Time to invest in making Winnipeg bike friendly
Last weekend, I joined hundreds of Winnipegers in participating in Winnipeg’s 9th annual Ciclovia bicycle festival. What a great cap to Bike Week! Every day, I cycle through Wolseley, the West End and other neighbourhoods in Daniel McIntyre. So it is great to see bicycles celebrated.
During Bike Week, it is a chance to appreciate how many of us are choosing cycling. It is good for the environment, reduces traffic congestion and lowers the need for costly investment in road maintenance. I like to bike, but I am also a pedestrian, a transit user and a car driver. More bikes make more room for all road users. With strategic bike infrastructure like protected bike lanes, cycling can be the healthiest, and also the most convenient, way to get around.
A new survey shows 2/3 of all Winnipegers want more bike lanes. They make our community safer. So why isn’t council investing enough to build a complete network?
While Bike Week is a seven-day event, Winnipeg should make more space for bicycles year-round. We have made some steps towards improving bicycle infrastructure in recent years, for example with a protected bike lane on Sherbrook, but too often our bike network is poorly maintained and lacks connectivity.
Too often, parked cars, debris or a crumbling roadway block the route. In other places, the bike lane ends abruptly, and riders must suddenly merge with traffic, often with little to no signage. One example is the bike route on St. Matthews. It is marked by painted lines from Strathcona to Clifton, starts again on Goulding to Banning, and then the painted lines end. Even where lines are in place, these provide little protection once they are faded by the elements.
Conditions like these mean that many residents avoid choosing cycling as a regular mode of transportation.
Economic impact of cycling
Bike Winnipeg has estimated that if the City devotes an incremental $2 million per year, raising $20 million over four years, it would be enough to make a significant improvement in the connectivity of our bike network. People will be able to get where they need to go by bike anywhere in the city. In our neighbourhood, it would mean we could finish the North South Ruby Banning corridor and build a safer East-West route along Wolseley or Westminster. Cost-shared with other levels of government, this would be an affordable investment in the city’s future.
Bike infrastructure also holds good economic value. Bike lanes across North America have proven to spur development, increase retail opportunities, funding themselves through increased business tax revenue and local economic development. Studies show that people who are on bikes are more likely to stop and spend money at local businesses.
Earlier this year, New York City’s former transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan came to Winnipeg. She talked about the many benefits that her city has experienced by becoming more bike friendly. For example, Pearl Street in Brooklyn saw a 172 % increase in retail sales after new bike infrastructure was installed. These results have been seen not just in cities like New York, but across North America. Hamilton, Halifax, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon are all seeing impressive benefits of new bike infrastructure. Why not Winnipeg?
It’s time for Winnipeg to invest in bike lanes. Let’s complete our bike network to give everyone a safe and healthy way to ride year round.