Manitoba

Cycling down due to inadequate infrastructure, says Bike Winnipeg

The number of Winnipeggers who cycle to work is down slightly compared to 2014 data, according to a new report by the Bike Winnipeg.

New report found fewer cyclists commuted to work in Winnipeg this spring compared to 2014

The number of people commuting on bicycles in Winnipeg is down slightly from 2014, according to a new report by Bike Winnipeg. (Michael Fazio/CBC)

The number of Winnipeggers who cycle to work is down slightly compared to 2014 counts, according to a new report by the Bike Winnipeg.

Over weekday rush hours in May and June volunteers with the advocacy group counted the number of people on bikes at 41 busy intersections in Winnipeg. Their findings were published on Thursday.

In 2016, there were 4 per cent fewer people biking in Winnipeg than in 2014, according to the report. That puts the total number of commuter cyclists in Winnipeg at about 12,600 people, said Jeremy Hull, manager for the annual cyclist counts at Bike Winnipeg.

Bike Winnipeg has been counting the number of cyclists at dozens of locations in the city for 10 years.

Bike Winnipeg indexed the data to the 2007 count, so in 2014 would have been 23 per cent more commuter cyclists than in 2007 while in 2016 there were only 19 per cent more.

"For the last two years, it looks like it's been declining," said Hull.

It's difficult to pin down exactly why fewer people are biking to work, he said. One explanation might be condo construction interfered with the flow of cycling traffic along one particularly popular path — the Assiniboine Avenue trail.

Bike Winnipeg counted 300 to 400 cyclists over two hours when the path was first built, he said, but closures of sections of the trail seems to have discouraged use of the route.

"It sort of reached a peak and dropped off … and that was partly because there was some construction so it fell back."

We've stalled, says Hull

Another possible reason for the dip in cycling, could be a general malaise about the infrastructure in Winnipeg. Many bike routes are cut off by intersections or bridges that lack biking infrastructure.

"There haven't been enough new, attractive facilities built that would attract more cyclists to get out there," said Hull.

While there was a surge in bike path construction from about 2009 to 2012, in recent years there's been a notable slowdown, he said.

"I think we've sort of stalled."

Winnipeg construction has tapered off while cities like Ottawa, Vancouver, Minneapolis are expanding, he said, leaving us behind.

During the annual bike counts, Bike Winnipeg volunteers also note details like the cyclist's gender (the vast majority are male) and whether cyclists are biking on the roadway or a sidewalk.

One piece of good news is that the use of sidewalks has "definitely gone down" in Winnipeg, Hull said. Cycling on sidewalks is dangerous for both pedestrians and cyclists, he said.

In 2007 nearly half of all commuting cyclists — 49 per cent — biked to work on sidewalks. In 2016 that percentage dropped to 19 per cent.

The ratio drops even further when cyclists have the option of using a bike path — fewer than 6 per cent will use a sidewalk if they have a bike path option.

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