Following a June 16 unanimous city council vote, the De Maisonneuve bike path will be named for Claire Morissette, Montreal’s own Joan of Arc of bicycling. Morissette died on July 20, 2007, at age 57 following a long battle with breast cancer.
For more than 30 years she tirelessly promoted bicycling in Canada and in the developing world. Morissette founded cycling lobby organization Le Monde à Bicyclette with Robert "Bicycle Bob" Silverman. As co-president from 1976 to 1997 she staged creative actions that included a "die-in" complete with ketchup "blood" and mangled bicycles and 100 people lying down playing dead at the corner of Ste-Catherine and University; to protest the ridiculousness of a metro no-bicycles rule, group members brought along skis, ladders and cardboard elephants – all allowed at a time when bicycles were barred from the metro. She fought for safer and better routes for cyclists and more bicycle paths, including the De Maisonneuve bike path.
To get people cutting their car use, she initiated the Montreal branch of car-sharing organization Communauto. In 1999, Morissette founded Cyclo Nord-Sud, a non-profit organization that has shipped more than 23,000 donated bicycles to the developing world, many of them to women who rely on the bicycles to get water or do the shopping for their families. In her book Deux roues, un avenir, published in 1994, Morissette not only reveals the state of bicycle facilities across the world but shares her passion for cycling and for cycling activism.
"It’s a big victory," says Marie-Andrée Payeur, Cyclo Nord-Sud’s communications co-ordinator. "We’re really happy." Payeur says the group’s campaign to have the bike path named for Morissette drew support from hundreds of Quebec cyclists, from environmental group allies including Vélo-Québec, Communauto, Équiterre and Transport 2000 and from City of Montreal executive member André Lavallée and Mile End city councillor Michel Labrecque,
Payeur says last fall Cyclo Nord-Sud officially requested the bike path be named for Morissette, but a city toponomy rule said they’d have to wait until a year after her death. The City of Montreal will hold an official ceremony to inaugurate the Piste cyclable Claire-Morissette some time this August.