For Montreal visitors who want to see as much of the city as possible and stick to their exercise regimen to boot, one of the best ways to get around Montreal is by bike. With city-wide bike rentals, almost 500 kilometres of bike paths and plenty of food-and-drink stops along the way, cycling is one way to go go go…
Unsurprisingly, as the weather warms, more and more bike-friendly events pop up. The Montreal Bike Fest runs from the end of May into June, and throughout the summer, Pop Montreal and other organizations throw Bike-In parties along the Lachine Canal at the St-Ambroise Terrace. Also, every Sunday throughout the summer, starting May 20, in Parc Jean-Drapeau, all-afternoon, family-friendly dance party Piknic Electronik welcomes cyclists, with plenty of bike parking outside. There’s even a Bicycle Film Festival that makes a stop in Montreal at the end of summer.
Of course, sanctioned events aren’t at all necessary to have a good time biking around Montreal: make your own party anytime by packing a picnic – whether the standard bread, cheese and wine or something more gourmet picked up at Jean Talon or Atwater Marker or other farmers’ markets – and rolling in to Parc Lafontaine, Parc Jeanne-Mance, Parc Laurier or any one of many public parks throughout the city.
Bike Routes: The Lachine Canal bike path runs for almost 15 kilometres along a still-functioning (in parts) boat canal, from the Old Port, past the Atwater Market, and all the way to Chemin du Musée in the west, a beautiful park right on the river. Cyclists can even continue on a bike path through LaSalle, stop at a nature sanctuary and even watch people surf along the rapids.
Parc Jean-Drapeau, located just south of downtown on an island in the middle of the St-Laurent river features 25 kilometres of bike paths, part of Quebec’s Route verte, the longest cycling path in North America, and the Trans Canada Trail, the world’s longest recreational trail. Ride there from the Old Port via the de la Concorde Bridge or from the South Shore via the Victoria Bridge bike path – or, for the more daring, via the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. Or take the metro (bikes are welcome in the last car of each train) to Parc Jean-Drapeau station.
Explore the downtown by biking along the Maisonneuve Boulevard bike path, from the National Library near Berri-UQAM metro station to shopping and museums downtown, to the city’s westside (I recommend a picnic stop in Westmount Park).
Further afield but still on the island of Montreal, north of downtown and the Plateau, the rather pastoral Gouin Boulevard bike path, one of the longest in the city, runs alongside the Rivière des Prairies. For more on these routes and bike routes outside the city, consult the cycling experts at Velo Quebec.
Bike Rentals: In the urban residential Plateau neighbourhood, Fitz and Follwell rents bikes of all kinds and offers private and group bike tours around town – if you’re on your own, don’t miss riding through Parc Lafontaine and Parc Laurier and the surrounding, restaurant-and-shopping packed neighbourhoods. In the bustling, tourist-central Old Port, Montréal On Wheels rents all sort of bikes, from tandems to high performance road bikes, and are the city’s most experienced and prolific bike tour operators. On the south shore, right near the wonderful Atwater Market, My Bicyclette offers rentals and guided tours of the industrial-gone-natural Lachine Canal, riverside paths, the city and beyond.
Last but not least is Bixi, our city-wide bike rental system since 2009, now with even more banks of bikes set up in more neighbourhoods this year. Bixi is primarily meant for short commutes, with a 24-hour (or longer – you decide) access fee, payable by credit card at any location, letting riders bike free for up to 30 minutes at a time all day and night – rides that take longer than 30 minutes mean an additional fee. Each bike is built for smoothness and comfort, if not speed, and has front and back lights, a front carrier and adjustable seat suitable for most riders.