Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

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The Youth of Winnipeg Today, Expressed

September 19, 2006

A comment piece appeared in the University of Winnipeg’s student weekly last week entitled “Stepping on Winnipeg’s Spirited Energy“. In it, its author James Patterson argues that youth issues have, once again, been largely being ignored in this year’s election – which would no doubt mean that the coming civic government would be equally youth-unfriendly – and have only been brought to the table by the youths themselves engaged in what many in this city have deemed to be unacceptable: a 75-minute bike through downtown and the inner city on the last Friday of each month at 5pm. Of course, this has ride sparked enormous debate in the city about cyclists, motorists and the rights to the road, but what has remained throughout is the condescension and skepticism that has remained with much of Winnipeg’s establishment views on the city’s youths. But, as Mr. Patterson points out,

“Critical mass is a perfect indication that Winnipeg’s youth are willing to step up and be part of this city. It shows a vested interest by youth for their community in a society that preaches that youth do not care, because they don’t vote.”

Has any official, elected or running, recognized this? If they have, I have yet to hear anyone come out and say “you know what, Critical Mass, while I may not agree with their tactics, they at least they’re out there making a point and showing that they care about the future of this city and I’m going to seriously get to work on that when I’m elected.”

Like it or not Winnipeg, those youth and many others like them (talk to people around one of the university campuses in the city), represent much of this city’s future. Ignoring them in this election campaign or, more critically, once the civic government is formed will be so at a risk to this city’s future. Mr. Patterson sums up his article quite succinctly:

“With a hype-filled civic election unfolding and given that in the last three years the city has gone from a sense of renewed optimism to having to defend itself against Globe and Mail articles that portray Winnipeg negatively, it seems like a good time to realize that Winnipeg’s future is at a very real crossroads. The question is: Are our supposed leaders going to simply continue the romantic prose of a dynamic, creative and progressive city found in their think tanks, focus groups, branded idioms and election platforms or will they move to the hard part? Action. The City’s youth have started to figure this out. Hopefully our appointed leaders can find a way as well.”

I hope so too.

(For alternate forms of media in this city, I urge Winnipeggers to pick up copies of many of the free weeklies that abound such as The Uniter or listen to radio such as CKUW, KICK or UMFM. The Free Press, Sun and CJOB have their places, but reporting on ‘the other side’ of things isn’t one of their strong suits. Hence this viewpoint not having an outlet until now.)

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A Civic Election Issue

September 12, 2006

I made mention a week or so ago that everyone’s ‘favourite’ city, Toronto, was holding its own civic election a mere three weeks after Winnipeg’s will have taken place. I also talked about Chicago’s Bike 2015 Plan, the comprehensive alternative human-powered transportation plan that the City of Chicago was implementing to make the metropolis an attractive place to cycle (and walk, and take public transit).

Put the two together and add some more progressive organizations (including the Sierra Club and Mountain Equipment Co-op) and what do you get? TCAT, or the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation, a group aiming

“to make cycling and pedestrian issues a major factor in the upcoming municipal election. (from the spacing.ca/wire)

Furthermore,

it has developed a platform of important issues that should be addressed by the city, and will be conducting a candidate survey.”

Funny how the issue of sustainable transportation is rearing its head both in Canada’s largest city as well as in Winnipeg just before their respective civic elections. It would do the candidates in Winnipeg’s election (though some would be well aware of them already) well to pay attention to the questions and issues being raised in Toronto, because similar issues have been and will continue to be brought up here as long as there seems to be little action on Council to cater to forms of transportation other than the private automobile.

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A Cycling Chicago of the North someday?

August 7, 2006

While browsing various urban and alternative transportation blogs, I came across this post at Toronto cycling blog TorontoCranks.com. Most of the post is dedicated to a City of Chicago press release from June of this year, entitled “Bike 2015 Plan features 150 strategies to encourage bicycling”. In light of the craziness in Winnipeg surrounding Critical Mass that has permeated the media and local message boards and blogs, polarizing the population on both the issues of Critical Mass and cycling in general, this is especially interesting and, from some Winnipeg perspectives, depressing. Chicago seems to actually be encouraging cycling as a viable and attractive alternative transporation option with the adoption of Bike 2015 Plan, as its Executive Summary and two main goals indicate:

“The Bike 2015 Plan is the City of Chicago’s vision to make bicycling an integral part of daily life in Chicago. The plan recommends projects, programs and policies for the next ten years to encourage use of this practical, non-polluting and affordable mode of transportation.

The Bike 2015 Plan has two overall goals:

  • To increase bicycle use, so that 5 percent of all trips less than five miles are by bicycle.
  • To reduce the number of bicycle injuries by 50 percent from current levels.”

Most impressive are the recommendations for a “500-mile bikeway network” that reaches to within a half-mile of each and every resident, the identification of cyclists’ needs with all new and restorative infrastructure development, thousands of additional bike racks and longer-term storage spaces, using rapid transit stations as bikeway hubs, and many more. [full Plan available here: 4.5 MB pdf file] Very ambitious, but, given the right dedication, funding and commitment of the city’s leadership, there doesn’t have to be much doubt that it’ll happen.

Which is in stark contrast to Winnipeg. There’s little reason why Winnipeg can’t follow suit with a vastly scaled-down, yet thorough version of this plan save for leadership. And we haven’t had it on the topic of cycling for 13 years. The now-outdated, yet still valuable 1993 Final Report entitled “Winnipeg Bicycle Facilities Study” (of which an online link seems to be lacking) has now seen a third mayor essentially ignore it, prompting cyclists and all who strive for viable alternatives to the private automobile to say on the topic something akin to what the initial TorontoCranks.com post is entitled: “Chicago’s mayor proves Toronto’s Mayor Miller SUCKS!”

The benefits of cycling abound for both the individual, his/her pocketbook and health, and for society as a whole. The Critical Mass movement in Winnipeg, with all their faults, alleged or true, likely don’t realistically believe a bicycling system akin to Chicago’s comprehensive Plan will come through (though I’m sure they won’t complain); they, and all other cyclists simply want cycling as a valid commuting and transporation choice to at least be taken as a priority by the leadership of this City. With the amounts of money going towards highways and roads built decidedly for cars, is asking for a fair share too much these days? If we have never become the “Chicago of the North” as far as our economy (and size) has been concerned, then perhaps, with the right leadership, we can one day follow in their path as a cold-weather, midwestern alternative transportation hub.