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Protected bicycle lanes -- meant solely for bikes with a physical barrier between the cyclist and motorist -- are statistically one of the safest forms of cycling infrastructure and a proven method to get more people cycling in a city.
They're also a rare sight in most major cities in Canada that aren't Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto.
However, if Winnipeg wants to capitalize on the growing number of people who want to cycle in the city, it needs to start building them, says Anders Swanson, the co-ordinator of the Winnipeg Trails Association and co-chairman of Canada Bikes.
"You see how badly people want to ride a bicycle and how little infrastructure there actually is out there," he said.
In Winnipeg, there are only two spots where a cyclist can travel along a city street that has a physical barrier between them and motorists: a portion of Sherbrook Street and the Assiniboine Avenue cycle track, for a combined coverage of four kilometres out of the city's 400 km of cycling lanes, pathways and trails.
Meanwhile, in Montreal, Canada's poster child for cycling infrastructure, there are 184 km of protected bike lanes.
"At a point in its history, Montreal had a provincial minister of transportation who took cycling very seriously that made a huge difference, and that in turn led to Quebec's larger cycling network," Swanson said.
"It starts with people, and then Montreal started building protected bike lanes in the '90s, two decades before everyone else came on."
Many other cities in Canada don't fare much better when it comes to protected bike lanes, with Ottawa, Calgary, Saskatoon and Edmonton having less than 10 km of protected bike lanes in each respective city.
However, in each of those cities and in Winnipeg, plans are on the books to create more protected lanes, specifically in the downtown core. Some, such as Winnipeg and Saskatoon, are only at the pilot stage. Others, such as Calgary and Edmonton, have gone full tilt and committed millions of dollars to creating a network of protected bike lanes in the core.
New York City found a protected bike lane along 9th Avenue led to a 59 per cent decrease in injuries for all street users and a 49 per cent increase in retail sales.
Winnipeg's 20-year cycling and pedestrian strategy, which hasn't been adopted by council, calls for an additional 77 km of protected bike lanes to be built across the city and recommends a dense network of protected bike lanes be built downtown.
Scott Suderman, a streets planning engineer with the city's public works department, said in the course of preparing the city's cycling strategy, the creation of protected bike lanes was identified as a priority by Winnipeggers.
"Through the public consultation, we heard that if we want to get more people cycling and enable cycling, they need separated, protected facilities," Suderman said.
However, it won't come cheap. The strategy modestly estimates the development downtown would cost $7 million, plus $100,000 each year to operate.
A survey done by the City of Winnipeg in preparation for the strategy revealed one of the biggest barriers to cycling is the lack of dedicated bicycle infrastructure and lanes.
In that same survey, more than 60 per cent of respondents said they are interested in cycling more.
Protected bike lanes also don't come without controversy.
Coun. Russ Wyatt and some downtown businesses raised concerns over the impact these lanes would have on business and parking downtown.
In response, Mayor Brian Bowman delayed council's adoption of it and sent the strategy to the office of public engagement to review the public consultation process. Last week, they announced the process had been adequate.
Suderman says conversation is the first step toward getting businesses, the community and politicians on board.
"We have started the conversation about the downtown bike-lane upgrades, and we are committed to working and developing a relationship with the downtown businesses and stakeholders to come up with the best solution," he said.
The cycling and pedestrian strategy is expected to be voted on at July's council meeting.
Follow this map below to see how Winnipeg stacks up to some other cities in Canada when it comes to cycling infrastructure.
Updated on Monday, June 29, 2015 at 7:08 AM CDT: Adds map, changes photo, changes headline
7:09 AM: Adds chart
9:09 AM: Removes chart
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