Showing posts with label Ile Bizard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ile Bizard. Show all posts

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Jacques Bizard bridge

Ile Bizard is one of Montreal's little jewels.

It's an island tucked away in Montreal's north-east wedged in between the Island of Montreal to the south, and Ile Jesus (the city of Laval) to the north.  Ile Bizard is home to Montreal's most prestigious and exclusive golf club, the Royal Montreal Golf Club.  I'm the furthest thing from a golfer, so the club gets short shrift here.

All along the shore on Ile Bizard, McMansions have been springing up.  Every time I go for a ride there, a few more McMansions have sprouted.  It's the water views that hold a special attraction for people with serious money.  Doug Adams had views on the importance of boundary conditions (for instance at the water's edge) in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I'm not sure that the shores of Ile Bizard would have qualified for him, or, for that matter, that living in a McMansion on the shores of Ile Bizard would be the sort of place where you might transcend the human condition.

From the Montreal side you get to Ile Bizard over the Jacques Bizard bridge. From Laval you get there on a wonderful little cable ferry. I've written about the ferry before (click here) and I crossed on the ferry to Laval on the way to Ottawa (click here for that post).

This post is mostly about the bridge and fits as part of the Montreal bridge posts. Click here to go to the bridge posts page.
I wandered down the aptly named rue du Pont on the Montreal side to snap this picture of the bridge.  The bridge is a three-lane bridge and there are overhead traffic lights that determine the direction of the center lane.  In the morning there are two lanes southbound, in the evening, two lanes northbound.  There is nothing else remarkable about the bridge.  It's not particularly long; nor particularly tall; it's not a draw or lift-bridge; it isn't decorated or otherwise arty, and there is no particular magic to its engineering since it's neither cantilevered nor supended.  It's just a serviceable and useful bridge.  Not all bridges are as ambitious as the Golden Gate or the Pont Alexandre III.

If you were in a boat and headed westward up river from Ile Bizard you would enter the Lake of Two Mountains.  Along with Lake St-Louis on the south shore of the West Island, these lakes are Montreal's boaters' paradise.  All along the shore there are yatch clubs and marinas, home to hundreds of pleasure craft.
As a result of the greater concern for environmental issues, the Rivière des prairies is much cleaner than I remember it growing up.
Where the Rivière des prairies skirts the north shore of Ile Bizard the current is very strong.  It's the strong current that makes the passage on the cable ferry remarkably swift.  Just up stream and west of the ferry, the river is navigable  but the navigation channel has rapids that must make the passage fun, but a little choppy.  Unless you have a boat with a very strong motor, you won't make it back up stream.
To wrap up this post on the Jacques Bizard bridge, here is a video taken crossing the bridge back to the Montreal side.  Not very exciting, but it wraps up this post well enough.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ile Bizard

Early one Thursday evening a few weeks ago, I decided to visit a bit of Montreal that's very close to where I live, but thoroughly out-of-the-way.

Ile Bizard is one of the many islands that sit with the Island of Montreal in the mighty St-Lawrence river at the confluence of the Ottawa river.
The south side of the island is linked to the Island of Montreal by the Jacques Bizard bridge. The only other way for vehicles to get on or off Ile Bizard is a ferry that links the north shore of Ile Bizard to the south shore of Ile Jesus, the island due north of the Island of Montreal.
The only municipality on Ile Jesus is the City of Laval, a sprawling suburb that has seen huge growth in the past ten years.

My father took me on my first ride on the Ile Bizard Ferry when I was 12 or 13 years old. We lived on Ile Jesus at the time in what is now the Chomedey sector of the City of Laval. We had ridden our bikes along the old road that follows the river and we eventually came to the Laval side of the ferry crossing. It seems to me that ferry has operated in that location for as long as anyone can remember.

My Dad told me at the time that the ferry went way back to the horse and buggy days, well before the industrial revolution.

This type of river-crossing ferry was much more common back then, and examples could be found on rivers all over North America. I remember my father explaining that the ferry had no motor and made its way from one shore to the other by exploiting the river's current.

The ferry is tethered to an overhead cable and there is a large keel on the ferry's hull that the crew can direct using a large wheel like a pirate ship's helm. The keel is perpendicular to the ferry and parallel to the river's flow, so when the ferry is perpendicular to the shore, it remains stationary. When the wheel is turned, the cables that tether the ferry angle the ferry into the current so that the keel acts in the water the same way a ship's sail or an aircraft's wing acts in the air.

The current is deflected by the keel and forces the ferry to travel across the river. The ferry's speed is entirely dependent on the strength of the river's current and the angle of the ferry and its keel in relation to the river's flow.

When you’re just a kid growing up you take for granted that the only way to get around involves a motor of one variety or another. From that point of view, when you're twelve or thirteen years old, the Ile Bizard river ferry is an object of mild fascination.

I still find it to be a fascinating and little-known part of Montreal's transportation infrastructure. I took a bunch of pictures to show the ferry in action.

This youtube video, taken from the Laval side of the river, gives a better understanding of the current in relation to the ferry.

At some point the old wooden ferry, the Paule I, was replaced by the current Paule II. The new ferry is now all steel construction with a diesel engine and hydraulics to actuate the cables and angle the ferry and its keel, as well as the lift gates that allow vehicles to board.

Although the current is still doing all the propulsion, the rumble of the diesel and the sleek hydraulics more or less dispel most of the wonder. When I first took the ferry, all you heard was the creaking of the wood and the rush of the water. It was spell-binding to me.

Today, it isn't quite so fascinating, but definitely still a fairly unique and worthwhile thing to experience.

