DesignPlacemakingTravel

Cultivating Connection: Active Transport and Our Love of Winnipeg

Exchange district Winnipeg

Like many Winnipeggers, the majority of my adult life as a commuter has consisted of long waits at the bus stop, rushed walks early in the morning, and bike rides along the river into and out of downtown at any hour.

Of the countless times I’ve used active transport to move around our city, the moments which stand out most are ones where I’ve felt a part of something bigger than myself: and that’s what a city is at its core, isn’t it? A group of people with varied – and sometimes shared –  perspectives and experiences creating and living in a dense and connected area. Creating walkable* cities not only promotes mental and physical well-being, but enhances the feeling of connection to the communities we call home.

If you’re feeling down after the results of the 2018 civic election, take some time to remember what made you fall in love with Winnipeg in the first place. We live in a city growing into its quirks and blemishes, transforming for the better a bit more every day, and active transport is a major facet of engaging with the Winnipeg you’ll find outside of a car.

In light of recent events, I thought I’d share a few reasons I continue to love this four-season city – and maybe hear some of yours, too.

Moments I Fell In Love with My City

Biking over the St. Mary’s bridge into the downtown as the sun is setting with shades of violet. Seeing the city skyline slowly  framed by colour and scent from flowerbeds that line the path is something I wish all Winnipeggers could experience.

Walking westward down De la Cathedrale in the wee morning hours as the river and Union Station appear on the horizon.

Sipping a stout at The Common at The Forks at 10PM, surrounded by people of all ages and walks of life.

Touring Main Street Project and The Bell Hotel with Red Moon Media and the rest of the production team. We heard so many stories of struggle, overcoming barriers, and hope during those couple of days.

BIKE JAMS. Any and all of them. But especially that one bike jam in 2015 when we wound our way down Waterfront. I swear, our glow sticks lit the streets brighter than any streetlights.

Living in The Princeton on Broadway and meeting new friends in the historic corridor, hearing parties in the always-unlocked emergency exit stairwell, and all the other adventures that have happened – and will continue to happen – there. That building is truly a Winnipeg gem. 

Watching communities come together to support West Broadway Youth Outreach’s Dreams Film Fest at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The WBYO film was hilarious, touching, and humbling. You can watch it here.

Skating along the Red River Mutual Trail, frozen to my core but feeling so utterly full of life.

Finding myself alone in Upper Fort Garry and feeling thankful that we have accessible public parks and spaces scattered around the city for all to appreciate.

Walking up the steps in the Millenium Library and being amazed at just how many people utilize the space each and every day. Shoutout to library professionals who keep these public spaces functioning and welcoming – you are so, so important to building inclusive cities.

Walking into one of the many incredible coffee shops (here’s looking at you, Parlour and The Fyxx) after walking in -40 temperatures, followed by people watching and reading for hours at a time.

Feeling ultra-fit after biking up and down the hills (okay, one hill) in Omands Creek Park.

Long adventures downtown after work which inevitably end up at The Yellow Dog.

Seeing passionate individuals come together to advocate for a more accessible, inclusive Winnipeg during the Vote Open Winnipeg campaign (and who put on a killer festival, to boot).

Active Transport as a Means to Connect

Without connectivity and reliable active transport infrastructure (sidewalks, bike paths, and diamond lanes), most of these experiences wouldn’t have happened.

Unlike some of the arguments we’ve heard throughout this election cycle, creating a functional active transport system is not designed for urban “elitists.” A well-planned active transport system provides all people with transport options, paving the way towards alleviating traffic congestion, making transport more efficient, improving urban air quality, and increasing the vitality of the streetscape.

Living in central Winnipeg allows me the privilage of easy movement in the city’s core, and I can’t wait to see the progressive changes Winnipeggers will continue to fight for – because although it may not seem like it, this city is brimming with people who have an undefinable love for this place and its intangible charm.

People with disabilities continue to experience a range of barriers to participation with the existing active transport infrastructure we have, especially once the snow falls. But by advocating for inclusive active transportation and infrastructure, we’re taking the first steps in developing an equitable city for all.

Let’s keep our heads up, our minds focused, and continue to work hard to create a welcoming, accessible city designed with everyone in mind.

*I’ve been scouring the depths of the internet to find a more inclusive word for “walkable” when describing methods of active transportation around a city. For those interested in learning more, the #howIwalk campaign does a great job in communicating why the word “walk” is in need of a rebrand, and what you can do to help change societal attitudes about disabilities and accessible cities.

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