Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lac Megantic - loop ride around the lake

In our quest to ride Quebec's best roads' present stage, we are riding rides that start three hours or less from Montreal. Lac Megantic is just under this cutoff (just!) and yesterday this long awaited ride finally was ridden!

Parking, bike path access, and post-ride picnic were all at lakeside Parc de l'O.T.J.

Downtown Lac Megantic is still undergoing major reconstruction after 2013 disaster

Musi-Café reopens for first show, before new building even has walls!

May 13 - snow's not all gone, but almost all gone!

Gear Envy, big gear envy. The Bertrand feels very inadequate at this moment

Anglican church does not have steeple envy

Lots of nice roads and nice paved shoulders too

Scenery was frequently excellent!

We got up early and were on the road at 7:17 am - almost a new record for us! First stop was gas at L'Ange Gardien's cheap-gas-mecca on the Eastern Townships Autoroute, second stop was a few miles further at the Tourism Eastern Townships at the Granby exit-for maps and bike maps. (Very convenient, very useful, a mandatory stop!)

Then we drove and drove some more until we arrived in the Town of Lac Megantic. We had known of this ride around Lac Megantic for many, many years, and we finally made it, with perfect weather conditions too.

We parked at the Parc de la O.T.J. which is right on the lake and bike path. To our surprise there was a major media scrum in and outside: many camera's, satellite trucks and multiple TV networks. This was either about the re-opening of the destroyed in last summers catastrophe Musi-Café, the arrest of three MMA employees for the disaster, or something completely different. We looked at media reports this morning and did not see any camera shots or interviews from this location. 

This impressive media presence wasn't about us or this excellent and popular bike ride.

All we know that this was a great location to start and end the ride. Lake, beach, change rooms and toilets, benches and picnic tables, free parking, closeness to food stores, closeness to bike path, but what, oh what does OTJ mean? 

Then we headed off around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction, as advised the "Le Québec dans 30 Boucles" bike ride guide to Vélo-Mag magazine readers' favorite road bike rides. We like this guidebook a lot, even if some of the rides have variations that we prefer slightly compared to the guidebook's chosen route. 

The Park de l'O.T.J. is bike-path connected to the main bike path in town that takes you out of town (we started heading west). The paved path changed to a rock-dust trail that was in good shape and solid for our 700x25 tires. Some deer were closely watching us and a partridge did its best to intercept our trajectory, but we continued with no other obstacles. We went through the campground and the quiet road instead of the Rt 263 to Marston, big hills and crappy road, but quiet. In Marston we joined the Rt 263 for some more good climbs.

We stopped for snacks in Piopolis, then we continued south to the turnoff on to Rt 161 back north to the town of Lac Megantic. There is a new rest stop at the corner here with great views.  We briefly considered a little out-and-back south the Woburn, but that no-shoulder road quickly made that an undesired option. The road had generally been equipped with decent and (mostly) clean paved shoulders and we didn't feel like a no-shoulder/ride-the-white-line was an enhancement to today's ride. Good news for the future: It looked like a rebuilt road with paved shoulders will soon replace the present death-highway segment to Woburn.

North to Lac Megantic has one major highlight: a roadside lookout tower!  We love lookout towers (Hello Saint-Malo near Coaticook and Ile aux Coudres in the Charlevoix).

Excellent lookout tower on Rt 161 S of Lac Megantic

A short while later we were entering the town of Lac Megantic and riding along the edge of the rebuilt (in progress) downtown (rebuilt after the major disaster there last summer).  We noticed that the Musi-Café was hosting it's first show since the night of the disaster, before even the walls have been put on the building-that's the spirit!

We got back to the parc and the calm and warm mid-may weather was perfect for a lake-side picnic so we went up to the Marché Lavallé (4298, rue Laval) and got some picnic foods and had a pretty good late lunch/early supper picnic.

 Phase 2 - Parc Mont Megantic-Secteur Franceville

The ride around Lac Megantic is only 60 km, so that's a short ride for such a long drive. We mixed up the fun with a hike in provincial park Parc Mont Megantic to visit the new Franceville sector, a completely new side to this excellent national park.

We arrived here at 6 pm after our leisurely post-ride picnic but that left plenty of time for a nice hike up to a scenic lookout halfway up the mountain.

