Claire Morissette 1950-2007: "Joan of Arc on a Bicycle"

Claire Morisette was an impassioned cycling advocate in Montreal, fighting City Hall since 1976. She thought cars made no sense in an urban environment: "They take up all that space and leave me a little strip," she once told the Montreal Gazette. "They pollute and throw their noise in my face, and in traffic we go at the same speed." She came up with great stunts to promote bikes; when the transit authorities would not let people bring bikes on the subways, she and other protesters carried toboggans, ladders and skis, all allowed, to point out the foolishness of it. Another famous event was the 1976 "die-in" where a a hundred 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.

In 1994, Ms. Morissette published Deux roues, un avenir (Two Wheels, One Future), a study of the global cycling movement and the humble bicycle's potential to change cities for the good.

She founded Cyclo Nord-Sud which has sent over 20,000 bicycles as aid to third world countries. "the bike is a simple and efficient solution, perfectly adapted to the Third World. In these countries, the car is a complete disaster." They have shipped bikes to 13 countries. "It tears my heart out when I see a bike thrown in the garbage heap," she said. "A bike can have a 20-to-30-year life span, but the average length of use here is about five years." ::Globe and Mail

Tags: Montreal

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