The City of Montreal and Mayor Denis Coderre have been awarded the 2017 Smart Cities Award from the International Automobile Federation in recognition of the city’s initiatives in sustainable and intelligent transportation.

In recent years, the city introduced a number of efforts to streamline and refine transport in Montreal, including the Transport Electrification Strategy, the Urban Mobility Management Center (CGMU), and the adoption of the “Zero Vision” road safety – based on a Swedish road model that aims to eliminate fatalities and injuries due to road accidents.

“The city is putting everything in place to maximize the concrete benefits of its investments and efforts to electrify transportation,” Coderre said in a statement Friday. “The changes we see here in favour of more sustainable, intelligent, and service-oriented mobility will find echo elsewhere in the world driven by Montreal’s assumed leadership."

On Thursday, the city also announced the launch of a pilot project—Velo-Transit, an electric bike sharing initiative that aims to reduce road traffic and use sustainable forms of transit.

The award precedes the staging of Montreal’s first Formula E race this weekend.

While many drivers faced brutal traffic due to widespread road closures around the site, Coderre said

Montrealers need to think differently about how they get around.

“We're changing culture. It's the first (E Race), we have to adapt. At the same time we're saying buses, metro and Bixi are free so we're changing gears here,” he said.

Coderre says Montreal earned the Smart Cities Award because of apps like Waze that use open data to ease traffic, adding that public transit is crucial to reducing congestion – even if that congestion is due to the city’s own event.

Many Montrealers, including opposition party Projet Montreal, wanted to hold the race at the Gilles Villeneuve race track, but that would be impossible, said Jean Todt, FIA president.

“Because, simply, we want to promote the use of electric cars in cities,” he said. “It's a display of Formula E electric cars and it has to be in the city because we want to encourage people to use electric cars in cities.”

Coderre said 40 per cent of greenhouse gases in Montreal come from transportation.

CAA CEO Tim Shearman said the race is a step toward making green cars more common.

“The most obvious answer is all around us here today. Letting the public see new technology in action and try them for themselves,” he said.

Despite traffic slowdowns, Montreal deserves the award for urban mobility and is the perfect place for a street race, said Todt.

“Why New York? Why Paris? Why Berlin? Why Rome? It think it's great to have Montreal as one of the leading cities around the world. We encourage and demonstrate clearly the introduction of electric cars,” he said.