The construction of a new bridge linking Windsor and Detroit may still be months or years away, but local cyclists are already lobbying to get what they want.
They're planning a rally for later this week in an effort to drum up support for bike lanes to be included on the new bridge.
"Having new cycling facilities on the new bridge is really important for a lot of people on both sides of the border," said Kari Gignac, chair of the Windsor Bicycling Committee. "We’ve got a lot of people who would love to ride over into the States, for whatever reason."
Gignac said trails on both sides of the border appeal to cyclists. She also said cyclists could bike to events in downtown Detroit.
"Tourism potential is really, really big," Gignac said.
She claimed there are "two or three big bike tours" that come to Michigan and Detroit each year but don’t cross into Windsor because of lack of bike lanes at the local crossings. She said some tours do go to Sarnia.
Adriano Ciotoli owns Windsor Eats, a restaurant guide in Windsor-Essex. He organizes a bike and beer tour on which people bike to and from local pubs and restaurants and sample beer.
He said bike lanes on the bridge would be "a huge economic boom."
"We’ve had a lot of enquiries from visitors from Michigan and we have a lot of connections in Michigan who are just waiting for something to come over here," Ciotoli said. "If they don’t have vehicle transportation to bring the bikes to Windsor they are unable to come over. Having a cycling lane would be huge for us to tap into that market."
Right now, cyclists can’t ride over the Ambassador Bridge or through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.
"It seems like the Ambassador Bridge is the only one that doesn’t allow cyclists," Gignac said.
Bridges in Niagara and Cornwall allows cyclists to cross. And the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia provides a service through which staff members pack the bikes into their vehicles and drive the cyclists across. The service is free.
"It’s not unheard of, it’s feasible," Gignac said of bike lanes. "This is something we want and need."
According to the 2006 Active Outdoor Recreation Report by the Outdoor Industry Foundation in the U.S., 60 million cyclists made 4 billion outings during 2005 and generated $47 billion in trip related sales.
"Bike lanes on the bridge are required to build on the great tourism products we have here in Windsor-Essex," Essex Councillor John Scott said. "Essex has a growing and award-winning wine sector and cycling goes hand in hand with vineyards.
"Areas such as Napa have well developed cycle infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of cycle tourists visiting their wine country."
Windsor Coun. Alan Halberstadt and NDP MP and border critic Brian Masse are on board with the idea. Gignac said she has talked with Transport Canada officials about the idea.
"We’re doing the legwork as much as we know how as an advocacy group and advisory can," Gignac said. "My gut feeling is pretty positive — if we can talk to the right people soon enough."
Gignac said the decision is up to Transport Canada, since Canada is funding the bridge.