Winnipeg drivers taking anger out on cyclists

Cyclists say the tension between cars and bicycles in Winnipeg is translating into more cases of so-called buzzing.
Winnipeg cyclists say they are experiencing more close calls as drivers take out their frustrations over the city's moves to make roads more bike-friendly. ((CBC))

Cyclists say the tension between cars and bicycles in Winnipeg is translating into more cases of so-called buzzing.

Jackie Avent of the lobby group Bike to the Future said the group has received many reports in the past few days of drivers intentionally getting too close to cyclists.

Avent was one of those who experienced a close call last week, when a car brushed her arm as it passed by.

"It's terrifying. Another half inch, and I would have had my arm broken," she said.

The tension has been caused by a recent spate of roadwork the city has undertaken to make roads more bike-friendly. However, drivers and many residents are frustrated with the construction.

Mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis said her son was also buzzed a few days ago.

"I think [the situation] reflects just how much we have to build the consensus and how far we have to go to change the culture of commuting in this city," she said.

People who live on Berry Street protested the construction of bike lanes in late September, claiming they would devastate the street's trees and boulevards.

The Berry Street Bikeway is intended to be a 1.75 km bike boulevard linking the northwest community to downtown as well as to the airport.

A concrete circle, designed to slow traffic, is installed along Grosvenor Avenue in Winnipeg's River Heights neighbourhood. ((CBC))

Some residents, who started a petition to stop the city from building the path, chased construction crews away on Sept. 27.

Other traffic-calming measures to slow motorists and make it safer for cyclists include round concrete islands in some intersections and limiting travel on others.

A group of business owners is also taking the City of Winnipeg to court over traffic issues on a stretch of Assiniboine Avenue downtown, where a bikeway under construction has changed the direction of traffic on several streets.

In a statement of claim, the business owners claim the changes are dangerous because they restrict access by emergency vehicles.

The city has come under criticism from many people who claim there has been insufficient public consultation on the changes.

Motorists have to learn to accept the fact that municipalities are trying to encourage more cycling and it takes physical changes to the roads to do so, Avent said. For the time being, cyclists have to be patient, she said.

"Cyclists need to have a thick skin and realize that this is part of change and take a deep breath and be calm about it rather than fuelling that frustration and anger that's out there," Avent said.