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11. Montreal Canadiens

Frostbitten Hooligans

 

Forget the riots that erupted last May after the Canadiens made it to the Eastern Conference final; they were nothing compared with the hordes of looters who set fire to five police cars during the 2008 playoffs simply because Montreal advanced past the first round. Meanwhile, inside the Bell Centre, the only things people boo more frequently than the U.S. national anthem are their own players. In 2003, team veteran Patrice "Breeze-by" Brisebois was heckled almost every time he touched the puck; the jeering was so intense it likely induced a stress-related irregular heartbeat. How did then GM Bob Gainey feel about his bloodthirsty fan base? "I think they're a bunch of gutless bastards, to be honest," he said.

 

Photo: AP Photo/

 

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And compared to Philly, we're soft. They get nos 1 AND 2 spots!

 

2 and 1. Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies

The Meanest Fans in America

 

Over the years, Philadelphia fans have booed Santa Claus as well as their own star players. They've even booed a guy who just helped the city win a friggin' World Series title—while he was getting his ring. Boooo! Admittedly, there are some things fans have cheered. Like Michael Irvin's career-ending neck injury and a fan being tased on the outfield grass. Things reached their nadir last season, when Citizens Bank Park played host to arguably the most heinous incident in the history of sports: A drunken fan intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl. The truth is this: All told, Philadelphia stadiums house the most monstrous collection of humanity outside of the federal penal system. "Some of these people would boo the crack in the Liberty Bell," baseball legend Pete Rose once said. More likely, these savages would have thrown the battery that cracked it.

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On a more positive note: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jun/17/people-power-montreal-north-america-cycle-city

 

The Guardian (London, England)

 

People power: the secret to Montreal's success as a bike-friendly city

 

Peter Walker meets Bicycle Bob and the activists whose 1970s ‘die-ins’ and theatrical stunts kickstarted the Canadian city’s unlikely bike culture

Cycling in Montreal

 

When it comes to cycling Montreal has a few undeniable drawbacks. For a start, it’s hilly, the streets rising gradually from the riverside to Mont Royal, a tree-lined peak which reaches eye level with the tops of the city centre skyscrapers. And then there’s the winter, with several months of snow and constant below-zero temperatures, leaving the roads rutted and cracked.

 

But on a still-tepid morning in early summer the cyclists are nonetheless massing in the city’s Jeanne-Mance Park. Lots of them – about 30,000, in fact. Some are dressed in Lycra with lightweight road bikes, but the majority are wearing everyday clothes, many with children, either riding their own tiny machines or on one-wheeled add-ons to a parent’s bike, even toddlers strapped into trailers.

 

It is the start of the Tour de L’Île, an annual mass ride with routes of anything from 18 to 60 miles through streets closed to vehicle traffic for the day. It is both a celebration of Montreal’s unlikely bike culture and a yearly reminder to its politicians and officials of how numerous and varied is the local two-wheeled population.

 

More than that, the tour and its associated week of bike-connected events is a tribute to the motley, theatrical collection of activists who, 40 years ago, set the city on its way to the self-claimed title of North America’s most bike-friendly major metropolis.

 

Bob Silverman, Montreal cycle activist

Activist ‘Bicycle Bob’ attempts to part the waters of the Saint Laurence river. Photograph: Robert Silverman archive

This is, of course, a relative boast. By comparison with somewhere like Copenhagen, Montreal remains dominated by cars. But there is a thriving bike culture, helped by nearly 400 miles of cycle lanes, about 150 miles of which are separated from motor traffic. Even on a normal day – at least outside the depths of winter – cyclists are everywhere. The city also has around 5,000 of its Bixi public hire bikes, familiar to anyone who has used the near-identical London scheme.

 

The genesis of all this can be traced back to people like Robert Silverman, better known to his fellow citizens as Bicycle Bob. Now 81, he was among the founding members of Le Monde à Bicyclette in 1975, a loose collection of mainly artists, activists and anarchists who, styling themselves the “poetic velo-rutionary tendency”, pioneered many of the direct action tactics common to modern protest movements.

 

“We had a lot of what I call cycle frustration,” Silverman says. “At the time there was no infrastructure, nothing to encourage biking, all the transport spending since the war had gone into cars.”

