I escaped NYC this past week for a slower, quieter pace in Montreal. Friends of mine have recommended the city over the years for its charm, people, parks and recently bike friendly streets. Upon arrival, I noticed right away that the Metro costs $3/trip while the Bixi bikeshare is $5/24 hrs or $78/year, a significant motivator for residents and tourists alike to use the bikeshare. I was lucky enough to stay with a Bixi member who lent me her key for three days. With that I set off to see the sights.
My first trip was an ill-fated one to see the Jardin Botanique. I spent more than the allotted 30min Bixi time getting lost on my way to the park. I should mention that riding a Bixi is the equivalent to riding an SUV bike. They are 3 speed, heavy, upright machines. Having been used to my road bike in NYC, I wasn’t prepared for the time difference and the bikeshare is built for short commutes. It begins charging after 30min, 60 min and so on. (Later I learned that it is easy to dock at any station for two minutes and then set off again.) When I arrived at my destination, I discovered a full bike rack which meant, asking for more time and cycling a bit out of my way for the next rack. So much for my first experience but it still beat taking a Metro and bus and I ended up using the system four more times throughout the day without problems.
As with most bikeshares, the majority of stations are concentrated downtown. For my first three days in the city, this wasn’t a problem since I stayed in the center of town. I also got to use the Bixi system as a member which allows you to swipe your key and take a bike right away. I found it easy to head off to the Mile End area of town and then back downtown to the Musée d’Art Contemporain (both of which are fantastic and recommended). I also questioned the need for 3 speeds on the bike until I cycled part way up Mont Royal and over the Jacque Cartier bridge. It was then that I learned it is possible to cross bridges and cycle hills on a three speed dutch bike!
I spent my last two days further out in the city as a paid 24 hr member. This required me to swipe my credit card every time and obtain an unlocking code. Not totally inconvenient, but I did encounter two stations where the computers did not work. I also found more empty bike racks on the outskirts of the city. Even with these issues, I still had the best time cycling everywhere in Montreal. It cost me $12 to get around for the week and I experienced one the great joys in every city, riding fast downhill.
While you’re there check out some of my favorite spots, Le Cagibi, Drawn & Quarterly, Patati Patata (for poutine!) and hike up Mont Royal. The colors are perfect this time of year.