Friday, February 15, 2008

Maybe posting about cycling will bring summer quicker

One thing that can be said about Winnipeg in all certainty, is that it has among its population the most hardy breed of year-'round cyclist in the (as yet) free world. As a fair-weather cyclist, my touque goes off to every cyclist I see as I trudge down the wind-swept sidewalk, or as I sit hunch-backed in the cold car. They continue to defy the elements and ride their bicyles through the winters, even this particularly brutal one. Add to this the conditions of the diminished roadway space that snow and ice bring, and the increased hostility of some motorists (ie- "there oughta be a law that says you can't ride a bike in winter..."). For that, I stand in admiration for the cyclists who tough it out.

For wimps like me, I can only write posts about cycling in the dead of a Feburary deep freeze, not because this is a cycling advocacy blog per sé, but because I hope that writing about cycling will help bring summer a little quicker, and with summer, the thrill of wisking past those poor suckers (all while obeying all traffic laws, mind you) stuck behind the wheel in rush hour traffic on hot Friday afternoons in busy downtown streets; and the enjoyment of friends and I riding anywhere we want--from Norwood to Redwood--on cooler nights.

Here is an exerpt from a publication from 1925, entitled Winnipeg's Early Days:
"On March 19, 1883, a meeting of bicyclists was held, at which a resolution was adopted, protesting against the bylaw which had been passed by the City Council prohibiting the riding of bicycles within the city limits. The resolution pointed out that 'doctors and even clergymen ride wheels in other cities.' The increase in the number bicyclists after the advent of the "safety bicycle" led to bicyclists having the freedom of the streets. In time, bicycle paths were made on Portage Avenue, from Main Street to Deer Lodge [just west of Assiniboine Park], on both sides of the car tracks, and on summer evenings hundreds of bicyclists, women as well as men, including some on 'bicycles built for two,' used those paths."

In the earliest years of the 20th century, as these two photographs of that time show, bicycles were a popular mode of transportation for downtown workers.

The old Grain Exchange building on Princess Street at Market Square, c.1903, now part of Red River College's Princess Street campus (click to enlarge)

McDermot Avenue, looking east, c. 1910. Note the number of bicycles parked on the curb and alongside the building on the left foreground (click to enlarge)


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