Quebec's Route Verte - Grampies' Grand Adventure - CycleBlaze

June 8, 2015

Quebec's Route Verte

Fifty years ago, the then teen aged Grampies got fed up with the urban environment of Montreal, where we were born and still lived. So we jumped on our bikes and blindly headed for the countryside. It was no mean feat. we had to fight our way through traffic to and over the Mercier bridge. Cycle ways and bike lanes were unheard of at that time, and it seemed an awfully long time before we escaped the city. We decided we had actually made it when we came to our first horses in a meadow. So then we turned around and went back.

The experience made a big impression on us, though. The impression was that Montreal, and by extension, Quebec, was no place to be cycling. Life took us to other places and other activities, and it was not until 2011 that the topic of cycling in Quebec came up again. It came up because we had decided to cycle across Canada, and Quebec/Montreal sits squarely across that route. So I started to make phone calls to Quebec tourism people, trying to find out if going through Montreal would be even vaguely possible. Those I contacted were polite, but I got the impression they thought my questions were nuts.

It turned out that in the brief 45 years for which we had been out of the picture, a virtual cycling revolution had taken place in Quebec. Under the leadership of VeloQuebec, a non-profit cyclists association, there had been 40 years of cooperation with the Department of Transport, resulting in the Route Verte. The Route Verte is 4,900 km of bikeways criss-crossing the province. Not only has VeloQuebec interfaced with communities to find and build safe bike routes through each town, but they developed a program called Bienvenue Cyclistes, which identifies cycle friendly accommodation and businesses.

By the time we actually got to Quebec in 2011, we cruised from the Ontario border right into downtown Montreal like a dream. Once in Montreal, we travelled along bike lanes to our favourite bakeries. Yikes, it was like being in France - which was probably what the authorities had in mind anyway.

The English Version of the "Route Verte" book.
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So now with three grandchildren in Montreal, cycling the Route Verte is a natural. Not all the Route Verte is off road, but we have a nearby stretch in mind. This is the Piste Cyclable Canal de Chambly. This is just a little stretch of 47km along the Richelieu River, just over the St. Lawrence river bridge from where the kids live. This piece is listed as paved and unpaved cycle path, just what we want for travel with a four year old and a 2 1/2 year old. It's part of Route Verte #1, the path that took us in from the Ontario border that time.

The piece of the Route Verte we will cycle on this time. Note that the map, one of 279 in the system, is very similar to the excellent Bikeline series for Germany.
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The main network of routes in Quebec.
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Another year, we can cycle on another of the eight major routings. For example (though maybe not with kids), how about #8 - the Veloroute des Bluets!

Route Verte #8 looks interesting. Maybe just because we like blueberries. By the way, "bluets" is a Quebec French term. The "real" French for that is "myrtilles". I think bluets sound tastier!
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