The parc entrance was gated but we paid the fee at the check-in box and proceeded to visit this all-new side of Parc Mont Megantic. First impression: this is not a low-budget development. Second impression: will be be eaten by bears? Well it turns out not, but boy it was quiet in the post-apocalyptic sense.  

Americans may wonder why info in english is on a smaller sign. C'est normale.

Franceville entrance can't be missed!

 The Franceville secteur entrance is on a dirt road that defines "in the middle of nowhere" although there is a new multifunctional bike path from the village of Scotstown right to the Park entrance. (We were surprised, and pleased)

New welcome centre (Accueil) in Parc Mont Megantic Franceville sector

Our hike started from main road because early season park open but gate locked situation

We will say that both the bike ride around the lake and the trails in the Parc Mont Megantic's Franceville's sector were very well marked.

Trail along this stream (ruisseau) was a beauty

Trail up the mountain seems well-built and well-maintained

From our destination's lookout we could see Mont Orford

At this point we turned around, hiked back to the cars (always watching out for any bears or other carnivores following us, of which there were precisely zero, as usual) before darkness arrived, which was a success for a change.

To conclude, this was an excellent day for a bike ride and a hike and an exploration of a new area. Imagine, if you can, how nice this would be in summer! Also, fall colours around here are pretty spectacular.

Here is the link for the map for the ride.

Here is the link for town of Lac Megantic. There is tourist info and maps here.

Here is the link for the Quebec provincial park Parc national du Mont Megantic (the town is beside the lake while the mountain/provincial park are about 50 km away from each other). This is a favorite Quebec park of ours.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Medium distance spring ride in Chateauguay Valley

Not (un)usual for us to run out of daylight before we run out of road!

This ride has many, many options for shortcuts or longer distances

As spring progresses, ride distances get longer. No longer is a one-hour ride going to satisfy the cyclists' need for scenery and more scenery.  The solution is simple: ride a longer ride, and in the Chateauguay Valley the easiest thing to do is to move the ride start downriver from Ormstown to Howick or Sainte-Martine.  We chose Saint-Martine, because the parking is good and the ride starts on a nice bike path.

Sunday had big winds from the southwest, and this ride offers some respite from the relentless nature of headwinds with some zigzagging into and away from the westerly headwinds.  

We chose Option B, straight home from Powerscourt instead of following the river

Compare the top picture with this map of the actual ride. We modified the route because the direct route back to Sainte-Martine became important because time was running out. And by time I mean sunny daylight fun-to-bike time. This wasn't a buzzkill, because this option also has great roads and scenery, and it had a heck of a great tailwind. We averaged 35 km/h for the last 50 km of the ride! No-one really likes headwinds, but the smarter among us know to ride into the headwind for the first half of a ride, because then the last half will be with a big tailwind, and wil probably give you  happy feeling to ride so fast with so little effort.

The ride zigzags and covers a lot of nice roads, in fact, it is all nice roads except for short sections on Rt 202 and Rt 203. Rt 203 will soon be bypass-able when the Sainte-Martine-to-Ormstown bike path opens in 2014 and Rt 203 death highway can be avoided.

We like this ride a lot and there are 119 good reasons why is it the template for the standard medium-distance Chateauguay Valley ride.

Another reason for liking this ride as we did it is the fact that only two kilometers of the 119 kilometres are in towns or villages.  So lots and lots and lots of riding with essentially zero corporate fast food, gas, and retail "every town looks the same" modern world bullshit.


Map for today's 119 km-version of the standard medium distance Chateauguay Valley ride. Note that you could do this ride (or variations thereof) with a ride-start of Ormstown, or Howick.

Here is the map for the shorter standard 60 km short-distance Chateauguay Valley ride. Here is a slightly longer and slightly better 74 km version of the Standard Short distance ride. For a shorter ride you could do this as a Ormstown out and back on the Rockburn side road to the US border (aller-retour) and avoid anything west of Dewittville/Rockburn for a shorter ride that is still top quality fun on top quality roads. (And we know fun--and top quality roads!)

