Montreal is built right on the mighty St. Lawrence River, so as you’d expect, the city has a lot of bridges! The four main bridges that cross the river into the heart of Montreal are:
- Jacques Cartier
- Samuel de Champlain
But since Victoria Bridge is rail and motor vehicles only, it doesn’t really count.
So that leaves us with three bikeable bridges to the South Shore. Though one of the bridges on the list is actually TWO — a regular bridge and an Ice Bridge, which sounds so cool we had to put it on our route!
We’d crossed Pont de la Concorde during previous rides to Île Notre Dame and Parc Jean-Drapeau, but we’d never been to the iconic Pont Jacques Cartier, so we decided to start there.
Get ready for photos and nerdy bridge facts!
(There’s also a Komoot route map and a VIDEO at the end of this post.)
Jacques Cartier Bridge
We began our ride in Old Montreal, so naturally the first views from the bridge were of the rail yard.
The bike lane is semi-encased in this curved metal fence. The sad reason for this is because the bridge averaged 10 suicides a year before these barriers were installed in 2004.
The Jacques Cartier Bridge always had this “deck” area; it was originally for pedestrians. When the entire deck was rebuilt in 2002, the sidewalk on the western side was made into this bike path. (The eastern side is still a pedestrian sidewalk.)
The first leg of the bridge (before you get to Île Sainte-Hélène in the middle) has a lookout bump-out, so just a heads up that you don’t need to stop in the middle of the bike lane to get a good photo!
The second leg of the bridge provides views of the Olympic Basin and the Biosphere dome.
The descent to the South Shore isn’t steep, but it is long — tons of time to build up a lot of speed! Which is likely why there were signs reminding cyclists to slow down.
And after 2.7 kilometres, we were back on land again — on the South Shore.
South Shore Bike Ride
The Jacques Cartier bridge deposits you at about the halfway point of La Piste de la Riverine. Well, to be honest, the off-ramp is so big that you end up in the suburb of Longueuil and have to make your way back to the river. If we’d headed north from here, we would have gone through Sherbrooke University and met up with the northeast section of La Piste de la Riveraine, which runs right alongside the St. Lawrence and all the way to the town of Varennes. However, we were heading southwest to Sainte-Catherine. This site has a very detailed map of the entire Piste de La Riveraine, including amenities and services.
So we headed towards Ste-Catherine, past l’Île Notre Dame and under Pont Victoria. For this section, the highway was between us and the river, so the views were not great.
But just before Pont Samuel de Champlain, the bike path crosses the highway to the river side where we could see the new Samuel de Champlain bridge in the distance. And soon we crossed underneath both the new and old Champlain bridges.
La Piste de la Riveraine is part of La Route Verte 3, and after crossing under the Champlain bridge (we’d return to it later), the trail turns inland into the suburb of Brossard where it continues on this hydro corridor path.
A few kilometres later, the trail veers back towards the river, and we found ourselves just outside of Le Vieux-La Prairie at a bicycle rest stop. Pier’s tires were feeling a little sluggish, so he thought he’d put some air in them, but alas, the pumps at these stations are too big for the Bromptons’ tiny tires! He ended up having to use the Brompton hand pump.
Tires pumped, we rolled into the old town of La Prairie…
…then continued to the town of Sainte-Catherine and the St. Lawrence Seaway dyke.
St. Lawrence Seaway Dyke
To get to this bike route in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, you cross at the Sainte-Catherine Locks to Récréo park. Most of the park amenities, like the beach, restaurant and camping, are to the left. But we turned right to go to the Ice Bridge!
I’d been referring to this trail as “the sandbar” because that’s what another blogger had called it, but after some more research, I found that its official name is Digue de la Voie Maritime du Saint-Laurent, which literally translates to The St. Lawrence Seaway Dyke. Which makes a lot more sense; it’s much more than a mere sandbar!
At the start of this route, cyclists can go straight, but motor vehicles veer left towards the river side of the dyke. That’s where the activities are (marked Zone Nautique on the map). Perhaps that route would have been more scenic, because once we were past the locks area, the bikes-only road (it’s wide enough for two motor vehicles) is a pretty homogenous view of trees that block sight of the river for most of the ride. But because the road is so wide, the trees don’t provide much shade. The late afternoon sun actually burnt the back of my calves!
After 10km of riding on that endless-feeling, slightly curved road, we arrived at the Ice Bridge!
Champlain Ice Bridge!
When I said “Ice Bridge” to our friend from Montreal, she was confused for a second before she said, “Ah oui, l’Estacade!” So if you’re asking for directions from the locals, make sure you call this l’Estacade du Pont Champlain. That’s its proper name. And to be clear, the Estacade is a separate structure that runs parallel to the actual Samuel de Champlain bridge.
But that simply makes it the best place to get great views of the new and old Champlain bridges!
The old Champlain bridge is a steel truss cantilever bridge, just like Pont Jacques Cartier that we crossed at the beginning of this ride. In 2015, construction began on the new Champlain bridge, a cable-stayed design, which opened to traffic in 2019. Demolition began on the old bridge in 2020 and will take four years, which explains why in 2022 we could still see the old bridge. Apparently, demolishing a structure of that size takes a looooong time.
Good news is that the new bridge includes a multi-use lane for pedestrians and cyclists, though at 3.4km long, I don’t know who’d want to walk across it! It would take almost an hour! But we would like to bike across it. It’s on the opposite side from the Estacade, facing downtown Montreal, so it’ll give totally different views. We’ve put that on the list for this year’s trip to Montreal!
But last year, we cycled northwest across the Ice Bridge, directly into the wind! If you want to ride face-first into a fresh breeze, this is the place to do it! You may wonder if that’s why the English call it the Ice Bridge, but in truth, it’s because this bridge is actually an ice breaker (or ice control boom) built to control the formation and movement of ice down the St. Lawrence River.
Overall, this was a great 52km loop ride! Montreal has excellent cycling infrastructure, even in its suburbs on the South Shore – so many bidirectional bike lanes on both sides of the streets! To see all the goodness, check out our video below.