Striving for sustainability

With a growing push towards sustainability, both the University of Manitoba and the city of Winnipeg are looking at ways to offers cyclists more safe and accessible bike routes.

Since the approval of the Active Transportation Study in 2005, the city has fulfilled key priorities such as hiring a dedicated coordinator and forming an advisory committee. With 376 kilometres of cycling facilities, Winnipeg offers a large range of different trails to meet the needs of the city’s residents and visitors.

But there is still a need for more safe bike routes to be provided to cyclists.
“Our goal is to reduce the barriers of bike practice and to increase the number of people choosing to engage in active transportation, either recreationally or as commuters,” said Kevin Nixon, the current active transportation coordinator. “For that, the proposed cycling network is currently approximately 640 kilometres with safer and alternative trails.”

Nixon said the active transportation program is important because it gives all citizens the opportunity to incorporate active transportation in their daily life.
According to Nixon, the problem with many areas of the city, especially downtown, is that there is not enough room to develop separate bike routes.
Marie Pierre, an international student at the U of M, said she feels unsafe when she cycles in the downtown area because of the traffic.

According to Nora Winkler, a German international student at the U of M, “the bike trails don’t seem safe to me; they are close to the big roads where the cars drive very fast.”

Winkler added that in Germany, like in most European countries, it is safer because bike routes are usually separated from motorists.

Maire McDermott, sustainability coordinator at the University of Manitoba, said that, while there are some pedestrian and bike paths on campus, more needs to be done.

“It may be dangerous to come by bike to the campus,” she said, adding that she thinks there should be more dedicated bike trails on campus.

The university’s sustainability strategy is aimed at making it easier for staff and students to come to the university in other ways than by car.

“The Student Experience,” a research report released by the Student Services Office in October 2011, shows that the most common methods of transportation to the university are driving and public transport, whereas cycling represents only two per cent of how staff and students get to campus.

The U of M released a draft of their sustainable strategy in early October and proposes some new ways to encourage students to bike to the university.
“Our ideas are to have a bike rental at the university, to have a bike shop providing free help to repair bike, and a bike parking place to prevent bikes being stolen,” said McDermott.
“It is still an idea, but there is a demand for it,” she said.

A comment page is available on the university’s website to give staff and students the chance to give feedback. The university is also set to hold two workshops on Nov. 15 and 24, where participants will be asked to give their input on the new sustainability strategy.