News / Winnipeg

Forum on fast tracking bike network well attended, but now what?

Winnipeggers have expressed an appetite for a fast-tracked minimum grid installation in downtown, but there's still work to do before it can happen.

Coun. Janice Lukes has kicked off a public discussion on ways Winnipeg could follow Western cities in rolling out a downtown bike network in one fell swoop rather than piecemeal.

Supplied/ Zach Fleisher

Coun. Janice Lukes has kicked off a public discussion on ways Winnipeg could follow Western cities in rolling out a downtown bike network in one fell swoop rather than piecemeal.

A group of Winnipeg cyclists, politicians and students are keen to see the wheels in motion for a bike grid in Winnipeg.

But following a public forum on “fast tracking” a complete bike lane network in Winnipeg on Tuesday, the question remains: Now what?

Spoiler alert: there could be more consultations.

More than 150 people at the forum heard from a panel well acquainted with the successful application of that style project in Calgary, and another underway in Edmonton, and liked what they heard.

“There wasn’t a moment that made me think it wasn’t applicable (in Winnipeg),” said urban design student Zach Fleischer. “To see the other cities stepping up to the plate, it’s really inspiring, and it gives me hope we can start to move forward.”

The Green Action Centre’s safe routes to school program coordinator Jamie Hilland, who admits he’s biased in terms of wanting protected bike lanes, said he found the number of attendees “eye opening.”

“(Attendance) was impressive, it was literally standing room only. You can really tell there is a pent-up demand for this kind of thing,” he said.

The demand hasn’t gone unnoticed with municipal leaders.

Councillor Cindy Gilroy, who attended the forum, said she appreciated the panel and learning “how (other cities) moved forward with a grid,” adding she’s, “open to having a conversation now about what (Winnipeg) can do.”

She thinks it’s the right time to have that conversation, as “more and more people become engaged.”

“A few years back that room (Tuesday) wouldn’t have been as packed, but people are starting to cycle more,” she said. “I think we need to talk to that community… if they feel we could start a project while having some temporary infrastructure put in that could become permanent, I’m all for that.”

Her colleague, Coun. Marty Morantz, is similarly interested in pacing the bike network expansion to allow for more consultation—whereas the forum’s organizer and lead bike-booster Coun. Janice Lukes is steering the fast-track wagon.

Morantz wasn’t at the public forum, but during a debate on impact fees at City Hall on Wednesday he highlighted the contradiction in Lukes wanting to take more time to study the fees while trying to hurry in another “major policy area.”

“A downtown cycling grid is very important. I just really hope that it doesn’t get rushed through,” Morantz said.

Lukes, for her part, doesn’t disagree, and her next steps are in line with what Morantz and Gilroy are thinking.

“What’s next? We go to the next phase,” Lukes said. “I’ll make a motion to ask the department what amount of consultation it would take to understand this better… get some cost estimates, some scheduling estimates, that’s my intent.”

Depending how long it takes for city staff to answer those and other questions in a full report, Lukes said consultation could probably happen within the next year, something she’s excited about.

“I absolutely want to keep moving forward on this,” she said. “Ultimately council will decide.” 

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