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Posts from the "Montreal" Category

StreetFilms 35 Comments

A Montreal Intersection Morphs Into a Wonderful Neighborhood Space

On a Bixi bike excursion to get some ice cream in Montreal, my wife and I stumbled upon the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and Rue Clark, recently upgraded with colorful new street furniture, traffic calming treatments, and a two-way protected bike lane. The space is teeming with street life. When you arrive at this lovely place your first instinct is to stop, sit down, and enjoy.

This intersection is a prime example of how a neighborhood street should cater to people. All local streets should strive to make pedestrians feel welcome, slow traffic speeds with physical infrastructure, and provide art and greenery wherever possible.

Since we were only there for a short time and could dig up only scant information online, I don’t have much backstory to share about how this space was created. If anyone can provide more info in the comments, please fill us in.

StreetFilms 11 Comments

Montreal’s Car-free Rue St. Catherine and Bustling Bike Rush Hour

While spending a week in Montreal, my wife and I stayed right along the Rue Sainte Catherine, which we discovered is closed to motor vehicles from May 15 through September 6 in two main sections. The first, a mile-long stretch that’s been car-free in the summer since 2008, has a lot of restaurants and is filled with pedestrians all night long. The second, a more recent addition, is a smaller section to the west which features plenty of programming and music near the Place des Arts.

I put together a montage that will give you a small taste of the experience. It’s hard to convey the peace and quiet you feel, but I tried.

I last visited Montreal in 2001 to ride the annual Tour de L’ile, and the bicycling is as good as I remember it. We got Bixi bikes one day and documented a little of the biking life. The p.m. rush hour in Montreal is pretty thick with cyclists in the protected bike lanes. And, as in world’s other great bike cities, you’ll see many children and seniors riding. Good indicator species.

Mikael Colville Andersen at Copenhagenize seems to think Montreal doesn’t get its bicycle props. I’d have to agree, at least during the beautiful summer months.

Read more…

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Study: Cyclists Gravitate Toward Streets With Protected Bike Lanes

Intersections in Montreal with protected bike lanes saw 61 percent more bike traffic than comparable intersections with no bike infrastructure. Image: zmtomako/Flickr

By now there’s not much doubt that protected bike lanes can be a game-changer for cycling in U.S. cities. Making streets feel safe to bike on boosts overall cycling rates, attracting people who otherwise wouldn’t even consider cycling. The safety benefits keep accruing as more people on bikes hit the streets, since drivers become more aware of the presence of cyclists and pay closer attention.

Here’s some new evidence demonstrating that bike infrastructure attracts cyclists. A study published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use [PDF] found that intersections in Montreal with protected bike lanes see 61 percent more bike traffic than those without. Meanwhile, intersections with plain old painted bike lanes see a not-insubstantial 36 percent more cyclists. The results demonstrate a strong preference for bike infrastructure — the more separation from traffic, the better. Previous research by Jennifer Dill at Portland State University has also quantified people’s preferences for bike infrastructure over streets without bike lanes.

The study, conducted by Jillian Strauss and Luis Miranda-Moreno of McGill University, examined 758 intersections in Montreal. Researchers modeled how different factors are linked to the volume of bike traffic at intersections, controlling for several variables.

In addition to the presence and quality of bike infrastructure, they also found a link to land use: the greater the “mix of uses” — or intermingling of retail, housing, and office space — the more bicycling. A 10 percent increase in “land mix,” researchers found, was associated with an 8 percent increase in bicycling. Higher employment density — or the concentration of jobs near intersections — was also found to be a significant predictor of increased bike traffic.

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Bike-Share: Not Just for French Commies

bixi_station.jpgIn Montreal, theft is "not a major problem" for the bike-share network. Photo: TreeHugger.
The Times ran a piece on Vélib's growing pains this weekend. The story is more thoroughly reported than the hatchet job we saw from the BBC back in February -- no claims that bike-share in Paris will flame out quickly this time around. Vélib is part of Parisian life now, and some level of theft and vandalism is part of the bargain. Still, there's no mistaking the overwhelming sense of schadenfreude emanating from this new Times story (headline: "French Ideal of Bicycle-Sharing Meets Reality"). Francophobes all over America are relishing the tale of Parisian comeuppance. But bike-sharing is a global phenomenon. So why do we only seem to read alarming stories about the problems in Paris? Part of the reason appears to be that bike-share operators in other cities have few alarms to sound. In Montreal, 5,000 public bikes are available through the Bixi system, launched earlier this year. Responding to the Times story, a Bixi spokesperson told the Montreal Gazette that theft and vandalism don't affect the system very much:
“Our bikes are very robust and Montrealers have a great respect for the Bixi program,” said Michel Philibert, a spokesperson for Stationnement de Montréal, which oversees the bike rental program. “Montreal is not Paris. The theft of bikes here is not a major challenge.”
The Bixi operators also brought down theft rates thanks to a technical fix: They reinforced segments of the docking stations, and fewer bikes were stolen. Vélib showed the world what a bike-share network can accomplish, but the appeal of public bicycle systems has never been limited to Paris or France. In the past few years, cities in China, Brazil, and the United States have launched bike-shares of various size. London is looking at a 6,000 bike system, and Dublin recently launched a network with about 500 bikes. Boston may be on the verge of rolling out the first truly robust American bike-share network. Even in Australia, where it's illegal for anyone to ride without a helmet, bike-share is on the way. Like any good invention, bike-share tech is going to evolve over time. The first telephone looked like a fat brick with a hole in one end, and there was no way to tell if someone else was calling you. So it makes sense that Vélib has some kinks -- it marked a huge step forward for bike-share systems, on a scale no one had ever tried before. Inspired by the Vélib model, cities all over the world are also trying to improve on it.
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On Big Day for Bike-Share, Boston Mayor Envisions World Class Cycling City

