Study finds many in Saskatoon assume cycling is dangerous, some view cyclists as 'special'

Only a minority of people recently quizzed by a city-hired consultant see people who cycle as “just regular people.”

Minority of people quizzed by city-hired consultant see people who bike as 'just regular people'

A new report says many people in Saskatoon view cycling in the city as being unsafe. (City of Saskatoon )

Many people in Saskatoon assume it's too dangerous to cycle within the city and only a minority of residents view cyclists as "just regular people," according to a recent poll.

The conclusions were drawn after a consultant hired by the City of Saskatoon recently polled a small sample of 515 people.

"By a large margin, the number one barrier keeping Saskatonians from riding their bikes more often is a fear of unsafe streets," according to a new summary report from Copenhagenize Design Co. and 8-80 Cities, two non-Saskatchewan companies that conducted the study on behalf of the city. 

"Many also associate bikes with recreation rather than transportation, and assume that cycling around the city would be both dangerous and inconvenient."

A perceived lack of on-road safety was cited as the number one barrier for people to cycle in the city. (City of Saskatoon)

While 74 per cent of people have "positive associations" with cyclists, only 10 per cent see cyclists as friends, families, parents and children.

"There is a perception that those who choose to ride are special in some way," the consultants wrote. "Only a minority see people who bike as 'just regular people.' "

Cyclists who ride on sidewalks came up as a concern. (City of Saskatoon)

Sidewalk cyclers, angry drivers cited

The city conducted the poll this past spring to help shape an education campaign expected to launch this summer.

The campaign's goal is to normalize the act of cycling while also informing cyclists and drivers about the rules of peaceful co-existence.

"In spite of Saskatoon's reputation for friendliness, the lack of both knowledge and empathy between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians has escalated the risks of conflict on sidewalks, trails, and roads," according to the report.

Common concerns about cyclists that were brought up included:

  • Riding on sidewalks (which is a ticketable offence unless the area is marked as a shared pathway).
  • Swerving through traffic.
  • Putting pedestrians at risk by riding too fast on shared trails.

On the flip side, people cited the following concerns about motorists:

"There is no excuse for rude and disrespectful cyclists," said Cathy Watts, a member of biking advocacy group Saskatoon Cycles, via email. 

"There are a few car and truck drivers in the same category. Distracted drivers running red lights and stressing pedestrians and cyclists in crosswalks on the green light are a daily experience for active transportation choices. How did we get this way?

"There is peace on the road when everyone has a piece of the road."

Thirteen per cent of people cited the need for an education campaign like the one the city is planning. 

The city says its campaign will be respectful of all people.

A much-debated plan to begin installing new downtown bike lanes in 2021 recently collapsed at city hall. Current bike lanes on 4th Avenue S will be taken out starting in the middle of this month, according to the city.

"Good luck with the Copenhaginize campaign to normalize cycling downtown when the 4th Ave protected lane comes out," said Watts. "It certainly had its problems but you could at least get to the library from the Broadway Bridge with your grandchildren. Sigh."

Study methodology

The city wanted to speak to a broad cross-section of people to help shape its campaign.

The city wanted a broad cross-section of people to be quizzed. (City of Saskatoon)

It held workshops; pop-up sessions at eight busy locations across the city, including the Meewasin Trail at River Landing, Market Mall and Broadway Avenue; focus groups targeted at youth, new Canadian residents and Indigenous people; and an online survey of 215 university students.

Read the city's full summary report below. On mobile? Click here

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Guy Quenneville

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