This week, the City of Winnipeg begins construction on a new bike lane project along Pembina Highway that will connect to the Bishop Grandin greenway.
The four-month project, which will add buffered bike lanes to the curb lane between Crescent and Plaza drives, is long overdue according to many cyclists.
It’s this kind of bicycle-friendly infrastructure renewal for which Winnipeg’s cycling community has been lobbying government for years. And it’s the type of move they hope will help change traditional attitudes that some motorists may have about cyclists.
“Cyclists are traffic, too!” says Kristin Andrews, a Winnipeg business owner and cycling activist, who helped organize last month’s Naked Bike Ride 2012, part of a global event that aimed to bring awareness to safety issues concerning cycling in Winnipeg and elsewhere.
“We’re trying to encourage automobile drivers to recognize the fact that cyclists are on the road and are a part of traffic,” says Andrews.
She says that vehicle drivers are often battling cyclists, complaining that riders should move onto the sidewalk. But, Andrews points out that, “A cyclist riding on the sidewalk is illegal.”
Andrews describes the Naked Bike Ride as a wonderful social, community experiment.
“In doing that in a group, you create an environment where it’s safe to go out like that, it’s okay to go out like that,” says Andrews. “That there is no homophobia, no genderist or sexist or dangerous things that could happen to a man or woman. And that’s really important for a lot of people in the city.”
“We still have a battle in the society to be tolerant of each other. And to have an open mind towards things that are a little bit different.”
Andrews says that she participated in the Naked Bike Ride because she really believes in the idea of promoting healthy body images.
“So, how we perceive our bodies and healthful attitudes around us are really important,” says Andrews. “For my part, going out and participating in a naked bike ride, that did an awful lot just to let people know it’s okay to accept our bodies as they are.”
“We’re all people underneath our clothing, and it really creates a beautiful level playing field for solidarity for people to be able to have discussions together and to move forward about how to make better communities for ourselves.”
Many of the approximately fifty cyclists who participated in the Naked Bike Ride reported a great feeling of solidarity and community that came out of the group. Several expressed interest in wanting to do similar events in the future.
While cycling activists like Andrews are encouraged to see the City of Winnipeg create new bike lanes along Pembina Highway, they feel more lanes are still needed throughout the areas of the city where cyclists ride everyday.