On this occasion I didn't take the ferry, making a mental note to return during the summer and to cross to Laval on the ferry as part of a longer ride.

I continued on the road that circles Ile Bizard following the shoreline.

I was rewarded with an incredible sunset on the north shore of the island just about a kilometer beyond the ferry landing. Unfortunately my-point-and-shoot camera refused to capture what my eyes beheld, so no pictures of that sunset to share.

As the island road twists and turns and rises and dips its way west then south and back east toward the bridge, the scenery becomes very rural. Nothing but farms and fields and much cooler air.

As I mentioned in the previous post on my Tour de l'Ile ride with the Club Scooter de Montréal, the route followed the same path around Ile Bizard.

It was just as much fun sharing this marvelous tucked-away corner of Metropolitan Montreal with 30 other scooterists in the early afternoon, as it was to ride it alone at dusk. Except the ride organizers neglected to stop to allow us to marvel at the ferry.

But even if they had stopped, they wouldn't have enjoyed it from a thirteen year olds' perspective.

Monday, June 28, 2010

First group ride

Brace yourself for a long post, 'cause there's lots to share.

Sunday I set out for my first group ride: the Club Scooter de Montréal's 7th annual Tour de l'ile.Thirty plus riders showed up for the event. The departure point was at the parking lot next to the chalet in Lafontaine Park.The park is the club's departure venue for its Sunday group rides. The annual Tour de l'ile ride (literally, "around the island") in some ways is the signature Montreal ride. It is patterned on a similar ride for cyclists that for the last 12 years has attracted hundreds of participants.

Because it was going to be my first group ride, I was a little apprehensive. I had the benefit of having read a number of posts on Modern Vespa and was aware of the special risks of group rides, as well as the principal ways to mitigate those risks.

The ride departure was set for 11:00 a.m. with the organizers intending to show up at 10:00. I got there at 10:15 because I wanted to meet Pierre (his alias is Voyageur5 on Modern Vespa).

When I got there there were already three or four riders there, including Pierre.Voyageur5 rides a bright yellow Vespa GTS that's a real beauty. He's made a number of modifications including GPS and camera mounts, switched power outlet, dual horns (a Stebel air horn in addition to the stock horn), special polymer protective coatings on the cowls and glove box to ward off damage to the paint from saddlebags and ignition keys, windscreen, front rack, bar-end weights, and the list goes on. He's been riding motorcycles since he was 16 and has ridden all over the US and Canada, Panama, Europe and North Africa.

Meeting a proficient and experienced rider like Pierre puts my own meager experience into its proper perspective.

As the other riders showed up, it became clear that the ride was going to be quite an experience. There were experienced senior riders among the organizers on Burgman 400's, a bunch of 250cc scooters including Aprilias, and Vespa GT's, and a collection of two-stroke scooters including 2 amazing fully restored vintage Vespas.Finally, a small flotilla of 49cc mopeds, including a Jawa and a Solex Stentor joined the parade.What with a few key late arrivals, the departure was delayed to just past 11:30 a.m.

We finally set out. There were a number of first-timers, and so the organizer's pre-departure sermon on group riding rules and etiquette was more than welcome, and served to lay some of my concerns to rest.

The route was ambitious: north along Christophe Colomb and l'Acadie boulevard to Gouin Boulevard which runs along the north shore of the Island of Montreal. Then west along Gouin to the Jacques Bizard bridge to Ile Bizard, all around that island and back across the river to Montreal where we stopped for lunch at local fast food place.After a quick bite we continued west along Gouin around the western tip of the island and east along the southern shore, eventually to the city of Westmount and up Mount Royal to the observatory and then down the east face of the mountain and back to Lafontaine Park.

Here, in no particular order, are the high points of the ride:
  • Keeping the group together in the city was a challenge because of the many intersections with traffic lights. The organisers had helmet headsets that helped them to herd us along. They stopped us at green lights until the group got back together and we'd set off again. It worked really well with tolerable risk.
  • Keeping a close eye on the flock paid off when one of the mopeds broke down. Two of the organizers rode back, took care of the moped and had the marooned mopeder ride pillion on one of the big Burgmans so that she could enjoy the remainder of the ride.
  • Motorists showed amazing courtesy patiently waiting for the scooter parade to pass.
  • I was pleased to see the smiles we got from scores of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists wherever we went.
  • The scenery was often spectacular, particularly along the many stretches of shoreline.
  • The intrepid folks on the mopeds, from kids to adults, rode the whole way, from 11:30 to well past five o'clock, wide open throttle and 50 km/h all the way, with little in the way of acceleration, other than some vigorous pedalling on the many take-offs. All accomplished with generous beaming smiles.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by how well my LX150 kept pace with the larger GTs, especially in terms of acceleration.
As for the less appealing aspects of the group ride experience:
  • Following a large number of two-stroke motorbikes means you are constantly bathed in their noxious exhaust fumes for hour after hour. One of the other members of the four-stroke crowd commented on this, mentionning that they preferred to hang well back from the pack to avoid the two-stroke exhaust as much as possible. When the ride was over I felt, and my clothing smelled, like I had just mowed 20 lawns in a row. Definitely not pleasant.
  • As I expected, I much prefer the solo ride. Perhaps riding occasionally in a small group of four-stroke folks would be fine as well. But the Tour de l'ile will be best enjoyed as an annual event.
All in all, a wonderful experience for me, and one that every rider should have at least once.

I'll post separately on the Ile Bizard portion of the route.

Ride safely!
The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.