Montreal has recently become the battleground of a grand, revolutionary conflict: The winter cyclists’ struggle to cross the Jacques Cartier Bridge in the face of oppressive civil authorities. The city exercised a tyrannical measure when it resolved to close the bicycle path of the Jacques Cartier Bridge for the winter. This decision has left scars on the unassuming hearts of winter cycling enthusiasts, while depriving us all of an indispensable means of transportation.
But in this vast discontent, there has arisen a solemn hope, a glowing flame in the shade of repression: The Collectif Transport Rive Sud. This valiant group of winter cycling activists has assembled on behalf of all the city’s cyclists to defy the seasonal despotism that has shaken our consciousness. Resisting the fetters of law and society, these brave citizens have embarked on an epic campaign to personally shovel the snow off the bridge in order to cycle to their heart’s content. The dedication of these heroes must inspire us to action.
As the city streets become flooded by the wet and icy dregs of blackened snow, the bicycle becomes the only feasible means of transport. A bicycle can move with no greater speed than when navigating murky puddles and icy asphalt. Upon intense deliberation of the matter, it is clear that there is no car, no bus, nor train that can commute in a snowstorm with the same comfort as a bicycle. In closing the Jacques Cartier Bridge’s cycling lanes, the city is deliberately opposing these most fundamental premises.
Although Montreal permits bikes to travel in the middle of St-André and Mentana streets, the fundamental right to cycle from through the winter is not guaranteed city-wide. Yet Montreal has the temerity to claim itself as a world leader for winter cycling, having hosted the prestigious 2017 Winter Cycling Congress on Feb. 8. So long as the Collectif Transport Rive Sud has to battle authorities for winter bridge access and reforms from the city remain pitifully modest, the city will never become the cycling utopia it claims to be.
Much more work remains to advance the winter cycling cause, both by Montreal and by cyclists themselves. As a preliminary step, all police manpower should be redirected to winter cycling maintenance. The city is spending millions of dollars to pay the police to direct street traffic—it should really be spending millions of dollars to pay the police to shovel the Jacques Cartier Bridge. And of course, Montreal should pay a large indemnity to the winter cyclists it has hitherto impeded, if it wishes to demonstrate its sincere remorse.
Further, it is an outrage that only 10 per cent of summer cyclists continue to cycle in the winter: The winter cycling movement calls for Montreal residents travel exclusively by bicycle. To forward this measure, movement by car, train, and foot must be universally proscribed from November to March; bicycles must be our only means of winter transportation. These recommendations are admittedly modest, but this is perhaps the greatest urban winter sport-related challenge of our time—progress must be gradual.
Montréal has callously exploited the patience of winter cyclists in the city, and improvements do not appear to be forthcoming. Closing the Jacques Cartier Bridge’s cycling lanes and penalizing the few civilians who have confronted these fundamental violations of human dignity represent the moral bankruptcy of this city and its administration. The public must unequivocally engage with the Collectif Transport Rive Sud and its allies if we ever want to grip our handlebars with pride. We shall bike on the ice, we shall bike on the snow, we shall bike on the mud and in the puddles—and we shall never surrender.