This is a superb road-cycling destination for any length of ride, and is perfect in any of the spring, summer, or autumn seasons. Many people consider it to be a paradise du vélo, and we agree 100%.

spring has sprung!

white trilliums everywhere, red ones more rare

Sun streaming in Quebec's oldest covered bridge at Powerscourt

The round barn of Gore road

Tiny and very retro maple-sugar shack

Sunshine, green fields, forests, stone fences = another amazing ride

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Oratoire St-Joseph/St-Joseph's Oratory now bans bikes

Big & hard-to-ignore sign! We don't agree, but we will respect it. 

Bikes are now banned from the amazing and quiet uphill access road to the uppermost-parking lot at the far-west side of the Oratoire St-Joseph Oratory church/tourist/tax-free-haven complex.

Far more dangerous car traffic is not only legal, but encouraged. Typical car-centric "safety" hypocrisy in our opinion.

Needless to say they probably encountered some problems with yahoo idiot cyclists and boarders and like all good bureaucracies, officials decided that banning bikes is the easiest and therefore best solution.

We suggest that a better solution would be to post signs with low speed limits and indicating respect for the priority of pedestrians.

Alternatively, bikes could be banned at busy times and permitted at other quieter times (after 6 pm on weeknights isn't usually a busy time). But, as we said above, the purpose of a functional bureaucracy isn't logic nor caring nor intelligence when finding solutions to minor problems. 

Also, in our opinion, vehicles without brakes to control speed on the very steep downhill (such as skateboards) probably don't belong here.

Time to extend/complete Avenue du Parc bike path to avenue Mont Royal - with quick/simple/cheap painted lines

Simple painted lines will solve the dangerous bike-pedestrian chaos on du Parc where the bike path suddenly stops in the middle of the block

There is a bike path on the south half of the block of Avenue du Parc where it passes beside Parc Jeanne Mance. Then the bike path suddenly disappears, and cyclists and pedestrians have to mix together in a every-man-for-himself (herself) dangerous state of chaos.




All we have to do is paint bike & pedestrian lanes on the existing super-wide sidewalk. Bikes on one side, pedestrians on the other. Problem solved. Cyclists and pedestrians living in harmony. Extremely cost-effective. And so much better than the perpetual state-of-danger that is the reality of the situation there today.

We have said it before, and we will say it again: separating the different-speed flows of traffic (car-bike, bike-pedestrian) equals greater safety for everyone.

Of course the way government bureaucracy works this won't happen for ten years, but when it does happen suddenly everyone will say it is so simple, it works so well, why didn't we do this ten years ago?

(Not that we recommend this, but this is an ideal activity for cycling-activists who care about pedestrian-cyclist safe coexistence. All that is required is a few cans of yellow paint and a dark and moonless night.) We only say this because it is beyond obvious that ville de Montreal does not give a shit about improving cycling safety except when someone dies (and even then...)

Time to turn the parking lots of soon-to-close MUHC hospitals into parkland and add them to Parc Mont Royal

Area in yellow: Addition to Parc Mont Royal. Red line: new bike path.

Montreal need to decide: Is Mont Royal, with its beautiful and amazing Parc Mont Royal and protected ecological and heritage status, better off as a park or should its value be wasted and let's just keep using it as a parking lot. A parking lot! The answer is obviously no, Mont Royal is not better off being used as a  parking lot.

I am referring to the upcoming closure of the MUHC's Royal Victoria Hospital, a facility that was to remain "forever public" in the donation documents, and its recently-constructed (post WW2) parking lots that deface and vandalize the ecological region that is our jewel of Montreal: Mont Royal. 

These parking lots, which border the downtown edge of Parc Mont Royal, should be converted to park land and added to Parc Mont Royal. A bike path should be added through the parking lots to create a new, safe, scenic, bike path from points north and east of downtown into central downtown.

The upcoming 375 anniversary of the founding of Montreal is an appropriate moment in time to make this dream a reality.

The fact that this valuable land is being used for mere parking lots is a black stain on how much the MUHC and city government truly value the heritage value of Mont Royal. This is the perfect moment to remedy this neglect to what all Montrealers agree is the jewel in the crown of our beautiful city of Montreal.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

A few words on cyclists killed by car drivers and the need to slow down cars in danger zones

A local blog reported on the recent tragic death of a Montreal cyclist by a truck while traveling through a CR Rail railroad underpass.

