Montreal's original 'ghost bike' removed as dangerous stretch of Saint-Denis made safer

·2 min read
The ghost bike commemorating Mathilde Blais, a 33-year-old cyclist who died in 2014, has been removed and will be displayed in a Quebec City museum. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
The ghost bike commemorating Mathilde Blais, a 33-year-old cyclist who died in 2014, has been removed and will be displayed in a Quebec City museum. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Montreal's first ever "ghost bike," make-shift memorials for cyclists killed in traffic accidents, was removed during a ceremony Sunday morning.

The bike painted entirely in white was installed May 5, 2014 to commemorate Mathilde Blais, a 33-year-old cyclist who died in a collision with a transport truck in the Saint-Denis Street underpass near Rosemont Avenue.

Vélo Fantôme (Ghost Bike Montreal), an advocacy group for cyclists, has since made it common practice in Montreal to mark the spot of fatal accidents with a white bike. There are 10 others in and around the city.

The ghost bike marking Blais's death will eventually be displayed at a museum in Quebec City, the Musée de la civilisation de Québec. A plaque will take its place near the Saint-Denis Street underpass.

Blais's death spurred calls for the city to make the narrow underpass safer for cyclists. The city eventually built a dedicated bike lane separated by a cement barrier, part of the recently completed Réseau Express Vélo on Saint-Denis.

Blais's mother, Geneviève Laborde, left, and Severine Le Page of Vélo Fantôme, unveiled the plaque honouring Blais.
Blais's mother, Geneviève Laborde, left, and Severine Le Page of Vélo Fantôme, unveiled the plaque honouring Blais.(Radio-Canada)

Blais's mother, Geneviève Laborde, was the one who suggested the bike be displayed in a museum. "I never considered that bike mine. I consider it a symbol," she said.

Laborde added: "It's hard to be here today, but I'm proud to be here because it signals progress."

A large group of cyclists attended the ceremony at the underpass where Blais was killed and where the ghost bike honouring her was in place since 2014.
A large group of cyclists attended the ceremony at the underpass where Blais was killed and where the ghost bike honouring her was in place since 2014.(Radio-Canada)

Severine Le Page, a spokesperson for Vélo Fantôme, said the ghost bike campaign pressured the city to act.

"I think it has a big role to play because it's visual," Le Page said of the haunting white bikes.

"We see them all over the city [now], unfortunately. Seeing a ghost bike reminds you that this is a conversation we need to keep having with our city and with all levels of government."

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault attended Sunday's ceremony.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says there have been more than 300 collisions involving cars and pedestrians and cyclists on Saint-Denis Street since 2014.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says there have been more than 300 collisions involving cars and pedestrians and cyclists on Saint-Denis Street since 2014.(Radio-Canada)

Plante said there have been 300 significant collisions between cars, pedestrians and cyclists on Saint-Denis Street since 2014.

"Let's stop fighting about who the road belongs to. It belongs to everyone, but we need safety measures to protect the most vulnerable and the most vulnerable are pedestrians and cyclists," she said.