The province may be lined with bike lanes, but there is still a long way to go to convince Quebecers to ride from point A to point B, summer and winter alike. In order to give a boost to citizens, Vélo Québec puts municipalities, organizations and universities in competition to obtain “gold, silver or bronze” certifications. This is the Vélosympathique movement, of which here are some winners.

The warm weather has barely arrived and pedestrians and cyclists are already circulating at full speed on Wellington Street in Verdun, this summer pedestrian artery that tops Time Out magazine’s list of the coolest streets in the world. In the lobby of the town hall, a stone’s throw from a new cycle lane, an honorary plaque informs citizens that the borough has obtained silver certification.

“It’s a pretty tough process to deserve certification,” said the head of the urban planning division, Sylvain Thériault, to La Presse.

A cyclist – by his own admission a “wacko” driving rain or shine – Verdun’s development manager got elected officials on board. He explains that the borough had to successfully answer 140 questions on behalf of the community before winning the title.

Benoit Gratton, elected official of the borough, a convert, affirms that up to 1200 cyclists transit during the months of September and October on the cycle lane of rue de Verdun, which crosses the entire territory. The borough is at the stage of offering cycling lessons to the population, in particular to children and migrant women. In 76% of the streets of Verdun, the speed has been reduced to 30 km / h, it adds.

“Basically, we’re surrounded by crosswalks, curb ledges, bike racks. People have become accustomed to these measures. What we want to do now is allow our students from five establishments to go to class by bike, in a safe way. Ideally, from the perspective of utility bikes, we would like to link the Aqueduct Canal to the river, passing through the new REM station, to Île des Sœurs. »

The Vélosympathique movement owes its birth to the Bicycle Friendly America program, born in 1980 in the United States, aimed at “safe streets for everyone”, explains Louis Lalonde, project manager at Vélo Québec.

“We adapted the program to the Quebec reality. The idea is to use the bike to go to work, but also for everyday trips. We are working on a cycling culture. In our independent jury, there are architects, urban planners, but also a public health official. »

Dr. Eric Notebaert, an emergency physician at Sacré-Coeur Hospital and vice-president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, says he lights up like a Christmas tree so he can ride at night, safely, at the end of his shifts. He is passionate. He and his team implemented various measures, including the development of a secure bicycle enclosure and showers, which earned an honorable mention at the Sacré-Coeur hospital of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de- Montreal.

The result: 10% of employees cycle to the hospital, he says.

“Active transport is used to prevent diabetes, anxiety, it is also a way to fight against heat islands, explains Dr. Notebaert. In our case, this is just the start. We are working to map the territory of Ahuntsic to provide safe travel between the Jean-Talon, Sacré-Coeur and Fleury hospitals. There are still intersections to secure, there is work to be done at this level. »

Not to be outdone, the University of Sherbrooke earned a bronze certification in the campus category. Bike racks, self-service bike repair station, showers, velostation and secure parking; the list is long. Patrice Cordeau, Assistant Vice-Rector for Sustainable Development, and Judith Beaudoin, Sustainable Mobility Advisor, talk about work that began 10 years ago.

“Before, I didn’t meet any cyclist when I came to work by bike in the winter,” says Ms. Beaudoin. Today, there is not a single morning where I do not meet one. We started offering electric bike loans, and we have five winter bikes, with studs, railings, front lights. It’s not the weather that’s the problem, it’s the facilities, the safety. »

Mr. Cordeau adds that the university takes every opportunity to promote cycling, especially in February, during International Winter Bike Day. “The jury is demanding, but we’re aiming for gold,” says the vice-rector. There is the whole security aspect. It takes a long time to develop a cycling culture. »

In addition to helping achieve carbon neutrality targets, commuting by bicycle has a major impact on health, says Dr. Martin Juneau, cardiologist and director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute. “The heart rate goes up less on a bike than on a run, but it’s a kinder physical activity on the joints. It prevents osteoporosis. He cites several studies, including European ones, showing that cycling is beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.