Windsor focuses on commuter cycling, bike paths

Windsor plans to eventually add approximately 46 km of bikeways and spends $400,000 a year on cycling infrastructure and programs as the number of commuter cyclists grows.

City spends $400,000 each year on cycling infrastructure and programs

Windsor has a small but dedicated and growing number of commuter cyclists. They would like to see more people join them on the roads.

Some commuter cyclists in Windsor say the city is safer and more conducive to cycling than many may think.

Melinda Munro, an executive with the City of Windsor, cycles to work in downtown Windsor approximately three days a week, between March and November.

She said Windsor's weather and flat terrain, coupled with the city's ambitious plan to add bike paths, should entice people to cycle more often.

"The way the city has been adding bike lanes to all its roads is really important," Munro said.

City plans to spend money on bike paths, trails

Transporting a city

This is Part 2 in a CBC Windsor series examining transit in Windsor. Susan Pedler and Tony Doucette will host a town hall examining the issue March 7 at the Capitol Theatre. You can join the conversation on Twitter (@CBCWindsor) and on our new Facebook page. We want you to share your thoughts on and experiences with getting around Windsor.

According to Windsor's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, the city plans to eventually add approximately 46 kilometres of bikeways.

Every year since 2001, the city has annually spent $400,000 on cycling infrastructure and programs. That doesn't count the lanes that are added during regular construction.

The goal of the master plan is to have bike lanes and pathways within a five minute radius of every Windsor neighbourhood. It will add up to 350 km of trails and bike routes when it's done. The current tally is 177 km.

"The parks group develops multi-use trails using different parks budgets and, as well, when there are road and rehab budgets, there are cycling facilities being developed independent of the bicycle use master plan budget," said Josette Eugenie, the city's manager of transportation planning.   In the past decade, Windsor has gone from no bike lanes at all to 35 km of them. The signed routes increased from 2 km to 35 km. The multi-use trails more than doubled, from 43 to 107 km.

Mark Winterton, who works in the city's public works department, cycles 10 km to and from work from work between April and November.

"I found I can get to and from work in about the same amount of time [as driving a car]," he said.

Windsor is halfway through its 20-year Bicycle Use Master Plan. One of the goals is for the city to set an example for other employers by creating incentives for it's employees to bike to work.

Munro said the city provides cyclists with the things they need.

"The City of Windsor is very good because we have showers available for the cyclists at City Hall. Bring a change of clothes, a hairbrush and there's no real problem," she said. "I ride a bike and I'm an executive and - I hope my colleagues agree - I still look like an executive when I'm at work."

While there are a lot of east-west bike options in Windsor, going from south to north can be seriously challenging.

"There's certainly a few major arteries and north and south ones that need to be made more cyclist friendly," Patty said.

Bob Hodge is one of a rare breed of cyclists who braves the north-south routes like Dominion Boulevard in Windsor. He's ridden in large cities all over the world, including Edinborough, London, England and Los Angeles.

Safety not an issue to majority of cyclists

"Dominion is actually not bad in comparison," he said. "I mean, I don't deal with double-decker buses in Windsor. Traffic is pretty much the same the world over."

Hodge said Windsor's infrastructure does needs work.

"Having a marked bike lane would make it very distinct how much room you should give a cyclist," Hodge said. "Some cars aren't aware of how much space you need to feel comfortable on a bicycle."

According to the city's Bicycle Use Master Plan, 67 per cent of 225 cyclist surveyed indicated they would feel safe riding on major Windsor roads with bike lanes.

"You have to be aware of surroundings at all times. You have to plan your route but you can get virtually anywhere in the city safely," Winterton said. "I've ridden my bike almost everywhere in the city. There are some pinch points that we're trying to address ... but if you ride safely, I see no reason why you would feel you're in any kind of danger."

Windsor Police doesn't keep stats on car and bike collisions. London Police records about 150 accidents per year involving cyclists.

Bike shop reports rise in commuter sales

The owner of Ambassador Bicycles said he's seen a 20 per cent increase in sales of commuter bicycles over the past five years.

Rob Parent said Windsor still lacks "a conducive system" and that some trails start and end but don't fully connect with other similar trails.

He's optimistic about the future, especially once the parkway construction is done. It will add 20 kilometres of trails to the city.

"I think once we get trail systems and pathways that link together east-west and north-south, we'll see a lot more people commuting, for sure," said.

With files from Pat Jeflyn, CBC News