My Montreal Biking Experience

I love biking. Nothing beats a leisurely bike ride in the mountains on a nice spring day. Since I love biking, I was excited to learn that Montreal was such a bike friendly city. After all, I have seen the different bike paths, the bixi stations where you can rent a bike for the day, and young and old biking to school, work, or the grocery store. After months of searching, I found a good refurbished bike for a good price. New bikes can cost anywhere from $250 to $800 depending on the brand. I found this to be way too expensive, since in Kuwait or Lebanon you can get a good bike (new) for about $100. I have also heard many stories of thick bike locks being sawn off and expensive bikes being stolen in broad daylight.
So I decided to bike to work today and try biking as a mode of transportation as opposed to an activity you do on the weekend. I would be outside getting some exercise instead of being in a crowded metro. Google Maps assured me that it would be a 15 minute bike ride to the office. I set off with my helmet, backpack and headphones on, expecting an awesome ride.
First, there were no bike paths on my street so I had to stay on the right and avoid being run over by cars and going over pot holes. Then it started raining, heavily, with wind blowing rain in my face. I may or may not have swallowed a bug. It felt like biking through a car wash. By the time I got halfway through, I was completely drenched and freezing, my legs were on fire, and my butt was sore.  At one point I felt like I was in military boot camp, with the drill sergeant yelling in my ear, keep going soldier, keep going.
The ride back was much better. I found the street with a bike path and it wasn’t raining. Even though the experience wasn’t as fun as I hoped, it was still a nice way to get around. I just hope the weather cooperates.

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Montreal Students Protest Tuition Hikes

Yesterday, over 200,000 students demonstrated against the proposed tuition hikes in Montreal. The proposed tuition hike would increase annual tuition fees by $325 according to CBC News.

Coming from Lebanon and having watched the Arab Spring, it was unusual for me to see a protest that didn’t arise from a few bombs, a dictator or an assassination, but I digress.

I fully support the students’ right to peacefully protest something they oppose.  However, I don’t feel that a $325 increase in annual tuition fees warrants a city wide protest. Quebec still has one of  the lowest university tuition fees in Canada. Students seem to forget that if the tuition fees paid by Quebec students are not increased, the universities will just keep increasing international student fees.

For example, a Quebec undergraduate student in the University of Montreal will pay about $72.26 per credit, while an international undergraduate student pays between  $485.39 to $639.97 per credit. That is a difference of over 500%. If international student tuition fees continue to increase, many international students will choose to pursue their higher education elsewhere.

The tuition fees subsidization may also give the provincial government justification to increase taxes, without having to prove that the tax revenue went to supporting university education programs.

Yes taxes will continue to increase and yes, universities may continue to spend their revenue on shiny new buildings without spending on the actual programs. But keeping the Quebec students’ tuition fees at the level they are while increasing international students’ tuition fees is not the answer. I do believe higher education should be a right for every individual, but the right shouldn’t be awarded to one group of students and not another.

What do you think about the Montreal Student Protests and why?