Bicycles make their mark during Montreal's traditional Moving Day weekend

MONTREAL – Having moved a dozen times before, Pascal Chavannes thought he’d try something a little different this year.

The Montrealer and his girlfriend hired a company that shuttled their collection of appliances by bike.

“It seemed fun and ecological, and it was a bit cheaper,” Chavannes said as he took a break from shuttling the last few boxes down the winding staircase from his apartment, in the city’s trendy Plateau neighbourhood.

“At least it changes the dynamic a little bit, because it gets boring. Moving is boring.”

In Quebec, it can also be chaotic.

July 1 is not only Canada Day in La Belle Province — it’s also known as Moving Day for thousands of renters whose leases expire at the end of June. The tradition dates back to 1750, when the summer moving date was mandated to avoid having tenants evicted in the middle of the province’s harsh winters.

While it’s no longer the required end-of-lease date, the days leading up to July 1 can be a jumbled, messy time for Montreal renters on the move. Abandoned mattresses line the sidewalks, heaps of trash spill from the curb, and moving trucks wrestle their way through the city’s narrow streets.

Lately, a team of cyclists has also joined the fray.

Demenagement Myette, a moving company founded in 2008 by cyclist Julien Myette, has quickly gained a reputation — particularly in the city’s densely-populated Plateau.

“We’re like minor celebrities,” said Derek Colley, a mover in his second season with the company.

“We have the mentality that we’re just doing our job but people yell out, ‘Bon courage!,’ ‘Way to go!’, and clap and get out their video phones.”

But Colley argues it’s more than just a novelty or an ecological statement. He says it’s also practical and cheap.

“The stuff that we move, people do in 16-foot trucks and they park on the sidewalk, or are jutting out onto the tiny roads of the Plateau,” he said.

For Chavannes’ move, Colley said the four-kilometre ride between apartments was the easy part.

Colley and another mover had to carry a washer, dryer, fridge, stove and a couple of mattresses down a steep flight stairs.

The appliances were stacked onto two specially designed trailers that hook onto the back of their bikes, secured with the straps and tarps.

“My boss is fond of saying it’s 90 per cent moving and 10 per cent biking,” Colley said.

For Chavannes, it also meant avoiding the strain of lugging their appliances into a new apartment yet again.

“We’re getting tired of moving a washer and dryer and everything,” he said.

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