Hundreds ‘Die’ Near Phillip’s Square

50,000 Montrealers Leave Their Car at Home for En Ville Sans Ma Voiture!

Hundreds of protestors staged their death at the corner of Ste. Catherine Street West and McGill College Avenue on Sept 22.

The die-in was held in conjunction with the eighth edition of En ville sans ma voiture!, a day where 50,000 Montrealers chose to leave their cars at home.

“I don’t think people should be allowed to drive cars downtown,” said Charli Rascal, one of the protestors participating in the event.

The act of protest, organized by Collectif Montreal à vélo, was a symbolic gesture against the death and pollution caused by car use in Quebec. In 2009, 515 people died in automobile accidents.

The Agence métropolitaine de transport held a rally at nearby Phillips Square before the die-in. Cycling activists made speeches encouraging the use of public transit and bicycles.

Largely considered a trailblazer in North American cyclist activism, Robert Silverman spoke at the event. Silverman, also known as Bicycle Bob, founded Montreal’s first bicycle advocacy group in 1975. His group, called Le Monde a Bicyclette, was formed to pressure the city into creating safer options for public transport and encourage citizens to consider alternative public transportation options like the metro and bus systems as well as walking, running and cycling to get around downtown.

The efforts of LeMaB and other environmentalist groups led to the creation of the downtown bicycle path and paved the way for the success of the BIXI bike-rental service in Montreal.

Despite these victories for cyclists, protestors hoped to remind drivers to be aware of their presence on the road.

“Cyclists don’t have enough space,” said Claire MacDonald. “The roads belong to cyclists, too.”

After the speeches at Phillips Square, the group of cyclists marched down the street, blocking traffic, ringing their bells, and chanting “Leave the car, it ain’t that far, get off your ass, save some gas!” until they reached McGill College Ave. and Ste. Catherine Street West where they “died” surrounded by onlookers.

Many protestors were covered in fake blood to make the scene even more dramatic. Car Free Day is an annual, worldwide event with similar “die-ins” staged to remind us all to be careful on the roads, and to urge us to consider leaving the car at home.

—With files from Casey Keating

“The roads belong to cyclists, too.”
-Claire Macdonald,
Die-In Attendee

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 07, published September 28, 2010.