While February may not seem like the ideal time for cycling, a convention in Montreal is discussing the growth of just such an activity.

The city of Montreal puts effort into ensuring the network of bike paths can be used year round.

On some days, it may seem like the paths only get used by the very brave, but Velo Quebec estimates there are 180,000 winter cyclists in Quebec.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says that translates yearly into 1.3 million winter bike trips in Montreal alone.

“We don't build walls here, we build bridges,” he told the audience at the Winter Cycling Congress taking place Feb. 4 – 14 in the city.

Cycling advocates from North America and Europe are gathering in Montreal to look at the challenges, solutions and benefits of winter cycling, including health benefits and the impact on traffic.

About 10 to 12 per cent of summer cyclists continue biking during the winter months.

“Just on De Maisonneuve Blvd., it's about 600-700 cyclists a day during winter,” said Suzanne Lareau of Velo Quebec.

The biggest challenge for winter cycling in Quebec, of course, is the weather.

“I think from the cycling point of view that's really challenging because the weather changes. So much so, it's hard for the maintenance people to keep the tracks open all the time,” said Timo Perala of the Winter Cycling Federation.

One issue the city is promising to act on is the annual closure of the bike path on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.

“We will send a message to make sure that it should be safer and to have the capacity to cross the bridge,” said Coderre.

Discussions have also begun about the possibility of extending Bixi into the winter months.