through its newest “2 roues, 4 saisons” campaign.
For over ten years, an event called ”Action citoyenne à vélo” has taken place in Montreal. This is a winter bicycle ride, which traditionally had cyclists from all over the province converge on the capital, Quebec City, to advocate for measures to increase the safety of cycling. This year Environnement Jeunnesse (ENJEU) has given it a new spin and a new name, “2 roues, 4 saisons” (2 wheels, 4 seasons). This campaign is specifically designed to get people on bicycles year-round. The campaign includes videos about dressing for winter cycling, winter bicycle maintenance, and cycling traffic safety advice.
Véronique Arseneau, Project Coordinator at ENJEU, insists that the biggest challenge to winter cycling are people’s attitudes. This campaign aims to convince people that they can cycle in the winter and that there are significant advantages, including health and reduced spending on travel.
In recent years, the city of Montreal has become more active on the issue of sustainable transportation, including a transportation plan that intends to double the bicycle route network and to add a “white network,” a network of bicycle routes that would remain cleared of snow for regular use in the winter months. It will be interesting to see if Montreal, known for its cold and snowy winters, will be able to significantly increase its bicycling mode share over the next few years.
Credits: Images by Devon Willis. Data linked to sources.