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Your Ride: Winnipeg

Colin Fast is a communications specialist and freelance reporter in Winnipeg. He writes about transit and transportation every Tuesday for Metro.

Winnipeg's new pedestrian and cycling strategy, by the numbers

As council prepares for its final (God willing) debate over the city’s new pedestrian and cycling strategy on Wednesday, it’s a good time to look at some of the key numbers surrounding this initiative:

— $334 million. That’s the total price tag for the strategy. While it sounds like a lot, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, that‘s spread out over 20 years to build multi-use paths, greenways, protected bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian bridges all over town. And second, that funding might never actually materialize, as city council would have to approve capital funding for active transportation projects every single year based on what money is available in the budget. And while opponents say that’s too much to spend on bike paths, here’s another number to keep in mind ...

— Five billion. That’s what the city’s Transportation Master Plan will cost in the next 20 years. And that’s not for fixing existing infrastructure — that’s for new roads, bridges, underpasses and rapid transit lines. So that means walking and cycling projects only account for about 6.7 per cent of the total transportation wish list, which is a lot lower than ...

— Nine per cent. That’s the current share of Winnipeggers who use walking or cycling as their primary form of transportation each morning, according to that very same Transportation Master Plan. So it appears the city isn’t proposing to spend “too much” on active transportation, but actually not enough. The problem gets even worse when you consider this statistic ...

— Forty-seven per cent. That’s the percentage of Winnipeggers who said in a phone survey they would cycle more often if the city built more separated bike lanes. That’s right, this strategy wasn’t just created by a cabal of consultants and cycling elitists on Twitter, but actual scientific polling was done to figure out whether people were interested in biking and walking more. Speaking of walking ...

— Fifty-three per cent. That’s the share of people who said they would walk more often if the city filled in the gaps in the cycling network. And if the city actually goes ahead with this plan, maybe they could walk to one of ... 3,800 new construction and engineering jobs.

According to a University of Massachusetts study, cycling projects create 11.4 local jobs for every $1 million spent, while pedestrian projects create about 10 jobs for the same amount of money. Multiplied by $334 million, that’s a lot of additional employment and economic activity. Interestingly, the same study said road projects only generate 7.8 jobs for every $1 million.

And if all that’s not enough to convince councillors, then here’s one last figure for them: 142 years. That’s how long it has taken for Winnipeg to finally come up with a comprehensive plan to get more people walking and biking. It’s time to get this city moving.

Colin Fast is a communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg. Out of guilt, he avoided looking directly at his unused bike while writing this column. Find him

@policyfrog on Twitter.

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