Heralded as one of the best cities for cyclists in the entire world, Montreal truly is a haven for cyclists in many ways, but not all. Cycling paradise is far from perfect, as a recent study enacted by the Pembina Instute, a Canadian non-profit alternative energy think tank, has found Montreal to be the most unsafe major city for cyclists in Canada.
Analyzing a wide variety of cycling-based data in five of Canada's most prominent cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and Montreal), the study delved into a few overarching topics, including: bicycle infrastructure, the amount of on-street lanes and multi-use trails, and the crash rate of cyclists.
As you could probably guess, Montreal was given the highest/worst score when it came to cyclist crash rates, with Montrealers on bikes getting into collisions 7 times for every 100, 000 trips. That might not seem like a lot, but given that Vancouver received a score of <1/100, 000 cycling trips, the findings are quite striking.
Important to note, however, is that the most recent data regarding cyclist crash rates in Montreal used by the study is a tad outdated, as they used an Origin-Destination Survey from 2008. As such, the more recent growth of BIXI bikes in the city wasn't taken into account.
Minor crashes (e.g. car doorings) also weren't included in the study's analysis, as these types of collisions tend to go unreported.
But while the Pembina study didn't account for BIXI users or minor collisions, neither are likely to improve Montreal's cycling safety rating. Given that many BIXI users are tourists, or inexperienced cyclists, and that there could be a very high number of unreported minor crashes, the city could have been found to be even worse when it comes to bike safety.
Another lowest ranking Montreal received within the study, which came as a surprise to us, is the amount of bicycle shops in the city. Montreal only has two bike shops per capita, for a total of 25, far behind Toronto's 98 bike-shop-total, or Ottawa's 5 shops per capita. Yes, we just lost to Toronto and Ottawa. Let the shame cloud hand overhead.
Yet another rather interesting, if not that surprising, finding is how the city's "the largest concentration of bicycling infrastructure is in the Plateau neighbourhood." Cycling-culture is quite strong in the Plateau, which again isn't news to anyone, but it does point to a larger problem for cycling in the city, as noted by the Pembina researchers.
Since Montreal's cycling initiatives and planning are organized at the borough level, there is a definite lack of a "city-wide vision for a cohesive cycling network." Some boroughs, like the Plateau, give a special emphasis to cyclists, while others don't. The study notes how the jigsaw-like organization has created some major gaps between bike paths from borough to borough, specifically between downtown and the north of the island.
Read the full study here.