07-04-07, 11:57 AM
Hello all, I'm writing a comparative paper about cycling in Seattle and Montreal. I was hoping that anyone that has commuted around Montreal could give me some info on how it is. I would love to know the good and bad. Are the trails marked? Are the bike lanes in the right spots? Overall feeling of safety and courtesy amongst the traffic. If you have had a chance to ride in both cities let me know what the biggest differences are.
Thanks for taking the time.
09-02-07, 02:36 AM
Hi Brian, I've been to Seattle (without my bike though) and here's a few differences that I believe you might find useful:
- Driving style is generally aggressive. I haven't been to any North-American city where the driving was as aggressive. That includes NYC. On the good side, drivers are generally respectful and tend to leave some room. This ain't Mexico either ;)
- I've had some a-holes honk at me or "drop the clutch" while passing next to me on a few occasions, but that could happen anywhere as idiots are ubiquitous.
- While driving at night, on one occasion, a moron hurled an empty beer bottle at me (certainly not following any previous event as it was on a long stretch of boulevard). Luckily, he missed me (probably for the same reason he threw it in the first place) and the bottle crashed on the ground. I dismiss this event as being anecdotal and atypical, but fact remains that it happened.
- Crosswalks are not respected nor enforced. This said, if you're on foot or on a bike do _not_ expect cars or bike to slow down or stop. Chances are they won't and you might end up causing an accident! Wait until the coast is clear before crossing the street.
- Pedestrians, to get back at drivers because of the no crosswalk thing, jaywalk all the time. They're usually careful about it though, but in the downtown area, some are suicidal, especially at lunchtime.
- When the light turns green, wait a second (and check if no cars/bikes are coming) before going. People sometimes "stretch" the green lights here (i.e.: step on gas instead of brake when light turns yellow). Same applies if you're driving.
- Contrary to just about every other place in North-America, there's no right turn on red lights on the island of Montreal. As a cyclist, I really appreciate this. As a driver, it annoys me (especially since they're permitted as soon as you cross over to the suburbs).
- Most streets, for many reasons which I mainly attribute to incompetence of the municipal authorities, are in _bad_ shape. In addition, there's a lot of potholes, especially come the end of winter. They "fix" most of them over the summer but cleverly leave a few here and there. Don't even consider anything less than 700x28c for riding in the city unless you're a wheelbuilder.
- A fixie is probably not a good idea because of the geography. Some might disagree. The island is relatively flat except for a mountain (which I love biking on) and the downtown area that has a few hills, so chances are you'll need to negotiate some climbs at some point.
- There's a good network of cycling paths across the city (and the province for that matter). It all depends if you're a "street rider" or a "path rider". Personally, I prefer the street, but it's a matter of taste. You'll probably need to do some street riding unless you're very lucky. Bike paths are well indicated and usually safe unless you're a fast rider.
- Double parking is unfortunately frequent, so you'll need to deal with that.
That's about it.
Don't let my commentaries discourage you. Riding in Montreal is fun (unless you don't like riding in urban areas), and you can avoid being on super busy streets by taking alternate streets. But still be warned, you're better off knowing what to expect and react accordingly. Good thing you asked!
And you should love it here. Montreal is a great place. I lack objectivity on that matter, but judging on the number of tourists during the summer, there has to be some truth to that.