Manitoba man commutes by bicycle: 180 km per day

A man in Portage la Prairie, Man., has taken up cycling to work — a 90-kilometre trek across the Prairies to Winnipeg in each direction.
Mike Caslor commutes by bicycle from his home in Portage la Prairie to his job in Winnipeg, a distance of nearly 90 kilometres. ((CBC))
A man in Portage la Prairie, Man., has taken up cycling to work — a 90-kilometre trek across the Prairies to Winnipeg in each direction.

Mike Caslor decided to start riding his bicycle to his downtown office once a week last year as a way to get in shape for mountain-bike racing.

The 31-year-old father of two says his schedule was too busy for training time, so the 90-kilometre commute between Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg was a convenient way to get his exercise in.

The ride takes Caslor, a social worker, about 2.5 hours in each direction — as much as three hours when there's a strong Prairie headwind, he said.

"My office mates think I'm a little bit crazy. But in many ways, part of the reason I do this is to encourage other people to cycle," he said.

"The vast majority of the people I work with don't live 90 kilometres from work. They live nine kilometres from work so they have no excuse: Get on the bike and bike to work."

Since his weekly rides began last year, he became motivated to do it more often to reduce his fuel bill. He now makes the trip by bicycle twice a week.

City bike lanes needed

Caslor is also an avid cycling advocate — and wants to see more bike lanes.  He says cycling in the city is a lot more dangerous than on the highway, contrary to what he's been told.

Caslor says he feels safer on the highway portion of his commute than he does in the city. ((CBC))
"[On the highway], it's really obvious that I'm little old me going fairly slow and not weighing very much.  And everybody out there is very fast and weighs quite a bit, so that creates a respect out on the highway that mitigates a lot of that risk," he said.

Far more dangerous is the city part of the trip, he said. "The interesting thing that happens as soon as you hit the city is that the concept of 'mutual respect' between cyclists and drivers tends to get lessened just a little bit," he said.

"On a place like Portage Avenue, I'm in the slow lane and sometimes … motorists provide me half of the lane, and sometimes less than that.  So sometimes cars pass me with just inches to spare, or a foot or two at most. So it's just that proximity that makes it dangerous."

On the highway, Caslor said, he can use the shoulder as a kind of dedicated bike lane. But in Winnipeg, there are no dedicated bicycle lanes on major routes — something Caslor believes the city should introduce.

City officials say that could be tricky.

"Basically, we didn't really build the city for bikes the first time," said Coun. Jenny Gerbasi. 

"If you don't build it right the first time, to go back and fix it is difficult. But, you know, I think that's the direction we need to go."

Caslor says he has a simple solution: he suggests the city eliminate parking in curb lanes on major routes, such as Portage Avenue and Pembina Highway, and have the parking lane become a cycling lane.

Caslor's cycling route takes him across nearly 90 kilometres of Manitoba prairie. ((Google Maps))