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Montreal Bicycle Ridership Up 35-40% 22

Bicycling in Montreal

Photo courtesy of zmtomako / Flickr

A new study finds that bicycling is on the rise in Montreal. In 2010, the city experienced a 35-40% growth in ridership over its 2008 bicycle ridership counts.

This is an encouraging sign that the city’s significant infrastructure investments and bike sharing scheme have contributed to an increase in utilitarian bicycling.

Montreal is one of North America’s top destinations for urban bicycling, with more than 500km of recreational and on-street paths. In May 2009, Montreal’s bike sharing system “BIXI” launched – setting the stage for BIXI to spread all around the globe.

The Montreal ridership numbers come from a study by Professor Luis F. Miranda-Moreno – from the Department of Civil Engineering at McGill University. The purpose of Professor Miranda-Moreno’s study was to find correlations between the weather and ridership in Montreal.

The hourly counts were taken using 5 bicycle counters situated along 4 on-street, physically separated bike facilities in the City of Montreal from April 2008 to July 2010:


All figures courtesy of Professor Luis F. Miranda-Moreno’s study

Interestingly, the study found that when temperature doubles, a 43-50% increase in ridership can be expected. However, when temperature reaches 28 degrees Celsius, and humidity is more than 60%, the bicycling numbers start to drop.

This type of study is rather unique in North America. The relationship between weather and travel has been studied intensively for most other modes of transportation other than cycling – including motor-vehicle traffic volumes, transit ridership, and pedestrian volumes.

It’s refreshing to see this data being captured for bicycles because it can help traffic engineers understand trends that encourage or discourage citizens from using a bicycle for every day transportation.

The following diagram illustrates the increase in ridership levels from 2008 to 2010:


Here is an interesting diagram that illustrates the hourly patterns of bicyclists throughout the day, with the morning peak at 8AM, and an afternoon peak at about 5:00PM:


The data in the study shows that ridership was comprised primarily of utilitarian bicycle commuters – as evidenced by weekend daily ridership being 65 to 89% lower than the slowest week day (Monday).

Montreal’s investment in bicycles as a mode of transportation is paying off as we can see from the ridership numbers – while citizens get to enjoy healthier active lifestyles, and less pollution in the air.

If Montreal continues to invest in its citizen bicyclists, we should expect the ridership to continue to rise going forward. If a cold-climate city like Montreal can do it, then so can any other city in North America.

Here are some other interesting observations found by the study:

  • Ridership normally peaks mid-week and declines slightly towards Friday
  • Ridership in July was consistently double from ridership in April
  • Having a combination of moderate or severe rainy weather with fog, drizzle and/or freezing rain during the same hour will cause a ridership reduction of 19%
  • The presence of precipitation in the morning reduces total daily ridership by 13-15% (when there is no rain in the afternoon)

To obtain a copy of the full study, feel free to contact me directly. Special thanks to distinguished author & (former) journalist Daniel Sanger – who graciously provided the study.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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22 thoughts on “Montreal Bicycle Ridership Up 35-40%

  1. PaddyAnne Dec 17,2010 2:55 pm

    It upsets me when I hear motorists use the complaint that bike lanes should not be built because bike riding is just done in good weather, and that once it rains or weather is lousy, no one is on their bikes. What I witness as a long-term pedestrian is that when it rains or there is lousy weather the number of pedestrians AND cars on the road also decrease. Perhaps the pedestrians are taking transit and perhaps the weather is curtailling all unnecessary driving or motorists are taking transit too, but for some reason pedestrians and motorists never have to defend themselves.

  2. Daniel Dec 17,2010 5:02 pm

    They are very encouraging numbers though it has to be said that the Bixi explosion comes with a downside or two:
    – congestion on the bikepaths, especially the north-south Brébeuf path which gets something like 8,000 cyclists on a good day and is North America’s busiest;
    – increasing complaints of ‘Sunday cyclists’ clogging up the bikepaths and weaving wildly on the Bixis and presenting a danger to others;
    – Bixi partiers – ‘It’s 3:30 am, bars are closed, whaddaya want to do? Hey, there’s a Bixi stand!’ (Or, alternately, ‘Let’s go back to my place right now! Jump on this Bixi’)
    – Noise. Residents complain both of the added noise of having a Bixi stand in front of their homes and at least one person on the Brébeuf bikepath says she now has to sleep with earplugs since the intro of the Bixi and the spike in cyclists.

    Happily the city is planning another bikepath on an adjacent street to Brébeuf to relieve some of the pressure. And there are a bunch of other bikepaths coming elsewhere on the Plateau and across Montreal. Now just to extend Bixi service beyond the central neighbourhoods and, in winter, provide a reduced, studded-tire service for the hardcore amongst us…

  3. kfg Dec 18,2010 8:34 am

    Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but how much money got spread around to find out that cyclists like pleasant weather and commute most during rush hour; and where can I get a piece of that action?

    Daniel – Welcome to transportation 2.0, same as transportation 1.0.

    Fortunately our previous experience with the later has taught us that all the problems will be solved by just adding more lanes, more lanes, more lanes . . .

  4. James D. Schwartz Dec 18,2010 4:53 pm

    @Daniel, those types of problems are “good” problems for society to have (I think). I would much rather be solving capacity issues for bicycles than not having enough bicycles. The Netherlands has constantly been dealing with how to handle increasing capacity on its bike infrastructure, and I really would love to have that problem here 😉

    @kfg, I know your comment was probably a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I will respond anyway 🙂 The purpose of the study wasn’t to point out the obvious. The purpose was to see just how much of an impact the weather has on bicycling levels.

    I personally think this is important and interesting data and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The insight that these types of studies give us provide valuable data for traffic planning, measuring the impact on businesses, measuring the improvements of traffic flow when people shift from cars/public transit to bicycles, etc. I am happy that my tax money is going towards forward-looking studies rather than the gov’t just focusing on car travel.

  5. kfg Dec 18,2010 8:39 pm

    @James – “your comment was probably a bit tongue-in-cheek”

    Just a wee bit. 🙂 It was not without its point though, even if I did go about it in the manner of a McGill professor of economics.

  6. Ryan Dec 19,2010 10:54 am

    @Daniel, RE: Bar…

    I don’t think you can blame Bixi because people only know how to “have fun” by getting drunk.
    If buses ran 24/7 I’m sure noise at bus stops would be equally loud.

    I live on a main stretch where annoying Brock U students stagger home EVERY night during the summer causing trouble and making loud noises.

    I wouldn’t blame Bixi as much as I would blame bars and people who think they need to get drunk…Nothing wrong with having a few beers now and then, but why people think they have to drink so much to get piss drunk is beyond me.

    As for congestion on the bike paths??? I’ll be more then happy to switch problems with you.
    Few cyclists for too many!

  7. Kevin Love Dec 20,2010 12:09 pm

    I would be interesting to see this study extended into the autumn and winter months.

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