Cohabitation or animosity?
Buses and bicycles have to learn to work together
Although cyclists and bus riders often share similar concerns such as environmental awareness and financial savings, the relationship between the two can be at times strained.
To cyclists, buses are dangerous to ride alongside and sometimes encroach on their territory. For example, the cycling lane on Maryland is exceptional for cycling, but is difficult to use when buses cross into cycle territory to pick up and drop off passengers.
For bus riders there is the frustration of being stuck behind a slow cyclist on the Osborne Bridge, or being sideswiped by a sidewalk-riding cyclist while waiting for the bus.
I do not think this tension results from a primal distrust of one another, but rather from being forced to fight over car-focused infrastructure leftovers. Scarcity in this instance breeds conflict.
Despite the occasional wariness of each other, given the common goals of the two parties, many cyclists continue to be public transportation advocates and vice versa.
The soon-to-open Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor (SWRTC) from downtown to Jubilee brought together cycling and bus advocates to hopefully make the route positive for both parties. The route does have some mutually beneficial characteristics, but still has some obstacles.
The improved biking path along Donald Street from Harkness to Osborne is a benefit for cyclists. However, the Osborne Street underpass, which the new Osborne Station will sit atop, still poses a problem for cyclists.
Presently, cyclists are faced with either braving car traffic in the darkened underpass or disrupting pedestrians on the tight sidewalk.
Bus, pedestrian and bike advocates requested a cycling tunnel be built during the transit corridor construction, to accommodate the estimated 181 cyclists who use the underpass daily. In response, the city commented that bike infrastructure will be incorporated in the underpass refurbishment which is scheduled to happen in 2015.
Another issue is the tunnel built under the Fort Rouge rail tracks will only serve buses.
Pedestrians and cyclists will still not be able to move between North and South Osborne without going through either the Jubilee or Osborne underpasses.
The greatest potential for buses and cyclists to mutually benefit is the second stage of the SWRTC. In the plan, cycle paths are to be built alongside the bus corridor, which parallels the CN line west of Pembina.
Having a cycling option to Pembina would be welcome respite for those who are currently forced to brave the busy street.
The extension of the corridor would be positive, since it is often easier to implement better cyclist/pedestrian routes on new infrastructure than trying to incorporate them on existing roads, especially roads designed for cars with active transportation as an afterthought.
Despite the recent attempt to accommodate cycling, the city of Winnipeg continues to primarily focus on car transportation. While the second stage of the SWRTC route is shelved, outer road extensions - i.e. Chief Peguis, Tuxedo Yards - continue to be built.
Not to bemoan road construction, but a continual fight over leftovers is straining the nerves of both bus riders and cyclists.
A member of the Winnipeg Rapid Transit Coalition, Lucas Redekop is a mature student with an interest in civic discourse who lives in West Broadway.
Published in Volume 66, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 26, 2011)