Spring is here, and conflict between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians is heating up in Winnipeg. This week, police ticketed cyclists for biking on sidewalks across the Osborne Bridge. Meanwhile, the onset of the construction season forces everyone to share fewer lanes. Sharing the road poses challenges for all users. Different speeds and stop and start patterns create frustrations, delays and real risks of injury for everyone.
Many pedestrians are understandably frustrated when cyclists pass them on sidewalks. Particularly for the elderly, it can be frightening. This is true especially when cyclists do not slow down or cut too closely. Unfortunately, an incomplete network of cycling routes forces cyclists onto busy and sometimes dangerous streets in Winnipeg. Because of the danger, many cyclists choose to ride on sidewalks at least across some busy sections like Osborne Bridge.
Cycling on the sidewalk should not be condoned, but it is understandable why many cyclists break this rule. Although cycling has increased in popularity recently, many Winnipeg drivers are unprepared for encountering cyclists on the road. Too often they react with aggression against cyclists, or through inattention, inadvertently create hazards.
I hope that the police’s bicycle ticketing campaign will raise awareness among cyclists. However, money raised from ticketing cyclists should be put towards better education for cyclists and drivers to share the road more safely.
Ultimately, safe streets will require designated separate lanes for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. Winnipeg has made some progress in recent years. Last year’s 20 million dollar federal-provincial stimulus program gave a big boost in this direction. However, active transportation infrastructure funding dried up in the most recent Winnipeg City budget. We have a long ways to go before we build a complete street network. Until then, be courteous, cautious and try to have some understanding for everyone else that is sharing your road.
MPI offers a few tips for cyclists: http://www.mpi.mb.ca/english/dr_tips/wfpcolumn/safecycling.html
Some things to keep in mind for cyclists:
- Try to ride predictably, in a straight line as much as possible.
- Stay one meter from the curb.
- Clearly indicate when changing lanes.
- Make yourself visible
Keep well clear of cyclists while passing
- Watch for cyclists when opening doors
Most importantly, be patient, sharing the road with a cyclist safely will rarely slow you down for more than a moment. It is not worth injuring someone to save a few seconds.