Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) I was in Montreal recently, on a family vacation. Upon arriving, I was immediately overwhelmed -- by the number of bikers. Everyone, it seemed, was riding -- families with children, young people, people in fancy suits, kids in school uniforms, hot rods in spandex. Cyclists on fancy machines with aerodynamics helmets, and hordes on the sturdy, gray-and-black Bixi bike share bikes. The two-way protected bike lanes which fill the town were full to the brim, especially around the evening commute, which is when I arrived.
Now, Montreal's outside life is a seasonal thing. The Bixi bikes are stored inside for the harsh winters, and traffic regs for bikes go out of effect November 16-March 31. But for the summers at least, Montreal seems to have achieved what many U.S. cities are after -- a division of the streets that discourages the use of personal automobiles, where cyclists are relatively safe and motorists aren't confused by looming, lawbreaking cyclists.
I'm sure, at some point in its history, Montreal's bike lanes were as controversial as they've been in Brooklyn or Billings. But now, with many two-way lanes protected by curbs, the bike lanes are just part of the landscape. In the four days I was there, no delivery trucks parked in these two-way lanes, no motorists honked, no cyclists yelled. All of these are regular, daily features in New York.
The cyclists, for their part, obeyed the laws. They did not slow for the lights -- and then go, or just barrel through stop signs. They came to a full halt, and waited for the light to change, or cars to pass. They wore helmets, were polite, and let children and old people pass by.
As I left Montreal, I stopped by the Maison des Cylistes, one of the many cafes, shops, and air suppliers that have popped up all along the bike lanes. There was a flyer inside, exhorting cyclists to show up at a "die-in" to "protest Montreal's car culture."
They have no idea.