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This article was published 9/12/2019 (358 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ask a random Canadian about Winnipeg’s reputation, and they’re more likely to mention the cold or crime than cycling. But new rankings from online real estate brokerage Redfin put Winnipeg squarely in the Top 10 Canadian cities for biking, tied with Toronto and Richmond, B.C.

The rankings don’t qualify Winnipeg as a "biker’s paradise" (for cities with a score of 90 and above) or even "very bikeable" (70 to 89 points). But Winnipeg’s 61-point score earns a modest "bikeable" status in Redfin’s view, a category for cities with "some bike infrastructure."

Redfin’s bike-score ratings are similar to its proprietary walk scores and transit scores, which are often mentioned on real estate listings. (The company acquired Walk Score in 2014. Winnipeg’s average Walk Score is just 53, while Toronto has a Walk Score of 71.) The company’s inaugural Canadian bike-friendliness ranking covered roughly 100 cities, Redfin’s lead economist, Taylor Marr, said.

"We know from our years of experience that people really value walkability. They also values being close to transit increasingly... But also people really value bikeability, not only for the health benefits but also for the cost savings," said Marr, who commutes by bike in his home city of Seattle.

The bike-score rankings evaluated cities across four criteria — topography, cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes, the number of bikeable destinations and the share of the population that commutes by bicycle.

Liz Shearer, co-chairwoman of cycling advocacy group Bike Winnipeg, said bike ridership is on the increase in Winnipeg, "and as infrastructure is built, so is ridership... When people feel safer, they ride more often, which shouldn’t come as a surprise."

But Winnipeg’s lack of a fully connected cycling grid keeps Manitoba’s capital from being a true leader in bikeability, she said.

Shearer is concerned about the future of the 20-year active transportation strategy Winnipeg passed in 2015, saying the plan is being underfunded by the city.

"We’ve gotten international recognition for this cycling and pedestrian plan, but words without action is just a dream," Shearer said. "So if we’re not enacting and funding this type of plan properly, we’ll never reach its full potential."

The chilling spectre of Winnipeg winters is frequently invoked in public discourse around the city’s need for cycling infrastructure. Redfin’s Marr said the company’s scoring model didn’t account for weather directly, although the share of bike commuters serves as an indirect proxy, especially in North America.

"(You) often see somewhat of a correlation in terms of places that are more weather-friendly for biking do have higher shares of people biking. What is really odd, though, is that you don’t necessarily see that relationship very strongly on an international scale," he said, citing the cold weather cycling paradise of Copenhagen.

Winnipeggers tend to wear their cold weather credentials as a "badge of honour," Bike Winnipeg’s Shearer said.

"So it’s surprising when I hear that people think we’re not able to embrace (winter cycling) as part of our lifestyles, and I do think that it is because there is a lack of infrastructure so that people can feel safe and protected," she said.

"If we were to be able to make cycling a safe and convenient option year-round, then the only barrier we’d have to face in taking our bikes out on a winter’s day is the same battle we already face every day that we leave our homes as Winnipeggers."

Shearer encouraged Winnipeggers to try winter cycling if they haven’t before, suggesting a test ride on a route that’s protected from traffic.

"I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re pressured into trying something that makes them feel unsafe, but I would encourage people to try something new, and to see what routes are available to them — and if there isn’t a safe route to get them from A to B, who should they talk to, to make that happen?"

Victoria led Redfin’s bike-friendliness rankings with a score of 80, followed by Vancouver (79) and Montreal (73). Redfin rates Minneapolis as the most bikeable city in the U.S., with a score of 84 points.

solomon.israel@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sol_israel