Thunder Bay Bike LaneThunder Bay’s Active Transportation Program Assistant Emma Kempe and Coordinator Adam Krupper try out one of the city’s new bike lanes.
By Brigitte Petersen
The recent launch of Thunder Bay’s first designated bicycle lanes is helping to support a burgeoning bicycling culture in this northwestern Ontario city.
Volunteers and city staff held a public street party on May 29, 2010 and invited residents to celebrate and ride the first lane, which runs along busy Court Street. Since the I Heart Bike Lanes celebration, more lanes have been created in other areas of town. The bike lanes are part of the city’s overall Active Transportation Plan (ATP).
Thunder Bay, a city of about 110,000 and located on the scenic shores of Lake Superior, has overcome a budget limited by its small size to develop more than 10 kilometers of bike lanes and shared lanes in 2010. The community plans to expand this network each year. Whenever one of the roads outlined in the ATP is due for reconstruction, the municipality will integrate bike lanes or shared lanes into the design.
“What makes Thunder Bay an interesting challenge is that we’re a pretty isolated community,” said Adam Krupper, Thunder Bay’s active transportation coordinator. “The closest Canadian city with bike lanes is Winnipeg, and that’s over 700 kilometers away. That means most of our drivers have rarely, if ever, encountered a bike lane.”
Education for both drivers and cyclists is an essential part of the process when introducing bike lanes.
“Drivers need to become comfortable sharing the road, and cyclists need to take their presence on the road seriously,” explained Krupper.
Like most North American cities, the main form of transportation in Thunder Bay is the automobile. This situation results in drivers worrying about being inconvenienced and road safety, according to Krupper. While educating road users is a challenge, Thunder Bay’s transportation culture appears to be in shift mode.
“It was the first time in Thunder Bay that so many cyclists got together. We finally got to see just how many cyclists are rolling along our streets,” said Krupper. “Our hope is that community organizations, groups and people start pulling together to organize their own cycling-focused events. The more we collaborate in new and creative ways, the more we will realize a vibrant cycling culture in the city, built out of new and unexpected connections.”