Oh La La

November 4, 2012 at 6:34 pm 2 comments

Bixi bike share station in MontrealI once knew a Canadian (in Kansas) who liked to talk about his country. (Who doesn’t, when they’re marooned far from home?) If the conversation turned to Montréal–and it often did, because he made sure of it–his face took on a languorous expression, his lips pursed, and his shoulders and hips rocked teasingly while he purred, “Oh là là.” Now that I’m older and wiser, I know this man was probably an alcoholic and his sensual wiggle was meant to illustrate the city’s nightlife. But, still, it pleased me to learn that we’d be visiting Montréal on our recent summer Velo Vacay. Bars and clubs aside, the city has quite a reputation for art and culture. And, I learned, for being bicycle friendly.

Bicycle rack at McGill UniversityMontréal is only a 90-minute drive north of our friend’s home in Burlington, Vermont. Her daughter studies at McGill University and wanted us to come up for a quick visit. We drove through hilly terrain along Lake Champlain until crossing the Canadian border, where the landscape took us by surprise by changing abruptly to flat and agricultural. We drove past many fields, tractors and silos, thinking we might well have been in Kansas but for the French road signs. The traffic picked up as we approached Montréal, and soon we were driving up a tall, wide bridge spanning the St. Lawrence River. The bridge curved downward on the other side of the water and–boom–we were in downtown Montréal.

Parking meter with bike parkingCanada’s second largest city, Montréal is shoehorned onto islands flanked by the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers.  It’s a pentimento drawn on an island canvas–old neighborhoods overshadowed, but not erased, by modern skyscrapers. The city definitely has a vertical profile; even now, months later, I remember crooking my neck to see the building tops. The city’s compactness makes it easy to manage on foot or by bicycle. In the 24-hour period of our visit, we walked everywhere: Old Montréal, Chinatown, McGill University, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, Notre-Dame Basilica, Mount Royal Park, Schwartz’s Deli. What we did not do was bicycle. We might have leased bikes from Bixi’s stalls, but decided instead to maximize the short visit with our friends by strolling and talking, talking and walking.

Divided bike lane in downtown MontrealThat plan didn’t stop me from photographing bike-related sights in the city–an interesting rack outside the Redpath Museum at McGill, sturdy rings for bike locks at the downtown parking meters, the Bixi bike share stations near the university, and impressive divided bike lanes downtown. Generally, I’m not a fan of large cities. I’m overwhelmed by the aloofness of the people and the relentless energy. If I lived in a city like Montréal, though, the intensity would be balanced by a bicycling infrastructure that could serve as a model for other urban places. So much can be accomplished with commitment, interest and, of course, money. Oh là là, indeed.

Other posts in the Velo Vacay series:


Entry filed under: Bicycling. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alvina Nadeem  |  April 29, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for featuring our VeloCurve Bike rack in your blog! (it’s the one next to redpath museum on McGill campus)

    The VeloCurve was designed by 4 engineers at McGill university, including myself! It started out as a school project but the attention we got pushed us to form a startup!

    We are looking to expand our network and get feedback from the biking community. Please take a moment to visit our website http://www.velocyko.com. Watch our video, photos, and then please send us your feedback!

    Thanks again 🙂

    Alvina Nadeem, Junior Engineer
    Co-founder @ VeloCyko Inc.

    • 2. getspoked  |  April 29, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Glad you found this blog post and your bike rack, Alvina. Good luck with your company!


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Passionate about Bicycling

I don't bicycle for a living, but I do bicycle to live. It's that simple.

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2012: 3,624 miles total
2011: 1,632 miles total
2010: 3,132 miles total
2009: 2,840 miles total


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