was cyclists’ advocate
Founder of Le Monde À
helped establish city's car-sharing network
and pushed for better facilities
MICHELLE LALONDE, The Gazette
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2007
A white bicycle, a symbol of the worldwide cycling movement, is now
chained to a fence at the Plateau Mont Royal home of well-known cycling
advocate, author and social activist Claire Morissette, who died Tuesday
at 57 after a long battle with breast cancer.
For more than 30 years, Morissette fought for better, safer bicycle
routes in Montreal and affordable access to bikes for people around
The white bicycle was put there during Friday's "critical mass"
bike ride, a monthly event organized by young cycling advocates, many
of whom saw Morissette as their inspiration.
It is exactly the type of event Morissette would have loved, said
her friend and advocacy partner, Robert (Bicycle Bob) Silverman.
"They (the cyclists) stopped in front of her house on Esplanade
Ave. They left the white bicycle, and there was a minute of silence
for Claire," said Silverman, his voice cracking with emotion.
As he prepared for Morissette's memorial service yesterday, Silverman
reminisced about his friend's many accomplishments.
Morissette, with Silverman, founded Le Monde À bicyclette in
the mid-1970s. The group was widely credited for winning cyclists
the right to bring bicycles on the métro, creating a bike link
from Montreal Island to the South Shore, and promoting the main bicycle
Morissette also helped establish Montreal's car-sharing network, Communauto,
and founded Cyclo Nord-Sud, an organization that has sent more than
20,000 used and new bicycles to developing countries since 1999.
In 1994, she published Deux roues, un avenir (Two Wheels,
One Future) a book that explored the history of the global cycling
movement and the bicycle's potential to improve cities.
Silverman recalled with a chuckle the creative stunts, many devised
by Morissette, that Le Monde À bicyclette used to draw public
attention to their cause.
The two organized a "die-in" in 1976, where about 100 people
lay down and played dead at the corner of Ste. Catherine and University
Sts., using ketchup to symbolize blood and mangled bicycles to demonstrate
the effect of the car culture on cyclists and pedestrians.
To show the absurdity of the métro system's no-bicycles rule,
the group brought ladders, cardboard elephants and other large unwieldy
objects into the subway, noting to reporters that métro guards
allowed those but not bicycles.
Morissette continued to push for better bike infrastructure and as
recently as the spring attended the city's announcement of the de
Maisonneuve Blvd. bike path, where she was treated to a round of applause
by city officials and cycling advocates.
Morissette is survived by her partner Pierre Giasson, her siblings,
Jean, Andrée, Claude and Pierre, as well as five nieces.
Claire Morissette has requested that donations be sent to Cyclo Nord-Sud,
PO Box 1242, Succursale Place du Parc, Montreal H2X 4A7. Bicycles
can be donated at 7235 St. Urbain St. For information on dropoff hours,
call 514-843-0077 or go to www.cyclonordsud.org
© The Gazette 2007