A Winnipeg cycling advocate has made a video called "Bike to the Bombers" after more than 1,000 football fans cycled to the team's home opener June 27, far more than expected.
Anders Swanson says he counted 1,222 bikes at the game, overwhelming the free bike valet at the stadium which has a capacity of about half that. Cyclists had to lock up hundreds of bikes along walkways and fences, wherever they could.
"It was just a literal sea of bikes," he said. "Winnipeg looked like Amsterdam for a minute there. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least, so basically I just went around the stadium counting every single bike that I could see locked up to either a fence or in the bike valet."
Swanson's video had hundreds of hits after it was published on Tuesday. He said he made it to share the experience, and prove a point — people want to cycle to events.
"It was really special for me to show up at the stadium and see just how many people rode their bike," he said.
"I don't think anybody expected that there was going to be that many people, to the point where they really just weren't prepared for it."
Swanson said the bike valet service, which is free, was fantastic. It just wasn't big enough.
He took the trouble to count the total number of bikes because "data is important."
"I wanted to be able to show that there was that many people, so that they know what to do for next time, to make sure there was enough people in the bike valet, to make sure there's enough bike racks," he said.
"All you have to do is make it really easy and people will do it."
Blue Bombers spokesperson Darren Cameron said it's great to hear that the number of people riding their bikes to games has jumped.
He said at the old stadium, usually between 60 and 70 cyclists would show up. He confirms that it was 1,200 at the home opener.
"Compared to the old place, it's night and day," he said.
"One of the things we asked fans to do was to consider biking to the game, and obviously people have taken advantage of that option which is great. We are looking at possible options to expand but at this point do not have anything set in stone."
Swanson said cyclists had a very different experience getting to the game than motorists, and he wanted to send fans in cars and buses a message.
"There was a lot of stories about the traffic chaos and people stuck in their cars for hours and waiting for the bus," he said. "I just wanted to show them, 'Hey, just hop on a bicycle and you'll have a smile on your face all the way there and all the way back.'"
His video is a fast-paced romp along bike paths but it also shows the number of stop signs and busy crossings cyclists encounter. He said Winnipeg has come a long way, but those disruptions show the big gaps in Winnipeg's cycling infrastructure.
"I wanted to show that it wasn't perfect yet. That there's a lot of stops, that there's some big, major intersections to cross."
Swanson said well-designed bike paths don't have gaps like that.
"A true, proper world-class city that has good bicycle infrastructure means that you get on something (and) you know you can get to wherever you need to go. It doesn't matter whether its Polo Park, Northgate shopping centre or the stadium. You know you can get on… with your kids, and they don't have to be experts. They'll be able to get there."
Swanson said while he did see a lot of bikes at the stadium, he noted there were few children's bikes.
"Theres a lot of kids that like to go to the Bombers game. I think the true test is whether or not anybody can leave from their home with an eight-year-old kid and get to the Bombers game and feel safe about it."
He believes even more people would cycle to the stadium with better infrastructure and a secure place to leave their bikes.
"You have to look no further than a soccer game in Germany or a field hockey game in the Netherlands. You can get literally 20 to 30 per cent of the people showing up by bicycle, so that means what, 10,000? It's possible. It's just a matter of a city that takes it seriously. It's not rocket science."
He said there's no question Winnipeg can be a world-class cycling city.
"We're flat. We're fun. We've got lots of trees covering us. There's a lot of things that are very special actually about Winnipeg. And a lot of people are realizing that and jumping on a bike even though there's a lot of work left to be done," he said.
- Sports & Recreation