Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Confessions of a Winnipeg sidewalk cyclist

  • Print

I am a criminal, and the offence of cycling on the sidewalk in Winnipeg could land me a fine of $110. But the alternative of cycling along the very busy and far-too-narrow thoroughfare of St. Mary's Road during my daily commute seems far more risky.

Most of the 12-kilometre route lacks any form of cycling-friendly infrastructure, with no dedicated paths or bike lanes and only a few short sections of diamond lanes.

Several times I have attempted cycling on the road, jostling for position among the multitude of cars during the morning and evening rush hours. While the aggressive and belligerent drivers are no picnic, much more frightening are those drivers who fail to notice you are there.

Manitoba Healthy Living states on its website that, on average, 150 cyclists are hospitalized or killed every year in the province.

This week in Winnipeg, cyclist Violet Nelson fell victim to that statistic when her bicycle collided with a vehicle, throwing her into the path of a semi-trailer.

While the details of that accident are not known, what has been demonstrated by research is cycling safety is correlated with having the transportation infrastructure for cycling.

Anne Harris, an epidemiologist and investigator with the Bicyclists' Injuries and the Cycling Environment Study at the University of British Columbia, states "More and more, we're seeing evidence that dedicated cycling infrastructure on roads, separated from motor vehicles, protects cyclists from injuries."

In contrast to dedicated cycling lanes or tracks, cycling on the sidewalk does pose a high risk for injury.

Vehicles at intersections frequently do not look for fast-moving traffic on sidewalks.

Sidewalks are multi-purpose trails and may be used by a variety of persons, including pedestrians, in-line skaters and those using motorized scooters. In order to minimize the risk to others and myself during my commute, I leave very early in the morning when the sidewalks are relatively free from traffic.

My bicycle is outfitted with many forms of safety equipment, including a bell, front and rear lights and additional reflective tape.

I generally go much slower on the sidewalks, moving onto the grass when passing pedestrians and reducing my speed as I approach each intersection.

While occasionally a pedestrian will object to my presence on the sidewalk, most give me a wave or wish me a good day as I swerve past.

But when I do come across one of my fellow cyclists who is braving the morning commute on the road, I hang my head in shame, feeling as though I am somehow letting down the side.

The City of Winnipeg has announced that in July it will begin construction of a dedicated cycling lane along Pembina Highway.

And while the city also has many existing cycling paths along major arteries, such as Bishop Grandin Boulevard, the infrastructure for the many cyclists who commute downtown each day is still woefully lacking.

So, until this infrastructure improves, I am afraid I will likely continue my life of crime by cycling on the sidewalk.


Sarah Whiteford is a policy manager for the provincial government.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2012 A19

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg police comment on two officers that resuscitated baby

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Someone or thing is taking advantage of the inactivity at Kapyong Barracks,hundreds of Canada Geese-See Joe Bryksa’s goose a day for 30 days challenge- Day 15- May 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you in favour of relocating Winnipeg's rail yards and lines?

View Results

Ads by Google