The 2015 edition of the Tour de l’île started under overcast skies on Sunday. The bicycling event, for which entire streets along the route are blocked off every year, is specified as not being a race but a day for cyclists to be able to enjoy the city.
“As we say, everyone must share the road, but today, we can enjoy having the road to ourselves,” said Montreal mayor Denis Coderre just before start time.
Coderre also alluded to his plans to make Montreal the most bike-friendly city in the world, as well as addressing his previous announcement that he would lose weight in time for the Tour de l’île.
“Forty-five pounds later, I’m here and happy to be participating,” Coderre said.
The event, which is organized by Vélo Québec, officially began at 9:15 am and looped West from the starting point at Parc Jeanne-Mance. Cyclists were able to take over in Outremont, Côte des Neiges, Lasalle, and the Plateau, among other neighbourhoods.
The route mostly covered residential and industrial areas but did venture into the downtown area and even Old Montreal. Most of the route was in places that a cyclist wouldn’t necessarily think to go, which complements the founding idea that the event is meant for Montrealers to explore their own city.
At the three stop points along the way, participants enjoyed food trucks or bike repair services before continuing along. The sidelines weren’t packed like the Boston Marathon but there were many volunteers and people outside their houses cheering from the sidewalk as a morale boost.
The Tour la Nuit, a similar event that happened Friday night, welcomed 15,000 cyclists. Day time or night time, people participating get festive by decorating the helmets and bicycles with flowers and balloons. Speaking of helmets, the cyclists who decided to go without were few and far between – thumbs up for safety.
Residents along the route of the biking event usually have complaints about traffic and inconvenience. Of course this was no different this year, as traffic around the city slowed for the entirety of the day. Vélo Québec execs report a definite increase in complaints every year that the route goes into West-end neighbourhoods like NDG or Westmount.
But the Tour de l’île and its nocturnal counterpart are enjoyed by people of all ages and, as we now know from Coderre’s plans for biking in the city, will be here to stay.
Next year’s Tour de l’île is scheduled for June 5th, 2016.