Montreal cyclists gear up for cold and 'lovely' winter weather

For the 180,000 Quebecers who cycle during December through to March, the task is not always easy due to slush and ice.

180,000 Quebecers cycle through the slush and ice from December to March

Gabrielle Anctil is an avid winter cyclist who says its only becoming more popular. (Nav Pall/CBC)

For the 180,000 Quebecers who cycle during December through to March, the task is not always easy.

Eastern Canada's brutal winters leave bike paths covered in snow, slush, and ice — dangerous for even the most experienced cyclists.

But many cyclists do it anyway, for the environment, for their health, or for fun.

Montrealer Elizabeth White says she's willing to brave the harsh winter weather so long as the streets are clear and it's warmer than -20 C.

"I'm a student, so I do a lot sitting, and writing and thinking," said White. "And it's hard to just get up and sit on a bus or stand on a bus, so it's really invigorating. It gets oxygen moving through me."

Elizabeth White is willing to brace the city's ice and cold so she can bike. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

Last February, Montreal hosted the fifth edition of the international Winter Cycling Congress, an event that aims to make cities more accessible for winter cyclists.

With the advent of the fatbike, a bicycle with oversized tires, and plans for heated sidewalks being tossed around, winter cycling is becoming more of a reality for Montrealers.

Coalition Vélo Montréal organized a winter cycling workshop this weekend for cyclists of all levels.

The event covered mechanical preparation and maintenance, including installing winter tires on bikes. It also focused on choosing the right clothing for the cold weather and on how to safely navigate winter cycling.

While some may be hesitant to bike in the winter, one avid cyclist told CBC she believes that it's the best season for cyclist to hit the road.

Gabrielle Anctil has been riding her bike in the winter for eight years and says more Montrealers are joining her on the road. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

"It's nice and fresh out, It's the best way to not feel the burden of the winter," said Gabrielle Anctil, founder of the Montreal Vélo fantôme, or Ghost bike, movement.

"You're outside and you get to see the city covered in snow," said Anctil, who also helped organize the conference. "It's lovely."

Over the past eight years of winter biking, she's also noticed a sharp increase in fellow cyclists joining her during the winter months.

"One positive aspect is that everyone has to go slower in the winter," she said.

A more welcoming road?

Some Montreal organizations are also starting to change in ways that suit winter cyclists.

Bike-sharing company BIXI Montreal is now reportedly considering the possibility of extending its bicycle service year-round.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement predicting strong winds and 5-10 cm snowfall for southern Ontario. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In Toronto, the service runs year-round, but here in Montreal the last day to use BIXI this year was Nov. 15.

On top of that, crews will spend the winter testing out ways to clear snow and ice from the Jacques Cartier Bridge bike path — a project that will cost almost $2 million — but the path won't be open for cyclists to use

The path closes every year at the first sign of wintry weather, to the dismay of many cyclists who use it to travel between Montreal and the South Shore. 

With files from Navneet Pall, Kalina Laframboise