It’s a sight that’s hard to miss for anyone involved in Montreal traffic, be they cyclists, motorists or transit-users: a banner, four lanes wide, strung over St.-Denis Street from the Boulevard Rosemont viaduct, with a very obvious message to share. The words, “Beaucoup de mots, Peu d’action”—”Lots of words, little action”—all but scream from the banner, punctuated by the hashtag, “Je vote vélo.”
The message is a stark condemnation of a perceived lack of progress by Montreal’s civic government in addressing cycling and bike safety. But though the same hashtag was used by advocacy group Vélo Québec, the banner, the organization assured the city and onlookers alike, isn’t theirs.
“We didn’t do it,” said director Suzanne Lareau, speaking with the Montreal Gazette. “What we did was create an [online] platform for cyclists to express themselves, to send a message to their candidates,” she noted, referring to a website developed and maintained by Vélo Québec that was in operation from Aug. 31 to Oct. 15. “Someone may have added the hasthag Je vote vélo,” she said, “but we had nothing to do with it.”
Particularly striking about the banner’s placement is that it hangs directly above a ghost bike memorial in honour of Mathilde Blais, who was killed in the same spot, on St.-Denis Street right under the Rosemont viaduct, after being hit by a truck three years ago. Critics of Montreal’s approach to cycling matters say that the city, in the time since Blais’s death, has done little in the way of investing in proper bike infrastructure such as bike paths and physical barriers, and that the province has yet to amend the Quebec Highway Code to better reflect the presence of cyclists on the streets.
Still, citing progress Lareau argues has been made by the administration of Denis Coderre—expanding the Bixi system, for example—she maintains that the concerns that prompted the banner’s placement amount to a “generalization.”
“The situation is a bit more complex than a slogan. Do we have everything we want? No. But that doesn’t mean nothing has been done,” she told Gazette reporters. Has cycling been the most important issue to Montreal’s government in the last few years? “No. But one of the main issues [in Montreal] is traffic, and bicycles are an important piece of that puzzle.”