 

As well as campaigning for cycle lanes – one tactic was the “die in”, using ketchup to mimic blood – Le Monde à Bicyclette sought access to the city’s metro system for those with bikes. This involved deliberately absurd theatrics, for example taking ladders, skis and cardboard cut-out elephants on to trains, as well as an ultimately successful legal challenge to the rules.

 

Another key objective was a bridge across the Saint Laurence river which cyclists could use. Silverman and is fellow activists blocked one bridge with a game of volleyball. They invited photographers to watch them try to load bikes into canoes to paddle to the opposite bank. In another memorable stunt Silverman hired a Moses outfit from a fancy dress shop and stood at the riverfront, trying to part the waters to let the bikes across.

 

“The journalists loved us,” recalled Jacques Desjardins, the only French Canadian among the group’s founders. “Most people probably thought we were crazy but the journalists loved our events, as they were so theatrical. We were on the front pages every Monday.”

 

Montreal was far from alone among North America cities in seeing a surge in bike use during the 1970s, a phenomenon inspired both by fashion and the Opec oil crisis. But unlike with its peers, the “bike boom” did not fizzle out, the city continuing to promote cycle use.

 

A good part of this was down to Vélo Québec, the somewhat less flamboyant counterpart and ally to Le Monde à Bicyclette, which began in the late 1960s as a cycle touring agency but soon branched into campaigning. In 1985, the year the first bike lanes were finally built in Montreal, Vélo Quebec launched the Tour de L’Île.

 

Around 30,000 cyclists gathered for this month’s Tour de l’Île cycle parade. Photograph: Maxime Juneau/Vélo Québec

The first of these, held in autumn, was quite poorly attended, recalls Suzanne Lareau, Vélo Quebec’s chief executive, who started with the organisation as a student intern in 1979 and now leads a permanent staff of more than 70. “But the second, in 1986, was in June, and we had 15,000 cyclists,” she said. “After that the politicians realised there was a phenomenon there. Then we had more and more people.

 

“We always had two goals with the Tour de L’Île. Firstly, it was to encourage people to use bikes and promote cycling. But the second goal was a political message. When you have 10,000 or 15,000 or 20,000 or 40,000 cyclists on the streets, politicians can’t say: ‘Nobody cycles here.’”

 

And Montreal’s politicians don’t say that. Denis Coderre, a former Liberal MP in Canada’s federal parliament who was elected the city’s mayor in 2013, is undeniably in touch with his two-wheeled constituency. He has promised to double the network of bike lanes, using the week of the Tour de L’Île to announce a brand new protected route through the centre. Coderre even took part in the Tour itself, following a much-publicised health kick which saw him lose almost 20kg.

 

“Cycling is part of our lives,” Coderre said, leaning on his bike at a rest-stop midway through the ride. “People enjoy it. The city belongs to everybody, and the bottom line is to always protect the most vulnerable.

 

“Vélo Quebec and all the others, they have helped change the culture. When people come to a city, they’re not just coming for a job. They’re coming for the infrastructure, the wellbeing, the quality of life.”

 

All this was the result of a citizens’ movement … We forced them to take decisions, year after year

 

The cycling culture is seen as a draw for Montreal, a place regularly included in the various league tables of the world’s most liveable cities. The campaigners’ role in all this is similarly noted – the main bike route through the centre of the city is named after Claire Morissette, Silverman’s co-leader in La Monde à Bicyclette, who died in 2007.

 

While Morissette’s eponymous lane is separated by a kerb, many others are marked by paint only. And while motor traffic is often heavy, drivers are generally careful about cyclists, with the city seeing just one rider killed on the roads in 2014. Cyclist numbers drop significantly in winter, although the city now clears snow from more than 150 miles of bike routes in an attempt to encourage year-round riding.

 

For Silverman, Desjardins and Lareau there is a justifiable sense of what they achieved.

 

“All of this was the result of a citizens’ movement, not of decisions by the authorities,” said Desjardins. “We forced them to take decisions, year after year. That’s the opposite of what’s happened in most American cities, where the mayor takes a tough decision to encourage cycling.”

 

Desjardins recalls how he and his fellow bike activists were greeted with scorn by the Marxist-Leninists and Maoists who predominated in the city’s more radical circles in the mid-70s: “They laughed at us, we were called the petit bourgeouis. But now they all live like the bourgeouis, while we’re still living cycling around, living simply.

 

“We’re very proud. We changed the city. It’s rare you get involved in a movement that really changes things.”

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