A memorial for Montrealer and cycling pioneer Robert Silverman was held in the city’s Plateau district Saturday afternoon.
Hundreds of people took part in the gathering to honour a man who fought for active transportation in Montreal.
An avid cyclist and co-founder of the group “Le Monde à Bicyclette”Robert Silverman was known to be an instigator of colourful, theatrical and assertive action while fighting for bicycle access in the city.
“After his first wife passed away is when he discovered cycling was a great way of getting around the city,” says Zvi Leve, a long-time friend of Silverman’s and Project Manage of RuePublique.
“He believed that this really was a way we could transform social relations in cities.” He adds. Many people at Saturday’s memorial took the time to talk about what they remember most about Silverman. Whether they had met him once or twice or were long time friends.
“His battles were really about justice,” says Leve. “At the time you couldn’t get to the south shore by bike in the winter, or any time for that matter, because you couldn’t ride a bike on the Jacques Cartier bridge.”
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His group ‘Le Monde à Bicyclette’ was known for staging dramatic scenes he called ‘cyclo dramas’. At one point, while fighting for bike lanes on bridges, Silverman dressed up as Moses and proceeded to ‘part’ the St. Lawrence River so bikes could cross.
“He’s someone that we look up to,” says Séverine LePage, spokesperson for Vélo Phantôme. “It’s thanks to people like Robert Silverman and what Robert Silverman did and all the incredible theatrical, poetic militant actions they did in the 70s, 80s and 90s that we now have something like the REV today.”
Silverman is also responsible for allowing bicycles on the Métro.
“They did sort of demonstrations that you could bring a ladder on the Métro, you could bring all kinds of things on the metro, and that was ok. But a bicycle, no,” says Leve.
Everyone agrees Montreal would not be the most cyclable city in North America had it not been for Silverman.
“Without his fight, without their pushing, without challenging the establishment… If he hadn’t done that there wouldn’t be so many cyclists in Montreal,” adds LePage.
A sign has been hung on the corner of St. Denis and Roy, naming a portion of the REV after him.