Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cycling to Bombers field takes a Hail Mary or two

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Riding your bicycle down Pembina Highway to Investors Group Field is a bit of a Hail Mary.

Traffic congestion in south Winnipeg before and after Winnipeg Blue Bombers games has been a bone of contention even before the new stadium opened last year.

The issue reached a critical stage after 69-year-old Dick Stevenson was hit by a vehicle while riding his bike to Monday's exhibition game against the Toronto Argonauts and died the next morning.

But if the city and the football club want fans to seriously consider two-wheeled transportation to the University of Manitoba campus, some changes must be made as soon as possible so cyclists can make the commute safely, particularly after games when it's dark.

To get an idea of what the trip is like, I strapped a Go-Pro camera to my bike helmet and set off down Pembina from McGillivray Boulevard early Thursday afternoon.

I'm an experienced cyclist, but I purposely avoid roadways such as this. The traffic is constant, even when it's not rush hour, and there's not a lot of room out there.

For the first kilometre or two, I'm sharing the curb lane with SUVs, pickup trucks and the odd compact car.

I relax a little when I hit Chevrier Boulevard and the road opens up to a dedicated bike lane. There are a few mini-detours where the path takes me up on to the sidewalk -- usually around bus stops -- for a few metres at a time, and at this point, I think the ride isn't too bad.

But then I hit Plaza Drive, just north of Bishop Grandin, and everything stopped. The bike lane ends abruptly, and there's no signage or arrows directing me where to go. I think of Mr. Stevenson as I hug the curb once again with vehicles whizzing past me because this is where he was struck.

But the route gets even more treacherous as I reach the westbound Bishop Grandin turnoff. Even if I wanted to keep going straight, I'd have to battle for position with vehicles making the turn. Instead, I opt for the sidewalk crossing and make my way across the bridge via the pedestrian overpass. There was only one woman walking ahead of me, but I can imagine it would jammed before Bomber games.

Making my way on to University Crescent, there is, again, no dedicated bike lane, but there's a decent shoulder to ride on, although there's still a fair amount of sand and grime I would have expected to have been picked up by street cleaners in the spring.

Finally, I arrive at my destination. Would it be worth it to ride to a football game? Probably. I'd make sure to leave super early to avoid the worst of the crush. I'd probably say a Hail Mary once or twice, too.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2014 A5

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