Montreal consistently is ranked as the best bicycling city in North America and among the most cycling-friendly cities in the world.

One reason is because bicycling as a means of transportation has moved out of a niche culture and into the mainstream, especially since bicycle sharing became a regular feature of the city's streets.

In the attempt to make sound decisions about where bike racks should be installed, and whether new streets should get bike paths, politicians and activists are relying on data from a company based in France called Eco-Counter.

"There's a big push for green transportation and also physical activity everywhere in the world and our solutions help people to measure the impact of the policies they put in place," said Jean-Francois Rheault.

In Montreal Eco-Counter has set up infrared and motion sensors in sidewalks and streets in order to track how many pedestrians and bicyclists are using certain streets.

"We also have inductive loops that we place in the ground so we can detect accurately the first wheel and then the second wheel of the bicycle, we also have pressure pads, rubber tubes," said Rheault.

The company doesn't try to keep its data private -- in some locations it has set up "eco-totems" to keep a running tally of how many riders have gone past a given spot each year.

Rheault said that is important because many ballpark estimates of cyclists are way off.

"If you take someone on the street and you ask them how many people do you think are using the bike path sometimes they will underestimate by 10 times so having this counter with the visible display helps to communicate," he said.

Eco-Counter is also monitoring cycling across North America, with installations in major American cities in 40 states, and more than 7,000 systems set up in more than 40 countries.