The congress’ program featured dozens of speakers in English and French – translators were available – from maintenance to fatbikes to community engagement. A dozen exhibitors displayed their products and services, while socials were held on Wednesday and Thursday nights to present artwork and stories.
Timo Perala of Winter Cycling Federation (WCF), Suzanne Lareau of Vélo Québec, and Montréal Mayor Denis Coderre gave opening remarks. Lareau’s Québec welcome was a comment about the weather being +3’C one day and -18’C the next, while Coderre touted BIXI’s popularity and needing to focus on culture.
|Pekka Tahkola of Winter Cycling Federation|
Healthy lifestyle ambassador Sylvie Bernier and Morten Kabell from Copenhagen presented during lunch. Bernier mentioned the 5300 km Route Verte network was threatened by government cuts, but reinstated thanks to a Vélo Québec campaign. Kabell argued for changing the conversation from asking how can cities afford cycling infrastructure to how they cannot afford to, given Copenhagen’s $225 million investment in cycling is about half the cost of a three-kilometre overpass; something relevant to Toronto.
For the “Maintenance and Policies” afternoon session, Hans Moor of Ottawa’s Citizens for Safe Cycling focused on the Dutch integration of bikes and rail. Timo Perala explained the Finnish maintenance tendering process, while Montréal borough councillor Marianne Giguère and François Gosselin of McGill University highlighted Montréal’s policies and winter bike lane closures, which will change next year.
|Montréal's winter bike lane closures will soon be a thing of the past|
February 9 started with an announcement of #WCC17 being the most popular hashtag in Canada. Maxime Houde presented his report on La Presse’s reporting of winter cycling, which revealed a limited but positive perception since 1988. He then took part in a panel moderated by Marco Fortier of Devoir with Nellie Brière, Forent Daudens of Le Devoir, and Gino Desrosiers of SAAQ. The panel noted the concentration of winter cycling in Montréal and how saying crash not accident is more neutral.
|Not the right message to encourage winter cycling (SOURCE: Toronto Star)|
|Frostbike author Tom Babin|
|BIXI is normally shut down during the winter months|
Before leaving on Friday, February 10, I watched presentations from Tony Desnick of Alta Planning and Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize. Desnick unveiled the 4th Annual Winter Cycling Survey results, which 1222 people participated. Almost half of respondents were from the United States, one quarter were over 50 years old, and two thirds were male. The most popular reason for biking in winter was to keep riding (11%) followed by exercise (9%). Calgary was tops for winter maintenance satisfaction.
|One of Alta Planning's Winter Cycling Survey findings|
|With Mikael Colville-Anderson at the Winter Cycling Congress|
Overall, the Congress was an unforgettable experience with lots of new connections made. Thanks to Vélo Québec for organizing the event and stay tuned for additional posts on cycling in Montréal, the proposed National Cycling Strategy, and data collection.
UPDATE (2017/02/14) - This has been reposted to Dandyhorse.