Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

North America’s Best Kept (Cycling) Secret

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Photo © by Chris Bruntlett on Flickr

“…when it comes to building bike culture, North American cities tend to use their (chiefly ineffectual) neighbours as a yard stick, rather than measure themselves against far braver European cities like Paris, Seville, and Barcelona. Sadly, their myriad successes are seen as unattainable; their urban areas far more willing and able to embrace change. Quebec, meanwhile – with its own cultural heritage, identity, and language – is simply too “foreign” to figure into the daily consciousness of this continent, and somehow ends up lumped in with the rest of Europe.

Three years later, all of that is changing,.. people [are waking] up to what is undoubtedly North America’s cycling capital. Montréal now regularly tops lists of the most bicycle-friendly cities on the continent, and is often named one of the top twenty cycling cities on the planet. Their secret is (slowly) getting out; their compelling story is being told, and it is inspiring romantics, such as myself, to demand better than the half-baked policies, poorly-connected facilities, and dismal, single-digit mode shares officials and advocates have accepted for far too long.”

Chris Bruntlett does something very clever. He has been taking photographs of people cycling in smart clothes “cycle chic” – he may not have invented the term but that’s how it came to my attention. I tried to do something similar while in Italy: it is not as easy as it sounds. I was was going to write about what they do for cyclists in Rome and Florence  – but that all came out too negative. Cycling is, of course, forbidden in Venice.

Quebec City has long been on our bucket list. Montréal I once visited for work purposes back in the early nineties: I was not impressed then. Obviously I need to go again now.

Is that a popup bistro?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 17, 2014 at 9:30 am

Posted in bicycles, cycling, Transportation

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  1. “Quebec, meanwhile – with its own cultural heritage, identity, and language – is simply too “foreign” to figure into the daily consciousness of this continent, and somehow ends up lumped in with the rest of Europe”

    The irony of course is that, for francophone born outside Canada, Montreal and Quebec city are as “European” as Victoria and Vancouver are, which is not very much….
    Buildings in the province of Quebec are North-American versions of some English architectural styles, not French ones…
    French Canadians are to the francophone in France, Belgium, Switzerland etc. and even former French colonies in Africa and elsewhere, what the Americans are to the English..They have their own very distinctive culture, way more influenced by the Americans than by the French and the English..

    It is only normal, as after the French left Canada, much to the contentment of Louis XV for who whom any money spent on New France would have been better spent on his mistresses, the Quebec Catholic church pretty much severed ties with a France that, from the 1789 revolution on, was definitely not Catholic enough ..the last straw being Napoleon keeping the Pope hostage in France for a couple of years.

    Sure they have adopted some of the European mannerisms, but then so has Japan, where the majority of bike riders wear normal city clothes…





    Red frog

    June 18, 2014 at 7:40 am

  2. If you have not already done so, I recommend reading “Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec”
    by Taras Grescoe 2001 – available at VPL of course

    Stephen Rees

    June 18, 2014 at 7:47 am


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