News / Winnipeg

Busy downtown bike lane evolving but still needs work: advocates

Nic Audette said 'vehicles aren't obeying traffic signals' at Main Street and Assiniboine Avenue, making that bike crossing dangerous despite improvements.

Nic Audette at the unfinished bike lane on the eastside of Main street at Assiniboine Avenue in Winnipeg Manitoba, May 25, 2017.

Lyle Stafford / Metro

Nic Audette at the unfinished bike lane on the eastside of Main street at Assiniboine Avenue in Winnipeg Manitoba, May 25, 2017.

One of the city’s best buffered bike lanes still siphons cyclists into a dangerous crossing, despite recent improvements, say some advocates.

Ever since an official active transportation crossing was opened at Main Street and Assiniboine Avenue, users of the vital route felt unsafe pedalling across that point.

Even with the right of way, cyclists crossing in either direction needed to be wary of drivers that wouldn’t yield or stop.

On social media, numerous near-misses and scary situations illustrated the danger, attracting some attention from local media, and in mid-April, the city's transportation manager, Luis Escobar.

One of the more vocal commuters advocating for safety improvements, Nic Audette, said he was encouraged when in a CTV News interview, Escobar "said he was going to look into fixing it.”

Then, by the start of May, the city had installed additional traffic signals to the poles on the south side of the crossing to better emphasize where drivers should be stopping.

Bike Winnipeg executive director Mark Cohoe said those improvements were welcome.

“What they’ve done now is reinforce the idea you need to stop before that crossing… you’ve got to stop before Assiniboine, not crawl up to that left turn lane, that was one of the issues,” he said.

But despite the improvement, there are “other issues” both Cohoe and Audette believe are unaddressed.

“One other issue that happens there is people making the right turn off Assiniboine onto Main, and not actually stopping,” Cohoe said, noting there is a stop sign, but “more signage” from the go-to manual on traffic control devices could make things clearer for drivers unaware a bike could cross their path if they roll forward.

“They do have an option to add in more signage there,” he said.

Audette echoed the call for more signage, but added that there could be better communication around the city whenever cycling increases, as it does with warm weather, or for the commuter challenge, Bike Week, Pride Winnipeg and other festivals coming up.

“(The city) is putting out digital (ads) asking people to download the Waze Traffic app all of the time, but we can’t ask people to watch out for cyclists?” he said, adding the intersection as is doesn’t exactly put Winnipeg’s best foot forward, either, in terms of showcasing cycling infrastructure.

“It definitely doesn’t look good on us as a city to have half-built bike infrastructure that isn’t safe for users,” Audette said, noting it’s likely many tourists will cross there while travelling between hot spots like the legislature and The Forks.

Even with the existing signage and lights at the intersection, he said he’s noticed “vehicles aren’t obeying traffic signals.”

In May, since the new signals went in, Audette said “there’s been a lot of documented cases of cars running through lights, cyclists almost being hit.”

“I’ve seen vehicles stop on the crosswalk, creep up to it, streaking through… Observe for 20 minutes and you’ll see five or six vehicles go through that red,” he said.

Cohoe said the iterative approach to improving safety at the intersection isn’t ideal, especially with “traffic increasing,” but he gives the city credit for working the problem.

“It’s good they’ve revisited the crossing and are accommodating change,” he said.

A city spokesperson said that change hasn’t ended yet.

“We are also finalizing plans to enhance road markings to make them more visible and instructive to motorists,” said Lisa Fraser in a written statement. “Further improvements may include additional signage and some design changes to the intersection are also being considered.”

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