For a city that shares a name with the mountain that is right in the middle of it, and which commonly has temperatures around -40F in the winter, you might not think that Montreal would be a very bike-commute friendly city. But you would be wrong. I recently took an overnight trip to Montreal (just over 3 hours from Albany if you drive really fast!) and saw more bike commuters than I’ve ever seen in a North American city. Every few blocks or so each major roadway has dedicated bike lanes that are physically separated from the auto traffic making it easy to get virtually anywhere in the city by bike:
Don’t have your bike? Nowhere safe to park it when you get where you are going? Not to worry, because Bixi Bikes have you covered. Every few corners you can find a rack of public bicycles that you can subscribe to, or just put your credit card in the machine and get 24 hours of unlimited in and out privileges for 5 bucks:
I wouldn’t want to ride cross country on one of these thing but they are really made for commuting. All bikes have front and back fenders, a nexus 3 speed enclosed rear hub, and an easy to adjust saddle. A shimano front hub dynamo powers front and rear blinky lights and most bikes have a rack on the front that accommodates a backpack or a briefcase.
I saw MANY commuters in business wear making their way around town. If you’ve got your mobile device handy the bixi website tells you where the nearest racks are and lets you know how many bikes/spots are available.
While it was a unique joy for me to drive into a new city for business and be able to grab a public bike off a rack right outside my hotel for a quick pre-breakfast ride, I think the most stunning thing about my ride in Montreal was that I was an actual member of real traffic flow in a vibrant city. There are so many cyclists on the road that one has to use the same care in merging, signaling, and general traffic management as one would when driving on a busy highway. As sometimes happens when I drive, I once had a minor annoyance that the cyclist in front of me waiting to go straight at a red light was holding me up from making a right hand turn, but then I reminded myself that this is the kind of bicycle commute problem that I’d love to have in Albany.
A recent New York Times article (Before Bike-Share Effort Starts, Concerns Are Raised About How It Will Work ) talked about New York City’s plan to add a service like Bixi Bike. Could something like this work in Albany? Hey, if Montrealers can get up Mt. Royal in their business suits, I think our state workers should be willing to tackle State St.