I want to ride my bicycle!

City’s first parking-protected lane paves way for future paths

Slowly but surely, the City of Winnipeg is catching up to the spinning spokes of its cyclists.

Having been officially announced last April, the new bike lane on Sherbrook St. marks the first of its kind for Winnipeg, where cyclists are separated from traffic by a lane of parked cars.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Greg MacPherson, executive director of the West Broadway Community Organization, says. “It took a lot of courage for the City to do
something different.”

The lane runs from the Maryland Bridge north to Cumberland Ave. Only one section is parking-protected and is being viewed as a trial for future bike lanes. So far, it seems to be working out.

MacPherson says he was excited to see parents with children out on the path. Before, families would have been re-routed to the quieter Furby St.

“Forty per cent of residents [in the West Broadway area] don’t own a car and it’s one of the most densely populated areas in the city,” MacPherson says. “So having safe, accessible riding access is really important.”

Matt Magura, a bike courier and cycling advocate, believes an increase in ridership is responsible for the development of the path.

“Advocacy from Bike Winnipeg, the community bike shops and many others is crucial in gaining support from the government,” he says, adding the attention to cycling infrastructure in the downtown area is nice to see.

“That being said, I prefer to be a part of traffic and to ride safely in it,” Magura says.

Mark Cohoe the executive director of Bike Winnipeg, a citizen-driven group advocating for improved cycling infrastructure, says the bike lane is turning people on to active transportation.

“We’ve had a lot of people cycling to work for the first time because of the lane,” Cohoe says. “And a lot of [car] commuters have been responding well, too. I think it will definitely increase ridership.”

Considering Sherbrook St. and Maryland Ave. are two of the busiest bike corridors in the city, Cohoe hopes to see the new bike lane as a model for similar lanes downtown. He also views the lane as a benefit for business owners.

“The fact that people in the neighbourhood have more options for how they get to work and their mobility, I believe as a result they’ll see more money invested back into the local economy,” Cohoe says. 

“New York has done research on the economic benefit [of bike lanes] and the studies show that after a protected bike lane went in, local businesses saw a 49 per cent increase in sales.”

A spokeswoman for the City of Winnipeg says Winnipeg Transit has had zero operating issues so far. However, issues of bike parking and snow removal will have to be addressed down the road.

Still it seems one can’t argue with the benefits of the new lane.

According to MacPherson, “It’s a sign of things to come.”

Sign up for ‘I bike I vote’ at bikewinnipeg.ca to read what mayoral candidates have planned for the future of cycling in Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 69, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2014)

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