Sunday, March 15, 2020

Ride: Montreal

Montreal, QC is sometimes referred to as "the most European city in North America", and when you're wandering around Old Montreal it is easy to see why.  The architecture, the street layout, and the language all hide the fact that you are less than 50 miles from Vermont.  This heritage is also evident in its biking infrastructure, which is much more in par with European cities than fellow North American cities.

Montreal takes up much of the Island of Montreal, a large island surrounded by the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Prairies.  Th settlement that is now called Montreal was founded in the mid 1600s by French colonists, and its history included many invasions by European and North American forces.  These culminated with its surrender in 1760 to British forces, which eventually led to its inclusion in the country of Canada.  It has grown into an economic hub over its long history, and it has hosted world-class events such as a World's Fair in 1967 and the Olympics in 1976.

Montreal has some of the best biking infrastructure in North America.  While it is hard to cover an entire city in one post, it's easy to cover a few aspects of what makes its bikeability great.

Downtown Protected Paths

Montreal's city center and the surrounding areas are covered with street-side protected bike paths and other bike lanes.  While the lanes themselves are sometimes roughly paved, the wide coverage makes it easy to go long distances within the city without resorting to sharing lanes with cars.  

In-city Recreation and Commuting

The Lachine Canal was build across the Island of Montreal in the early1800s to bypass the Lachine Rapids.  The canal was made obsolete in the 1950s with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which was larger and enabled more modern shipping.  The canal is still used by smaller recreational watercraft, and paved biking path runs along its length.  Starting out in the north on the southern edge of Old Montreal, the trail follows the canal its full length, ending at René Lévesque park.

Remote Riding Within the City

The Saint Lawrence Seaway's main navigation channel is separated from the rest of the Saint Lawrence River by a thin strip of land, and the path on top of this separator makes for a long, easy ride within sight of Montreal itself.  Starting out at Parc Jean-Drapeau, the path heads south before turning west toward the RécréoParc at Sainte-Catherine.  You can turn around and ride back from there, making an out-and-back of around 21 miles.  Alternatively, you can head back to town via the ice control structure that crosses to Nuns' Island.  Winding through some neighborhoods from there leads to the Lachine Canal path, which will take you back north to Old Montreal.  A quick trip past the architecturally interesting Habitat 67 will then lead back to Parc Jean-Drapeau, making a scenic loop.

Montreal is a great city to explore by bike.  Start your trip by exploring it from overhead at the Wireless Bike Map.

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