One distinct difference between 2006 Winnipeg and 2016 Winnipeg is the number of cyclists on the road. In 2006 you would see one or two cyclists on your route. And they would piss you off just for being there. “Get a real car, loser.” was the general attitude. Most drivers had no concept of slowing down to pass a cyclist, let alone changing lanes to pass them. Critical Mass was a Big Thing every month generating endless news coverage followed by intensely negative reactions. Like any change or sign of progress, Winnipeg fought bitterly against accepting a new reality where cars might have to share with non-motorized vehicles. Back in 2006, 5 Critical Mass participants were actually arrested by the Winnipeg Police Service. How things have changed.
I myself do not bike. I hate biking. It’s just not a thing that I enjoy doing. Nonetheless I have to admire those that do. It takes an awful lot of commitment to pack up your gear every night, leave early, cycle in cold morning weather all while hoping that drivers will shoulder check before changing into your lane. Judging by the number of Winnipeg drivers that treat signal lights as optional, I personally wouldn’t have a lot of faith in the folks on the road. Since 2009 designated bike paths have started to make cycling to work a little less like Russian roulette. It seems like it has been a case of build it and they will come because there are a ton of cyclists. Mike and I have been hitting construction on our way to work so we’ve been trying out a few different routes. Every way we go there is actual bike traffic. It’s amazing.
See, as much as Winnipeg has developed as a car city, there is something that is so nice to see the presence of people, actual human people. It turns Winnipeg from aggravating gridlock into an interesting dynamic city. I get to see all the different types of people who are on their bikes. Much like having pedestrians, cycling humanizes the city. We are a social animal so when we see others walking and cycling, it naturally makes us want to be a part of it too. Dehumanizing cars are part of the reason that road rage is so common. We forget that it is a human being driving in their car. All you see is that they are in your way. We don’t see them as someone like ourselves that is tired, sick, sad, or who simply made a mistake. I think it’s great that Winnipeg has (reluctantly) accepted that we can be a cycling city too.