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Who are those cyclists, anyways?

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In a response to Saturday’s Gazette article on the city’s car-bike-pedestrian power struggle, a reader asked: “Enough of this story. When was the last time you saw anybody who rides a bicycle to work who actually owns that business and employs people?”

This picture was resurrected from Jacob Larsen’s summer post on dangerous intersections.

Although I don’t share the sentiment, my curiosity was piqued. It seems that I share the bike paths with people of all types (perhaps even business owners), and it’s easy to see that more people are cycling regularly every year. Vélo Quebec reports an oft-cited number of 50,000 Montreal cyclists who biked year-round in 2005. Their most recent study is packed with all sorts of info on who bikes in the province.

But, it doesn’t report the numbers of cyclists by occupation. For that I had to dig into the 2001 Census, at this point ancient history (the 2006 individual responses have not been made public yet). So who are they (or, at least, who were they in 2001)?

In the publicly-available sample, 696 survey respondents between the ages of 15 and 68 indicated that they cycled regularly to work in the Montreal metropolitan area. The most highly represented occupation in the sample? Those working in the service industry as supervisors, sales-persons, and assistants accounted for 23% of cycle-commuters. Perhaps they are not the business owners along the de Maisonneuve bike path, but I’m sure plenty of those business owners depend upon their employees to arrive by bike in the morning.

Other highly represented occupations included those working in arts, culture and recreation (11%), clerical workers (10%), and teachers and professors (6%). These percentages can be assumed to have reflected the wider population of Montreal’s cycle-commuters in 2001.

Of course, in today’s Bixi euphoria, expanding bike paths, and more bikepath snow-plowing, there’s a totally different mix of cyclists on the roads. I bet there’s a lot more business owners.



  1. Funny you should mention, I noticed my boss (the executive director) bikes to work in the summer, and just this morning I ran into him on the metro. I know he owns a big fancy car too, and I can’t tell you how often he bikes vs driving. But it’s cool to see that my boss is a regular Joe on the bus just like the rest of us.

  2. Among my ESL (and FSL) students were two well-paid engineers with Hydro-Québec, who both cycled to work at the Place Dupuis building from St-Lambert every day from early spring to late autumn.

    There are a lot of nasty comments about cyclists in the Gazette – think that paper attracts a certain kind of rightwing crank in its comments section. In fact cycling is remarkably democratic – one sees people on very expensive bicycles and people who look practically homeless and are riding old wrecks to collect scrap and deposit-bearing containers.

    And a lot of people who could be of any income level who ride old bicycles for daily transport purposes because expensive new ones get stolen so quickly. For some of us, the trusty old bike is our only vehicle, for others, it lives alongside a fancy sport or touring cycle.

    Bixi, patterned after Vélib and other bikeshare schemes, uses an urban bicycle designed for sturdy use, not speed, and is well suited to cycling in business clothing. I’m sure more than a few professionals and business owners, many of whom own a car and possibly a fancy bicycle as well, take it to work simply because it is so practical.

    Great photo, Jacob. That is a scary intersection. Beautiful greenery though.

  3. Why is this a relevant question? Are business owners a class above everyone else?

  4. I read that letter and sorry but… what an ass. Let me get this straight: only business OWNERS matter? Oh, I love the Gazette.

  5. Actually, the article itself seemed quite reasonable. It is the talk-backs which attract the loons….

  6. BTW: I know quite a few cyclists who create a whole lot more jobs than your average Gazette reader, who tend to be embittered old anglophones anyway. Among others, Pierre Karl Péladeau, whose Quebecor group (like them or not) is probably among the largest employers in Quebec!

  7. Je suis associé d’une petite boite d’informatique dans le Vieux Montréal et je prends mon vélo 12 à 15 jours par mois.

    Et je n’achète jamais la Gazette.

    Et je fais du vélo sportif en hiver !!

  8. Ah, my old friend Lafontaine park and Cherrier (the location of the photo).

    This is one of those “why is the city’s planning/ traffic department ignoring this excellent example of massive traffic anarchy?”

    That this chaos occurs only a few hundred metres from Velo Quebec world headquarters and directly on the Route Verte makes us think that Vélo quebec should also be riding the clue train on the lack-of-safety of this location.

    Good-quality bicycle infrastructure is a lot more than just putting a sign up on a post and calling it a bike path.


    In the same geographic area, it is now two years after the official announcement that link from this location at Lafontaine park and Cherrier (and also Rachel bike path) to the Pont Jacques Cartier bridge. (the situation is even worse on the on the south shore – dangerously narrow bike path and zero Maps, direction signs, or bike paths when arriving in Longueuil).

    The Pont Jacques Cartier bridge situation is a complete disgrace. Four levels of government have to get together and fix this black-eye on the safe-cycling infrastructure, just do it!


    As to the demographic of the bicycle-commuter, well, I’d compare it a bit like gay people in the population, they’re everywhere, in every profession, on every street, in every income class, and they’re basically the same kind of people as you and me. (Yes, I’ve come out: as a bi-cyclist)

    Wait for gas prices to go up again (which my friends, is inevitable and necessary), and everyone will be riding bikes, buses, and metro. My theory is that any revenue generated for people/business’s payment of carbon offsets or a carbon tax type of thing should be used to fund FREE public transit. (This is my favorite win-win solution to our current fossil-fuel-addiction woes)

    But I digress.

  9. The president of the company I work for cycles to work every day in the summer. He’s well known for coming into work in bike shorts and changing in his office into his suit.

  10. Reading the Gazette is seldom a good idea, reading the comments in the Gazette is NEVER a good idea. Their readership seems to have dwindled to a few thousand West Island angryphones (the Barry Wilson types) who feel humiliated because the metro doesn’t stop at Beaconsfield Golf and Country Club.. “Prochaine station-Shady Acres Lane”

    I’ll have to reassess my activities from now on and contemplate how many business owners will be taking part.

  11. Another worthless piece on Spacing Montreal.

    Why you guys are you trying too hard?

    p.s. believing any number thrown by velo-quebec is like believing numbers thrown by a tobacco or oil company…

  12. Great example.

    I used to live right around the corner from that intersection. Not to mention, I used to use it every day as well. The number of cyclist or pedestrians that get hit from cars zooming down Avenue Du Parc Lafontaine is quite disconcerting… It is a very dangerous intersection.

    Actually, the whole bike path along that street in Parc Lafontaine is in need of a reno. The co-habitation between the sidewalk and the path doesn’t work. In winter with all the snow or in spring when the sidewalk is flooded, pedestrians walk in the bike path.

    This summer it took the city for ever to repaint the bike path markings. I finally stopped a worker to ask him why it was taking so long. Reason being; they had only 6 employees for the whole city! Nice planning there City Hall, with the coming out of Bixi you’d think they’d put the extra effort to put the paths in order on time.

    I have to admit though that bikers need to get bells on their bikes in order to alert pedestrians. In Europe they all have bells and lights and co-habitate with pedestrians and cars. They don’t need to wear helmets….. Why only in North America?

  13. If you like the sound of win-win, you can join the free public transit movement, which, by the way, has spread to over 25 groups in 16 countries. Free public transit addresses dozens of problems all at once: carbon dumping, oil wars, traffic congestion, danger to cyclists, parking, etc.
    Canada has sites in English
    and French:

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