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I'm surprised to see Quebec city so "high", almost as high as Montreal. Those hills are *steep*. Not to mention the climate.

Toronto, what's up?

Kingston-Peterborough is not a single city, they are two cities two hours apart! But both have universities, though Kingston is more of a "University Town". Peterborough turned some abandoned rail lines into bike paths that now span the city, and put in dedicated bike lanes on arterial roads. Build it and they will come.

SimonC: hills between Upper and Lower town are steep and so are the slopes toward Charlesbourg, Neufchatel and the upper part of Beauport. But if you stay in the St-Charles Valley-Old Port-Côte-de-Giffard-Côte-de-Beauport or on the Sillery-Ste-Foy-Université Laval plateau toward the Colline Parlementaire, you are on a very flat terrain.

The Quebec and Kingston/Peterborough #s both seem to me to have more or less the same explanation - the cities are small enough that it's not impossible for people with sufficient determination to cycle to work.

What strikes me is that the numbers are just generally tiny - with the exception of Victoria only around 1 or 2 in 100 commuters are traveling by bicycle in any of these cities. There is a range between them, but it's inconsequential as a mode of transport everywhere. So the message might be that if cycling is cool, it is certainly not common (is that why it is cool?).

Frances: Québec is in fact a physically large city,divided by 7 nearly impassable autoroutes ( Québec has more autoroutes per capita than Los Angeles and even New York.
Btu the bike -friendly demographic is concentrated: students from Montcalm or St-Jean Baptiste to the east or Ste-Foy and Sillery to the west going to Laval U or the 4 upper town cegeps or civil servants going to the Colline Parlementaire ( a hill only in contrast to the Lower town,not the Plateau.) Or, below , students from Limoilou or St-Roch-St-Sauveur going to Limoilou cegep or the downtown departments of Laval U. The future deputy ministers going to the St-Roch campus of the École Nationale d'Administration Publique presumably practice their limoisine skillls.

In Seattle, where those bus bike-racks originated, and where I lived for 15 years, buses and bikes definitely can be complements.

- rain: you can use Doppler radar to see if cycling in to work without getting too wet is feasible, and take the bus home if things deteriorate to full-on storm.
- hills: one-way cycling is possible, if your trip involves substantial change of elevation, which it can do.
- gaps between bus routes: crosstown cycling between major bus routes can save a lot of time waiting.

On the other hand, the standard racks hold only two bikes, and it's relatively unusual to find both slots full, so there aren't that many people taking advantage.

Alice - hey, are you skeptical of me as an arbitrator of cool?

You're right, the numbers are tiny. The fact that Victoria is *so* much higher than any other city suggests weather matters a lot.

IIRC, when I've looked at the data before, cyclists tend to be people somewhat like us i.e. high education, flexible jobs.

Jacques Rene - the relatively high rates of cycling in small to moderate sized cities suggests that proximity to work is a relatively important factor. Is there something about the way that the Quebec labour and housing markets operate - e.g. greater job security - that might make it easier for people to live close to where they work?

Thomas - though I've heard that in Vancouver it can be harder to get one of those slots...

I'd say that Toronto's probably a more friendly cycling city that those numbers indicate, just not for commuting. Toronto's many ravines and lakeshore make for great recreational riding, but aren't all that useful in terms of getting from where people live to where they work. I wonder if Ottawa geography, and in particular the fact that it extends along the Ottawa river and its downtown is intersected by the Rideau Canal, both of which I gather have parallel bike paths makes commuting easier.

Bob - I agree, I'm sure Ottawa's easy and safe cycle routes are a factor. It would be interesting to see if it affects the gender breakdown also - lots of women cycle here, and that may be related to the safety factor. The cycling numbers for the downtown Toronto core are probably very very different from the #s for people living in the suburbs.

Halifax's low cycle commuting is likely linked to the drivers and the narrow roads. The city's infrastructure is set up to discourage people from using secondary streets to get across the city to and to the suburbs. So it takes a fairly aggressive person to muscle their way into traffic and it is beyond most ordinary cyclists.

While physically extended, Québec is a class,income and especially education-segregated to an incredible degree. The distinction between Upper town ( with one of the highest contration of Ph.D in Canada) and the Lower Town-Vanier-St-Charles River valley ( with one of the lowest educationnal achievement in the country) is stark. The division in reading habits, radio-listening ( the famous radio-poubelle, trash-can radio)is fierce and nasty.
So, as I say, most students and profs and many civil servants live on the flat upper town plateau, where the municipal government is planning the first bike boulevard. Meanwhile, in the lower town, such projects are fought on principle. Bike are for students , fonctionnaires and other suspect intellectual sissy types. Even reserved bus lanes and the Metrobus service is fought on principle. When ,during the rebuilding of the DuVallon-Robert-Bourassa expressway, the radio-poubelles fought that because it would be used by busses for students going to Laval U.

However the relatively high proportion of cycle commuters in cities such as Kingston-Peterborough and Ottawa-Gatineau suggest that a challenging climate is not necessarily a barrier to cycle commuting.


I used to live in Peterborough, at the end I biked 5km to the call centre where I worked. I used the bike lanes and the Rotary Bike Trail, which was great because I could open up on the speed on that. There were lots of youth at that call centre and hence a fair number of bikers. I used to say I got better parking that the Site Manager, as the bike rack was right outside the office door which was 10m from my desk. The car parking lot was 50m away down a hill.

You can bike May - October without a problem.

The only problem is that Peterborough is hilly so you need to use your gears to make it practical, and recognize that some sections are just work.

"The cycling numbers for the downtown Toronto core are probably very very different from the #s for people living in the suburbs."

For commuting, probably. For recreation, it might depend. I live in the outer burbs and the various country roads are crawling with cyclists on weekends.

I grew up cycling around Victoria and moved to Ottawa after undergrad. My new coworkers often had the same comment when they learned I cycled to work - "good for you, but isn't it dangerous?". These comments made me worry more about the traffic and drivers than I ever had before, even though I bike a much larger part of my route on paths than I did in Victoria. Ten years later, I haven't yet figured out if Ottawa drivers are just that much worse or if it is the fear itself that has spread more here. One disadvantage of the bigger vs smaller city is that we may hear about more cyclist accidents in our city just because of higher numbers of people, even if per capita accident rates are the same.

As for hills - Victoria is pretty hilly! The climate plays a big role I bet, although you'd expect Vancouver to be closer to Victoria in that regard (Vancouver does get more rain though). I wonder how much the time of year that the census was taken affects the answers.

Megan: "I wonder how much the time of year that the census was taken affects the answers."

I'm sure it matters a lot. I pack my bike away after the first lingering snowfall - I know far too many people who've had nasty accidents cycling in Ottawa in the winter.

The response I get when I show up in class with my bicycle panniers and helmet is "Wow! You cycle?!?" - as if a dead-flat totally quiet 15 minute cycle commute was something particularly impressive. Not sure why.

Frances: My understanding of Megan's comment was that the time of the census (early May) may be influencing the answers between CMAs. Maybe "summer" cyclists start biking in MArch in Victoria but in June in Quebec city.

Summer in QC City is July 15th at noon on alternate leap years. Festival d'Été is from the 4th to the 15th ( or thereabout) because it was so cold and rainy the hotels were empty. Same as for the Carnaval, set in the worst of the winter.

For Edmonton, the river valley is fantastic for recreational cycling, though it's no good if you're training (speed limits, multi-use trails). For commuting it's not really useful except for a few adjacent neighbourhoods.

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