A Placemaking Journal

Ode to Summer Cycling: Winnipeg insights from the trails

As summer wraps up, I’m feeling grateful for the investment of my city and those I’ve visited this season to make getting around on a bike a more pleasant and productive experience. While we still have some significant cycling infrastructure gaps to fill on this continent, we’ve come a long way. This blog’s video is homage to Winnipeg’s advances in the five summers I’ve lived here.

We’ve talked a lot about the value capture that cycling delivers with vigor and cities are moving quickly to invest appropriately. While the Dutch show us what complete commitment to physical and fiscal fitness can deliver, Urban Bikeway Design Guide released by NACTO last month finds inspiration around the world and lays out design guidance for Left-Side Bike Lanes, Contra-Flow Bike Lanes, Buffered Bike Lanes, One-Way Protected Cycle Tracks, Raised Cycle Tracks, Two-Way Cycle Tracks, and Bicycle Boulevards. Design guidance for intersections, signals, and signage look to the most successful cycling cities globally.

Although Vehicular Cyclists may debate these facilities, there are many support groups helping to realize these sorts of next generation amenities, including the Green Lane Project and the Open Streets Project. In many ways, these organizations are creating networks of information that help actualize the cycling networks. Unless all of these well-designed bike lanes, tracks and boulevards connect with each other to get to great urbanism and wilderness – plus everything in between – their value is marginalized.

Nothing demonstrates the almost-gravitational pull of great places more than last month’s video by Jo Wood at City University in London looking at the first 5 million trips on Barclays Cycle Hire. The mesmerizing flow of light maps out those network connections in real time.

With tires engaged, my own four and a half minute video below captures some of my favourite places to cycle in my city of Winnipeg, along with some areas that I still find less than amenable to cyclists. You’ll notice where they are when otherwise law-abiding cyclists get on the sidewalk.

That network of connection is essential to making cycling investments pay off, particularly connecting with Bicycle Friendly Business Districts (BFBDs). While the Woolsley shots in this video are during Cyclovia, it is otherwise a BFBD, along with the Forks and to some extent the Exchange and St. Boniface. Other Winnipeg business districts have some work to do to get there.

In the last two years, over $20 million in federal dollars went into Winnipeg’s active-transportation network, speedily building more than 100 kilometres of bike lanes, pathways, and tracks. As we contemplate how to fund, design, and build the next 100 kilometres, additional thought is going into winterizing, although few of us are at Winnipeg Cycle Chick or Actif Epica levels yet! We definitely have much work to do to get on Bikescore’s top Canadian cities list, but it’s important to celebrate our successes and to have fun heading in that direction.

– Hazel Borys

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