A commenter suggested the following suggestion to improve the safety of these dangerous, outdated underpasses where motor vehicles habitually exceed a safe (and legal) speed:

1) Install a giant LED sign over the right-hand traffic lane that says:
          Priorité cyclists
          Vitesse Maximum = 20 km/h
          50 km/h = $300
          Photo Radar
2) Install Photo-radar machines in both directions.
-clearly-identified photo radar slows cars right down. See the one on cote-des-neiges southbound below “The Boulevard” (on top of Mont Royal) for the quite amazing effect of slowing car speeds dramatically (and it is a downhill road where cars go speed up to dangerous speeds, similar in this way to underpasses) .
- I suggest that CP Rail pays for the installation of the signs and photo radar machines.


But the blog host cut down the suggestion with the tired trope that this will interfere with rapid traffic flow of cars. Because anything that slows down cars is a BAD BAD thing. We must not ever even begin to think about slowing down cars, not even in proven danger zones where deaths have occurred.  Not even in underpasses where the design was built according to 1930s design criteria and are now proven to be fatally dangerous in out 21st century world

>>The esteemed blog owner wrote: A 20 km/h speed limit on a major thoroughfare isn’t practical either. It would just make an already difficult traffic situation even worse, and push more traffic onto neighbouring roads.

The logical conclusion to your argument is the autorout-ification of our urban street network. This has been tried extensively since 1950 and it turns out not to be the magic solution the car-industry promised it would be.  In fact this auto-centric design-mindset is what our present generation is trying to fix.  30 seconds at 30 km/h is not going to cause a bottleneck in any meaningful way. There is a red light that the cars reach 100 metres after the underpass.  I am sorry to report that the long-held f***-the-bikes design criteria is not longer a valid traffic flow methodology. 

Our opinion: 

Because underpasses are natural car-speeding-zones,  severe efforts need to be taken to control and slow down cars to the existing legal speed limit, and then slow down a bit more to a safe speed for co-habitation with other road users (bike riders) with the new 30 km/h speed limit we are seeing (just not seeing obeyed) in proven danger zones (i.e. school zones).  An underpass I use regularly is posted 50 km/h and every day I see cars exceed 80 km/h. On an urban street. This is not acceptable driving behaviour.

This is about changing the bad habits and specifically urban speeding. The speed of the motor vehicle has a big influence on whether the victim is certain to die or is merely severely injured.  30 km/h for 30 seconds is not a big price for the car driver to pay to prevent the deaths of innocent, law-abiding road users who choose to use a bicycle as their transportation mode.  The right to security of person is a constitutionally guaranteed Canadian human right.

Is one death not enough to demand serious action that requires harsh penalties for dangerous speeding? (and slowing down your car for 30 seconds is not exactly a severe measure - they are just going to get stopped at the next red light anyway). 

How many deaths will be enough?  It is past time to hold car drivers a lot more responsible for killing cyclists than we have seen in our recent history. Kill someone (or multiple people)  with a bike in Quebec and it is "get out of jail free" and this is unacceptable in out so-called civilized world.  

We are coming up to the 4 year anniversary of the triple cyclist death on rt 112 near Rougement.  A triple-death where the driver was never charged with anything, an outcome that most observers find unbelievable.  This has never been adequately explained to the public, a public whose security we give the government the powers to enforce. 

Every cyclist knows that the next death could be him or her. This is why the recent underpass death shocked us all so much, car drivers and cyclists alike.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

why you should check your bike before a ride

This Mavic Open Pro wheel was a POS from the first day ABC cycles sold it to me. Non-stop problems, tires not staying on rim (blew off the first time taking it home from store!), it constantly cut tube valve-stems, never stayed straight, and now today the spoke pulled out of the rim.

Standard Spring Ride in Chateauguay Valley

This is the standard ride. There are a dozen variations to make it longer or shorter. Avoid numbered highways. The backroads are the bike roads. One highlight is the recently restored Powerscourt covered bridge, Quebec's oldest covered bridge and an excellent rest stop. The concrete deck at the east side is an excellent terrace for picnic and a quick snooze, er stretch!

Here is the standard version (note you can split this ride into two for a shorter version: do an out-and-back ride along the Chateauguay river, or out and back on Rockburn sideroad):

Here is a slightly longer and even better version:

Look at my other bikely rides to see the many variations for rides from 50 km to 150 km.

Here's a blog post with a few pictures before the bridge was restored.