A portion of Broadway will be closed for one Sunday in September as the city holds a new bike-and-pedestrian street festival called Ciclovia.
In what amounts to the first large downtown street party since the Get Together Downtown events held during the Glen Murray years, the westbound lanes of Broadway will be closed Sept. 13 between Main Street and Osborne Street to make room for buskers, food vendors, a farmers' market, a straw maze and activities such as skateboarding, street hockey and sand sculpting.
Ciclovia, which means "bike path" in Spanish, is modelled on a festival that began in Bogota, Colombia and has since taken root in dozens of Latin American cities as well as U.S. centres such as New York City, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland and Portland, Ore.
"It's a day for people to get acquainted with their communities and celebrate a day without a car," said Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, the event's main organizer. "This is a pilot project, and if it's successful, we'll extend the (street closures) north, south, east and west next year."
Winnipeg's version of Ciclovia, which will wrap up with a concert at The Forks, comes with a $50,000 price tag to cover the cost of policing, barricades and bus rerouting. Grande said the city and corporate sponsors will split the cost, which is a small fraction of the $700,000-plus price tag for the Get Together Downtown festivals, which took place on Portage Avenue in 2001 and 2002.
The Ciclovia plan calls for the Broadway street festival to be connected to The Forks with a closed curb lane on northbound Main Street. West of Osborne Street, closed curb lanes on Broadway, Balmoral Street, Young Street, Westminster Avenue, Furby Street, Sherbrook Street and Maryland Street will connect the festival with regular Sunday street closures on Wolseley Avenue and Wellington Crescent. The event is being held in conjunction with Manitoba Homecoming 2010, a provincially sponsored effort to boost tourism in the province by targeting former residents. But the main impetus is to encourage more people to explore downtown without using a car.
St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves, city council's community services chairman, said he likes the idea of a festival that might encourage people other than hardcore bike commuters to ride downtown.
Steeves said he's both amazed and pleased by the increased interest in both recreational and commuter cycling in wintery Winnipeg over the past four years.
"It's almost to the point where (commuter cycling) is mainstream," he said. "It's not quite there yet, but for cycling to even be considered as a viable mode of transportation is a big deal, because that's definitely a challenge in the Canadian climate."
An officially sanctioned cycling festival may also be seen as a response to Critical Mass, the unsanctioned cycling demonstrations that have occasionally appeared on Winnipeg streets. But that was not the organizers' intention, Grande said.
"We just want to encourage people to come downtown, on foot or on a bike," he said.
Almost two dozen businesses, environmental organizations, cycling groups and other non-profit organizations plan to participate in the festival.