Cyclists say Winnipeg police must address ‘traffic violence’ from drivers

Cyclists are urging Winnipeg police to take cycling safety seriously, saying motorists have adversarial attitudes towards those on two wheels.

Cycling advocates claim the sometimes hostile relationship between bikes and cars – and the dangerous environment that creates – is not a priority for the Winnipeg Police Service.

“There’s anger. There’s traffic violence every day, and we’re going to have to step up and really, really do something,” said Patty Wiens, who’s known as the bike mayor of Winnipeg.

Wiens spoke to CityNews Tuesday from a WPS Bike to Work Day pit stop – where officers share cycling safety tips during Bike Week Winnipeg.

“The other day my elbow was grazed as I was at an intersection because someone had to make a right on red,” Wiens said. “There was a police car across the street; they saw it and looked right past me.”

Wiens says there’s a lot of misplaced anger on the streets, leading to cyclists being slighted on city roads.

She believes fiercer enforcement across the board from police would help turn the tide on what she calls an environment of danger.

“We need more enforcement on the little things so the big things don’t happen, so we are respected,” said Wiens.

Winnipeg’s bike community was recently rocked by the hit-and-run death of 61-year-old cyclist Rob Jenner, an employee of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR).

Bike Winnipeg’s Patty Wiens with WPS Insp. Kevin Riel at a Bike to Work Day pit stop on June 11, 2024. (CityNews)

Wiens is not alone in wanting police to take cyclists’ concerns seriously. Michelle Markman says she’s had many near misses, including at least one with a WPS cruiser.

“Last year I got hit by a car,” Markman said. “This year, I’ve had someone run off the road purposefully because they’ve said I didn’t belong there.”

Markman feels while showing up to Bike to Work Day is important, she’d love to see more cops on bicycles in Winnipeg, saying their presence alone may make drivers understand cyclists’ place on the road.

“Bike safety is important for everyone,” she said.

READ MORE: Bike paths in Winnipeg could get speed limits

Matthew Peters called the relationship between bikes and motorists a “little antagonistic.” He says historically, cycling infrastructure is an afterthought to four-wheeled vehicles, a problem he believes must be addressed.

“Ultimately the space isn’t built to accommodate both of us, so we’re going to get frustrated at each other,” Peters said.

“Speeding, distracted driving, close passing, those kinds of things are absolutely unnecessary and I don’t think drivers – especially drivers who aren’t themselves cyclists – they aren’t very sympathetic to just how intense those experiences are on the other side and just how much of a risk they’re putting the other person at.”

CityNews spoke to Insp. Kevin Riel, commander of the WPS Community Relations Division, about the police service’s message to drivers concerning cyclist safety. Riel said about 70 people visited the pit stop by late morning.

“We’ve talked to a lot (of people) about bike safety,” he said. “It’s been a very good day.”

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