This article was in the Monday September 14 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press
Cyclists long for more good news
Traffic plans need work: bike festival attendees
By: Mary Agnes Welch
Fed up with dangerous drivers and piecemeal bike paths, the city's cyclists are hoping an avalanche of new funding will radically improve the city's bike routes.But some of the thousands of cyclists who cruised through Sunday's Ciclovia festival said bike-lane funding needs to become an automatic part of any new roads built or expanded in the city.
Sunday's festival, which shut Broadway down to traffic, was based on a similar event in Bogota, Colombia, where every Sunday as many as two million people bike through 120 km of streets closed to cars.
Winnipeg's event, the first one of its kind in Canada, was organized quickly by city cycling groups, the Downtown BIZ and the city, but it brought dozens of craft kiosks, information booths, kids' activities and entertainers downtown. And it also meant cyclists could ride for the first time from Assiniboine Park to The Forks on a traffic-free route.
The Ciclovia festival came just days after a big, pre-election funding announcement late last week from the federal Tory government. The Conservatives, along with the city and province, earmarked a total of $20 million for bike and walking paths and on-street bike lanes in 37 different Winnipeg locations.
Kevin Nixon, the city's active transportation co-ordinator, was parked in the middle of Broadway Sunday next to maps and schematics of all the paths he'd like to build. He said the infusion of federal and provincial cash means the city will be able to add dozens of bike trails next summer, filling in huge gaps in commuter lanes.
At the top of his agenda is a two-way, on-street bike lane down Assiniboine Avenue that he hopes can get built before the end of the year.
But some found it a little irksome that the city continues to build new roads, including the $55-million extension of Kenaston Boulevard to the Perimeter Highway, without automatically including commuter bike paths as part of the plan. The small steady changes the city has seen so far, like new recreational trails and the new bike lanes on some downtown streets, are helpful but don't go far enough.
"I would like to see some really big changes," said Kati Nagy, a nurse and fine arts student at the University of Manitoba. "They build new roads all the time. Most of the tiny changes to bike paths you don't even notice."
Nagy said the worst part of her commute is the Jubilee underpass, where tight traffic moves so fast that it pretty much kiboshes her ability to cycle to school. Bridges and underpasses are perennial trouble spots for cyclists.
Recreational cyclist Kerry Stevenson said the city needs to create a bike-path system that's as seamless and safe as possible if people are going to leave their cars at home.
"You've got to make it dead easy and people will use it," he said.