Some 25,000 cyclists participated in the 33rd edition of the Tour de L’Île on Sunday with special events planned along the way to mark not only the city’s 375th anniversary, but also 50 years of Vélo Québec.
The popularity of cycling has exploded in Montreal, with a recent study suggesting that about 1 million Montrealers have traded in their cars for bikes — but it hasn’t always been that way.
According to Suzanne Lareau, with cycling advocacy group Vélo Québec, the idea of cycling as means of transportation was a result of the 1970s oil crisis.
“At this moment, the adults realized ‘Wow, bicycling can be a way of transportation, not only a child’s game.'”
That idea took off in the 1980s and Lareau credits the Tour de L’Île bicycle tour for that.
“With the Tour de L’Île de Montreal, we encourage everybody to use their bike just for a ride, and a lot of people at this time just realized, ‘If I can ride 60 km today, then I can ride it next week and the weeks after,'” she said.
Some of the treats riders enjoyed included a musical send-off at the starting line with Quebec singer Vincent Vallières, a travelling exhibit chronicling the history of cycling in Montreal, thematic pit-stops and a circus show to welcome and reward cyclists at the end of their trek.
Cyclists could choose circuits of varying distance, with the classic route being a 50 km ride through car-free city streets.
While the tour is immensely popular with proponents of active modes of transportation, it can be difficult for motorists to get around, with several roads closed for the event.
In an effort to alleviate congestion, Vélo Québec teamed up with Waze, to give drivers real-time traffic updates and information on road closures.
For a complete list of road closures, visit the Vélo Québec website.
WATCH BELOW: Vélo Québec celebrates 50 years