Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Designed for bikes, commute routes can work

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DEAR EDITOR:

Reducing stop signs on routes preferred by cyclists "to reduce unnecessary vehicle stops, reduce fuel consumption and emissions, reduce traffic-noise levels" (Fewer stop signs for cyclists eyed, March 5) makes sense if you are thinking about cars. If you are actually thinking about saving fuel, reducing emissions and reducing noise, or if you are actually thinking about the interests of cyclists, which was the reason for the City of Winnipeg transportation report, the decision is absurd. The proposed approach would only attract more cars to use routes favoured by cyclists making it more dangerous to cycle.

The quoted report doesn't want to treat bikes and cars differently. But that is the whole point -- bikes are different. Cycling is three to 10 times more space efficient (in road use and parking space) and 100 times more energy efficient. Being energy efficient means no fuel, no emissions and essentially no noise.

I became a convert to active commuting almost 40 years ago in Toronto based on the superior mental and physical condition of my retirement-age boss who walked to work. Since then, I've mostly walked but also run, cross-country skied and biked to work. In the last year, I've become an all-season cycler, commuting to downtown Winnipeg.

With modern technology, winter cycling is no longer a miserable experience.

I've got cheap clothing that keeps my skin warm and dry, studded tires, amazing LED lights with lithium batteries that will light up signs two blocks away at -30C and hi-tech goggles. I, with two or three dozen other co-worker cyclists, would have to be the president to have a better parking spot. My route is relatively safe. My commute times are often better than a car and shorter than the bus. My commute is as scenic as a holiday. In winter rush hours, it is a delight biking under bridges on the river trail from Churchill High School down the Red River and up the Assiniboine compared to driving over those bridges.

What's not to like about biking? More frostbite risk in biking than walking. It takes the city a couple of days to plow the cycle/walking path from Osborne to the Forks. There aren't enough safe routes to keep bikes and cars apart. Most drivers are very considerate but probably only professional drivers appreciate how big a safety zone cyclists need.

About 75 per cent of regular cyclists stop for winter, not because of the cold, but because there are insufficient safe routes.

We can fix those things, but only if we treat bikes differently than cars.

It's taken me about 40 years of trying out commuting options to figure out what Apple, and before them, Sony have demonstrated so well -- elegant solutions to human needs that are space and energy efficient married with good technology are winners. Let bikes work.

DAN PROWSE

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2010 A19

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