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Will revitalization bring cyclists?

Connecting the Dots
Plan board
An illustration of proposed downtown revitalization

What town renovations are you hoping for with revitalization plans getting underway? 
Plans are shaping up and bike lanes are part of it. Will the creation of bicycle friendly streets significantly increase the use of bicycles? 


The Federation of Canadian Municipalities did a case study (fcm.ca) of Malarctic, Que. (five hours northwest of Ottawa), a mining town with 3,377 residents, where a grant for $54,960 would be used to implement active transportation – cycling and walking – for the town. That was in 2019 with the project to begin in 2020. 
The FCM document says through active transportation people improve their physical fitness, concentration and self‑sufficiency. By eliminating the daily drive to school or to work, parents are contributing to quieter neighborhoods, and improving safety and air quality. 
Sounds good. If you build it, will people take to cycling? Will this give impetus to a new business to provide the latest in bicycles? You know, those motor assisted bikes. Do they count as active transport?


I don’t see many cyclists in Virden, even in the friendly summertime, but King Street is a rough and ready place with motorists heading back and forth from Highway One into Virden. If cyclists want to go somewhere between Highway One and Thomas Drive, King Street isn’t a great ride. 
Thankfully, the province has planned to redo the entirety of King Street and Seventh Avenue from King St. to Lyons St. in 2023. It’s overdue! And, if you haven’t, check out the Town’s plan for bike lanes on the Town of Virden website under the Revitalization page at the link, Revitalization Plan Open House Boards. 


I saw an example of bike lane construction within Winnipeg on Pembina Highway. Street improvement included sidewalk and bike lanes on both sides of the street through a busy commercial area (a post office, drug stores, coffee shops, mini malls and apartments) starting at Markham Road (just north of Victoria General Hospital) to University Crescent (just south of Bishop Grandin). 
I counted less than ten cyclists on a beautiful September Saturday morning along the finished side of the route. Winnipeg, like Virden, has six months where cycling isn’t a trend, so I’m guessing the route won’t get much use half the year.


To consider the bigger picture of revitalization in Virden, or any town, there’s nothing that says ‘Ugh!” like rough, pitted streets, or like a dusty, sometimes washboard piece of gravel on the way to a popular recreational destination. It’s a downer. It does nothing to promote the town.
Recent new pavement, curbs and sidewalks on Eighth Avenue remind you of what streets are supposed to be like. It’s relaxing, even on a busy trip. You feel you are in a truly progressive, caring town. A town with a tax base and an important business district.


The entire revitalization plan looks pretty exciting. Cyclists will enjoy its scenic ambience. But is cycling going to increase and become more than a recreational activity in our Canadian climate? I suppose one could ask the town of Malarctic.