A Muddy Water Summer
This weekend is the equinox. All places on the planet will have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Evenings are now too dark for safe riding. My Mistress is in a box and on her way home. Last night was my last ride in Winnipeg (“Muddy Water”).
Mistress and Wife
Winnipeg’s cycling network is quite new – it was put in place less than 5 years ago. I found it interesting to see how the city put a cycling network in place relatively quickly and at seemingly low cost.
If I had one word to describe Winnipeg’s strategy, it is “flexibility”.
Setting the tone – my favourite sign
1. Side streets. A lot of routes use side streets that run parallel to the main roads, letting cyclists follow roughly the same traffic patterns as automobiles but staying away from them.
2. Stop signs. The humble stop sign, regularly spaced on these side streets discourages through traffic
3. Traffic circles. These are so small, it’s almost an embarrassment to call them traffic circles. However they are effective. On the intersections of quieter roads, both cars and bikes are forced to slow down before entering the intersection.
Recreational path (not quite 4 season)
4. Recreational paths. There are a lot of paths are intended for multi-use. These generally follow green spaces within the city, cover many kilometers, and are well surfaced. They are a great way to stay out of traffic.
5. “S” intersections. Where recreational paths do cross roads, they curl in an “S” to force cyclists to slow down before entering the intersection. This seemingly minor design prevents you from being overcome by your own inertia.
Mary bypassing Confusion Corner
6. Unsurfaced paths. There are a lot of paths, especially next to the rivers, that are hard packed dirt covered with very fine gravel or sand. They usually skirt their way around high traffic intersections where the rivers channel traffic into busy intersections. These are almost as good as asphalt for riding. In fact, compared to many Winnipeg roads they are better.
7. Bike lanes. Self explanatory. There aren’t many of them except where there are no route alternatives to high traffic arteries.
Note the loop from road to sidewalk and behind bus stop
8. Sidewalks. Sometimes the routes just don’t stitch together and there isn’t space to put in a lane. The city simply makes the sidewalk a shared facility and nobody seems to mind if you ride on it.
9. “Sharrows”. A terrible term for the worst facility. A cycling icon with a chevron is painted on the road (“share arrow”) to indicate cyclists go here too.
Pedestrian path on bridge
10. Bridges. Being a city of loopy rivers and straight railroads, there are a lot of bridges. Originally built with pedestrians in mind, the cyclist happily shares the narrow walkway to avoid traffic. If there is a need to cross to the other side of the road there is almost always a path that loops under the footings.
Coming soon to a river near you
All in all I was impressed. I have ridden every available night since May, and still discovered a new path on my last night riding. (I also got turned around and ended up riding the path twice in a big circle.)
Lots of space
Winnipeg did have one major advantage when setting up its cycling network: space. Being a prairie town, spaces are wide so there are often a few feet available for the humble cyclist.
I have had only one close call. I was almost the victim of a hit and run at dusk one week ago. A full grown deer bounded across my path (she didn’t have her headlights on) on a quiet residential street. In light of my total riding time I consider that a pretty good safety record that speaks well of the facilities.