*Report suggests city lagging in bicycle commuter numbers *
WINNIPEG leads the country in the number of commuters putting a key in the ignition instead of a shoe on a bike pedal when their trip is five kilometres or less to the downtown, according to new data from Statistics Canada.
The Manitoba capital also has the lowest proportion of commuters living and working in the city’s core walking or cycling to work, with only about one in five doing so.
The report compiled by Statistics Canada released Wednesday is based on information gathered during the 2016 census and in comparing much of it to information received during the 1996 census. The report, entitled Commuting Within Canada’s Largest Cities, took a look at the commuting patterns of people in the country’s eight largest metropolitan areas, including Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Almost 72 per cent of Winnipeggers who live within five kilometres of the downtown use a car, truck or van to get to work each day, compared to 25 per cent in Toronto, 63 per cent in Calgary and 57 per cent in Ottawa.
The report found every major city across the country has more people who live and work in the core area walking or bicycling to work each day. However, Winnipeg lags behind in its increase.
Toronto reported a jump to 47.4 per cent of commuters in 2016 from 19.3 per cent in 1996, while Montreal went to 38 per cent from 16 per cent and Calgary to 38 per cent from 15 per cent. Winnipeg’s totals rose only slightly: to 19.9 per cent, from 13.2 per cent.
In a trend seen in several cities across the country, the number of people walking and cycling in a traditional commute from outside to inside the core, and commuting from one area of the suburbs to another, has dropped. In Winnipeg, it slid to 1.6 per cent in 2016 from 1.9 per cent in 1996 for the former, and to 12.1 per cent from 16 per cent for the latter. Despite this, Mark Cohoe of Bike Winnipeg sees good news in the report: in 2016, there were more commuters cycling and walking from the downtown to jobs elsewhere (3.7 per cent) than commuting the other way (1.6 per cent).
“If you’re living downtown, you might have already made the decision to go to areas by bike,” Cohoe said. “You might be more willing to ride (a) bike.”
Cohoe said the main difference between Winnipeg and several other cities is the others invested earlier in active transportation, including bicycle paths.
Noting the report from Statistics Canada appears to come out every 20 years, Cohoe is hoping for better in 2036.
“I’d definitely be hoping there is a substantial increase,” he said. “I’d like to get to 40 per cent cycling within the core and 12 per cent commuting to the downtown.
“We’ve seen it in other centres. We need to build the infrastructure.”