No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Montreal by Bike

homemade skirt guard designed to keep your flutter
from ending up in the spokes,
it turns out skirt guards are manufactured and can be purchased readily in much of europe,
but with their general absence in n. america, this homemade
concoction was suggested as a possible alternative.

Copenhagen is known for bicycle dominance. It's a city that prides itself on oceans of bicycles both moving over the streets, and parked on the sidewalks. is a blog devoted to documenting and advocating for travel by bicycle in very good clothes. The subtitle of the blog afterall is "bike advocacy in high heels." Even local politicians can be spotted on the blog commuting to city hall in red suit on bike back.

Montreal too prides itself on well established bike paths and no-holds barred traffic dominance by bike. Traffic rules don't apply to pedalers in this town so tourists must steel themselves against the sudden appearance of bikers heading backwards down one-way streets, or whipping around corners when you don't expect them. In this way, Montreal boasts a high alertness demand.

This year the city announced Bienvenue to tourists or locals without their own wheels wanting to quicken their way about the city. This town relies on foot traffic and public transport, but walking between stops on the bus or metro line can be a long process. So, this year Montreal introduced the bixi, a program designed to provide bike rentals at over 300 stations placed about the center of the city, with over 3000 bikes in the system. The subscription service was added to the budget for the year as part of a city plan to encourage "active transportation." In other words, Montreal is trying to facilitate not only easier transport, but also public health through physical activity (not to mention reduced carbon emissions) by providing accessible bike rentals. I've long said that Montreal is a city designed for the sake of the people that live here, and bixi just serves as another example of such intention. The town, in other words, facilitates happier living.

bixi station at the Royal Victoria Hospital, corner of University et Pins, Montreal

The bixi has already won a number of impressive awards, including one of the top 50 inventions of 2008. The bike design is lauded for its entirely contained (and so protected) components, three-level gear system, highly adjustable seat system, motion mechanized lights, and included bell. Additionally, Montreal's bixi has been recognized for its eco-friendly attitude, and sustainability.

It's a timely project. The bicycle has suddenly become a high fashion commodity with a number of fashion houses releasing their own multi-thousand dollar bicycles, and various "couture" bicycle accessories, such as jeweled pant clips to keep your pants out of the chain (Chanel), or matching signature panniers (Fendi).

Chanel's $12,000 USD bicycle, S/S '08

Gratefully, the bixi has little threat of theft, or vandalism, and its hard for the jewels to rattle off on Montreal's lumpy streets (the one downside of biking here) when there are no jewels (except your own) to be rattled. I've been appreciating the bixi during this visit myself since it turns out the actual Montreal is much bigger than the quickly walkable Montreal of my imagination.

Also, as a fashion note: the low center bar of the bixi makes riding bicycle in dress quite easy, and I can attest that the pedal style is as heel friendly as is bikingly possible.

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