Winnipeg committee pumps brakes on fast-tracked bike grid
The infrastructure and public works committee did not support a lengthy pitch to figure out what it would take to roll out a downtown bike grid quickly.
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An ambitious plan to study a fast-tracked, adjustable grid of protected bike lanes is not moving forward—at least not yet.
After a well-attended info session in Winnipeg – including industry experts with experience implementing bike grids in other cities – Coun. Janice Lukes tried to get the infrastructure renewal and public works (IRPW) Committee to order a report on what it would take to follow suit locally.
Instead, IRPW chairperson Coun. Marty Morantz accepted her report—and the enthusiastic support from active transportation advocates, the business community, and other councillors alike—for information, and asked administration to take the next 120 days to determine if an adjustable downtown grid fits with the city’s existing plans.
“I think that taking a baby step forward on this is a good idea,” Morantz said.
He took contention with the mention of the infrastructure being “adjustable” and “temporary,” and said words like “expedite” put him off during Lukes’ presentation.
“Sometimes in our haste we can make mistakes,” he said.
Morantz also expressed concern that the city’s 2015 pedestrian and cycling strategy has “not a word” about adjustable bike paths, and wondered whether Edmonton or Calgary’s did before they went with the adjustable grid plan.
Transportation Manager Luis Escobar cleared it up, explaining each of those cities were in a similar “piecemeal” development mode as Winnipeg, building bike networks out during road renewal as per their respective plans before realizing the approach is “not an actual concerted effort to build a cycling network.”
Those cities, like Winnipeg, were years from having a gapless transportation network for cyclists that is both safe and convenient.
“So what they did is they (installed) something to fill in that space in-between,” Escobar said.
Also, to dissuade fears that Lukes’ idea could in any way defy the existing cycling strategy, Escobar said the department would have to find a way to make the two plans compatible, as it “cannot undermine a policy that has been adopted.”
Lukes further rebutted Morantz’s concerns, saying the strategy clearly identifies building out the downtown network as a key priority.
It’s a choice, she says, between taking a decade to have a safe cycling network downtown, or having one by 2018 “for a fraction of the cost.”
She contends her preferred method is a “new innovative approach” the consultants who developed Winnipeg’s active transportation plan simply hadn’t considered or weren’t familiar with at the time.
“Technology and innovation in (the active transportation field) is constantly evolving,” she said. “It used to be just painted llines with sharrows, but we realized people weren’t getting out… this is a very evolving field.”
Lukes said the motion that replaced her own is a “delay tactic,” but only a minor set-back.
She explained how, leading up to the IRPW meeting, she learned there is “tremendous demand” for the downtown grid, and she believes pushing it back means “people’s safety is put on the line,” so she’ll be working to make it happen.
“We’re here to make change,” Lukes said. “Change isn’t easy.”