News / Winnipeg

Bike grid discussion returns to City Hall Tuesday

Coun. Janice Lukes says she plans to reiterate her call for city staff to look into the feasibility of fast tracking a downtown bike grid, Tuesday.

Metro File

In the time it took Winnipeg’s public service to report back on whether an adjustable grid of bike lanes would fit the city’s existing plans, Edmonton has installed nearly 7 km of protected cycling infrastructure in its downtown.

That really frustrates Coun. Janice Lukes, who last fall pitched a similar idea of adjustable infrastructure to expedite the bike-lane build out locally, around the time councillors out west unanimously supported fast-tracking their version by this spring.

She hosted a well-attended info session with experts involved with bold cycling infrastructure projects in Calgary and Edmonton on a panel, then tried to get the Infrastructure and Public Works committee (IRPW) to order a report on what it would take to follow suit in Winnipeg.

But rather than research cost and feasibility, the committee asked administration to take 120 days to report back on whether the concept aligned with existing pedestrian and cycling strategies (PCS).

“Surprise,” Lukes said Sunday. “They’ve come back and said it is in the plans. Imagine that.”

An administrative report going to the IRPW committee Tuesday confirms what Lukes said about half a year ago, council had already looked at the roads a downtown “grid” would go on, and “adjustable methods” are already “considered as an implementation method at some locations.”

The report notes “adjustable” bike lanes are a deployment method of protected cycling facilities, and concluded with “this being the case, adjustable methods for the implementation of a protected bike facility fits within the goals and objectives of the PCS.”

Administration recommends the committee accept the report for information—there is no further action advised.  

“I guess what I am going to have to do then is come back with my original motion… direct the department to study it again,” Lukes said. “Now that we see it is in fact in the strategies, hopefully (the committee) will say, ‘okay, let’s study what it’ll cost to implement downtown in a short window.’”

While she is pleased IRPW committee members will now know the public works department is acquainted with her preferred implementation method, and hopeful it can gain traction, she’s less happy with how the process has been delayed.

“We need to start it now, then refine it, that’s the whole idea with an adjustable grid,” she said. 

Lukes explained that a protected bike grid allowing people to travel safely around the heart of a city is part of a bigger picture, with growth, civic pride, place making, bolstering the economy, and attracting new businesses and workers all in the frame.

Without that bigger picture in the equation, she thinks it’s worth moving quickly on this item “for safety” at the very least.

But she worries the IRPW committee, whose chairperson said “taking a baby step forward on this is a good idea” when her motion was changed in November, will concur with the administrative report to the point that there is no action taken, and no appetite for catching up to similar cities rolling out grids across the country.

Even if the committee does support her original motion, she still has little hope that a new report would be ready in time to get a plan into the 2018 budget by the fall, pushing the whole idea back to 2019 at the earliest. 

“It’ll never get in unless the mayor made it a priority,” she said.

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