Several American cities have made halting strides towards implementing bike-share systems recently, but which will be the first to launch the kind of robust network needed for public biking to go mainstream? Right now, the runaway favorite is Boston.

bixi.jpgIn Montreal, the Bixi bike-share network is so popular that it's slated to expand ahead of schedule. Photo: Bike-sharing Blog

The Globe reported yesterday that Boston's regional planning agency has awarded a contract to the same company that launched Montreal's Bixi bike-share system earlier this year. Boston planners say the system specs are still getting hashed out along with other contract details. Many questions remain unanswered, but signs are promising so far.

In a report on the Times' Green Inc blog this morning, a spokesperson for Bixi "indicated that the Boston system will initially offer 2,500 bikes at 290 stations in downtown Boston." A system of that size and density would place Boston in the ranks of cities like Barcelona and Paris, where public bikes have become a critical component of the transportation network. Officials hope to expand the Boston system to neighboring Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville soon after it launches.

It's also worth noting that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, running for re-election this fall, is not distancing himself from the city's bike-share plan. In fact, he's embracing it. "I think Boston is the perfect venue to roll out a forward-thinking bike share program," he said in a press statement released yesterday. "Boston is a world class city, and over the last two years we have made tremendous strides in turning it into a world class bicycling city."

A big part of Bixi's attraction is that it's solar-powered, requiring no electrical wiring or underground utility work. In addition to Boston, London also announced yesterday that it will use the Bixi system for an ambitious bike-share network: 6,000 bikes at 400 locations.

Stations that can be installed without a jackhammer are probably a prerequisite for bike-share operations in New York, where streetwork can turn into an expensive, bureaucratic tangle. DOT released a request for expressions of interest from potential bike-share operators last fall, and a study published by the Department of City Planning this spring recommended that New York start its network with 10,000 bikes.

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Time Mag Digs Montreal Bike-Share

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Bixi, Montreal's new public bicycle-sharing program, has been listed among Time Magazine's 50 Best Inventions of 2008. While a pilot version of the system debuted this fall, the real action begins next spring, when 2,400 bicycles will appear on city streets along with 300 solar-powered stations.

The bikes are designed to withstand the abuses of careless users or vandals, but they won't have to endure the harsh Montreal winters. The program runs only from mid-April through mid-November.

The pricing structure encourages short, frequent trips. After paying a flat membership fee ($78 full season, $28 monthly, or $5 daily), any trip of less than 30 minutes is free. Each 30-minute period beyond that costs from $1.50 to $6. Montreal invested $15 million in Bixi, and expects to recoup costs.

What could New York learn from Bixi? In addition to the general bike-sharing concept, this city could benefit from modular bike racks that are rapidly installed and expanded to meet growing rider demand, as shown here.

Photo: Stationnement de Montreal via The Bike-sharing Blog

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Bike-Share Hero: Montreal’s Solar-Powered “Bixi” System

Via the Bike-Sharing Blog, this vid shows a modular bike-share station getting set up in what must be record time. It's part of a trial system in Montreal called Bixi (contraction of "bike" and "taxi," rhymes with pixie), which launched last month and is set to ramp up with 2,400 bikes next April. Bike-Sharing Blog's Paul DeMaio explains what sets Bixi apart:

One of the finer aspects of Bixi is how easily its stations can be assembled. There is no demolition of concrete or asphalt for the undergrounding of wires nor the need for an electrical hook-up as Bixi is solar-powered.

Another great thing about this video: The soundtrack combo of 70s-style guitar riffs and Pomp and Circumstance.

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Cartoon Tuesday: On-Street Edition

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This intriguing bit of street art is the work of Peter Gibson, a.k.a. "Roadsworth", who's been painting Montreal streets, sidewalks, and public spaces since 2001. He's motivated by "a desire for more bike paths in the city and a questioning of 'car culture' in general," according to the design blog Toxel, where you can catch more of his pieces.

Here's how Roadsworth describes his inspiration in his artist's statement, which is a pretty good read:

The ubiquitousness of the asphalt road and the utilitarian sterility of the "language" of road markings provided fertile ground for a form of subversion that I found irresistible. I was provoked by a desire to jolt the driver from his impassive and linear gaze and give the more slow-moving pedestrian pause for reflection.

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This is What a Bike-Friendly City Looks Like

Montreal: Youth, extraordinary bravery and helmets are unnecessary.

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Montreal: A two-way, buffered bike lane on a residential street.

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Montreal: A two-way, physically-separated bike lane on a busy avenue.

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Berlin: Bike lanes along this busy avenue are clearly differentiated from the street and sidewalk using color and physical separation.

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Berlin: Bike lanes often share sidewalk space but are clearly separated from pedestrians.

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