Commuting by rollerblades comes with a catch

Danielle Doiron, Sports & Lifestyle Editor
Rollerblading is a cheap way to commute, but these wheels don’t give as smooth a ride as cycling. THE PROJECTOR/Emily Enns

Rollerblading is a cheap way to commute, but these wheels don’t give as smooth a
ride as cycling. THE PROJECTOR/Emily Enns

This summer, rollerbladers skated down Main Street and through downtown Winnipeg. But a month into the school year, Red River College’s bike racks are full, and rollerbladers are few and far between.

Danny Kidane, a genetics student at the University of Manitoba, said this might be because rollerbladers face more challenges than cyclists.

Kidane used to cycle-commute every day and rollerblade recreationally during the summer. Three months ago, he crashed and damaged his bicycle beyond repair. He doesn’t own a car and can’t afford a new bike or daily bus fare. Instead, Kidane catches rides with friends and rollerblades once a week, but he said it’s a much slower and harder way to get around.

“Wind adds 10 minutes if it’s against me,” Kidane said, “and you need full traction to be on rollerblades. I can’t do it if just rained or if there’s snow on the ground.”

Winnipeg’s notorious potholes and uneven pavement also make rollerblading more difficult.

“I avoid the road as often as possible, but sometimes it’s your only option,” Kidane said. “Gravel is Satan’s mess. Grass is just the worst. If you hop onto it and catch a little bit of soil, you’ll tumble.”

He said he tries to rollerblade on sidewalks whenever possible, but some pedestrians don’t like “sharing the road.”

Neither do stores. Kidane said the “biggest downside” of rollerblades is that they’re not allowed in most buildings. He said he understands the reasons behind the rules, but he wishes he didn’t have to “plan ahead and bring shoes.”

This August, the Safeway on Alpine Avenue posted a sign prohibiting rollerblades, something Betty Kellsey, spokesperson for Public Affairs Safeway Operations said is a preventative measure.

“We didn’t have any specific incidences I’m aware of,” she said.

Safeway doesn’t allow rollerblades, scooters or skateboards in its stores, but Kellsey said each location evaluates the specific needs for cyclists and other commuters and installs bicycle racks or other amenities in areas with heavy bicycle traffic. But while the Alpine Avenue Safeway is located near the long pedestrian trail along Fermor Avenue, it doesn’t offer storage spaces or lockers for rollerbladers who visit the store.

While rules and limitations like this make rollerblading difficult, Kidane said it’s still one of the most affordable means of warm-weather transportation.

To make rollerblade commutes easier, he advises drivers to keep a lookout for all sidewalk commuters.

“Stop at crosswalks and check before you keep going,” he said. “Always assume there’s a cyclist or a rollerblader on the sidewalk, because you never know.”