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Montreal’s “Bicycle Bob”, a cycling activist for 50 years, dies at 88

He is remembered for his life-long dedication to bike safety

Photo by: Robert Silverman/Facebook

Montreal’s Robert “Bicycle Bob” Silverman died at the age of 88 on Sunday after a life dedicated to making the world a better place for cycling.

Silverman discovered the joys of riding when he was studying in France in 1969. His Edith encouraged him to use his bike to get to his French classes, and quickly fell in love with cycling. When he returned to Montreal the next year, Silverman bought a used bicycle to get around the city, which at the time was not so common. He co-founded the group Le Monde à bicyclette in 1975 in order to create better bike awareness and push for increased cycling safety in Montreal.

In 1977, Silverman took his fight for better cycling globally, finding himself on TV and radio pushing for cyclists of all countries to unite and organize on a world scale. He would organize publicity stunts such as “die-ins” to draw attention to the many cyclists and pedestrians who were killed by drivers in Montreal. Silverman would also take it upon himself to paint bike lanes on busy roads to create safe spaces for riders, as well as create awareness of the need for them.

On Sunday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante tweeted about the loss of such an important figure in cycling. “Robert Silverman was a cycling pioneer in Montreal. An early activist, he helped make cycling safer and promote active mobility. We owe him a lot,” she said.

City councillor Peter McQueen, a cyclist advocate for many years, knew Silverman for ten years through Le Monde à Bicyclette in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They would meet with cycling advocacy groups all over the world. When their group was founded, McQueen said nobody was talking about bike paths in Montreal. Now, the city boasts 350 km of bike paths and cycle tracks. Silverman is survived by his sister, Rona Klein, along with several nieces and nephews.