*New snow-clearing method allows Montreal cyclists to 'really see the
*Pilot project in Plateau-Mont-Royal and Ville-Marie involves sweeping
pavement, spreading snow-melting brine*
It was so cold Thursday morning that parts of Magali Bebronne's bicycle
froze, but the determined Montreal year-round bike commuter got her
bicycle rolling and hit the road.
To her surprise, she found the 20-minute ride through the
Plateau-Mont-Royal easier than usual, despite the recent snow accumulation.
That's because the borough is testing a new way of keeping its bike paths
clean — a two-step process that uses street-sweepers to clear the pavement
before coating the path with a special snow-melting brine.
"When I rode on the Rachel bike path yesterday, I really noticed the
surface was a lot clearer than it had ever been," said Bebronne, a program
manager with the cycling advocacy group Vélo Québec
"When you're riding on a bike, just a few centimetres of snow can really
make it difficult to ride. Conditions that work for cars don't work for
But with these new techniques the borough is testing, "you can really see
the asphalt," she said. That's why her organization has been pushing the
city to get more of such equipment out on the road.
The method has already been tested in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, and now
Ville-Marie is giving it a shot, along with the Plateau.
The sweepers can be deployed when the accumulated snowfall is about five
centimetres or less. Tractors towing tanks filled with a calcium chloride
solution then spread the solution onto the paths.
The brine coats the asphalt and makes it easier to clean after the next
storm. While this method could be used on sidewalks, it's not as effective
on concrete, because asphalt's dark colour absorbs heat and melts the snow
'If you plow it, they will come'
The results on the bike paths have left everybody smiling, so far.
Blue-collar workers have had no problems implementing the technique, and
cyclists have been giving positive feedback, said Coun. Marianne Giguère,
who is the city's executive committee member in charge of active
"With all the climate changes that we have — having very cold, and then
very warm, and the cold and snow and rain and everything — we need to
adjust our old methods," she said.
"The cyclists are quite happy," said Giguère, a councillor in the Plateau's
De Lorimier district and a long-time voice for cyclists.
Keeping bike paths clear in the winter is a sure way to encourage people to
bike to work or school all year round, she said.
"If you plow it, they will come," said Giguère. She said the number of
winter cyclists is estimated to have doubled since more effort has been put
into keeping bike paths clear.
"In Montreal, the popularity of winter biking has risen a lot every year."
Boroughs are always looking for new ways to keep streets, sidewalks and
bike paths clear of ice and snow, she said — comparing notes at the end of
the season on new methods they've tried.
Officials also attend annual winter cycling conferences that bring
municipal representatives of wintry cities around the world to share ideas.
Cyclists pedalling no matter the cold
Even when temperatures plummeted to bone-chilling levels by Thursday
evening, cyclists were pedalling up and down Rachel Street East's protected
Vélo Québec's headquarters is on Rachel Street, and Bebronne said she'd
seen a mother with her two young daughters all out biking earlier in the
day. When the path is clear, she said, people are more inclined to
cycle, no matter how frigid the temperature.
- Montreal's new 'proactive' snow-clearing plan comes without big budget
She, too, has seen a substantial increase in the number of cyclists using
the bike path as the city improves snow-clearing techniques on bike paths.
Now, she said, it's time to adopt tried-and-tested methods throughout the
"Maybe not every borough would have to invest in such equipment, but maybe
it's time to imagine that such equipment could be shared between boroughs,"
"One piece of equipment could go over the bike path of a few central
*Winnipeg hasn’t arrived as a cycling city *
WINNIPEG has long been known as a city that prioritizes cars. So, you’d be
forgiven if your reaction was “Huh?” earlier this month when a list from
online real estate brokerage Redfin ranked Winnipeg in the top 10 Canadian
cities for biking.
This ranking is best taken with a grain of road salt, however. Our city’s
score, 61, puts us at “bikeable.” We have a good way to go before we could
be considered “very bikeable” (70 to 89 points) or a “biker’s paradise” (90
to 100). Victoria, B.C., topped the list with a score of 80.
For a city to rank above 90, its citizens must be able to run daily errands
or commute to work via bike. Access to bike lanes, road connectivity and
hilliness are all factors in the bikeability score.
So, we have flatness going for us.
Winnipeg’s bike-lane infrastructure, meanwhile, leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s a slipshod patchwork of unprotected sharrows with few protected lanes,
many of which come to abrupt ends. A lack of connectivity creates a
chicken-and-egg scenario: cyclists are likely to avoid lanes that are
frustrating to use, and then motorists complain that the bike lanes aren’t
being used. And, as we’ve seen in the Exchange District — held up as a
positive example of urban density — business owners are annoyed with what
they call piecemeal development in the area, including bike lanes.
Our winter-city climate is often cited as reason to not invest in cycling
infrastructure, especially the kind geared toward commuter cycling.
But Minneapolis, routinely ranked the most bikeable city in the U.S., has a
climate similar to ours. Average highs are a few degrees warmer in the Twin
Cities than in Winnipeg, but its placement on the globe means it is just as
susceptible to deep-freezing arctic air masses and snowstorms as its
neighbour to the north.
The average annual snowfall total in the Twin Cities is 115.1 cm, one
centimetre more than Winnipeg’s annual total. They’ve figured it out. Why
Bike Winnipeg’s co-chairwoman Liz Shearer told the Free Press that the lack
of a fully connected cycling grid keeps Winnipeg from being a bikeability
But that’s only part of what’s holding us back. Beyond the accessible bike
lanes, weather and terrain, a place’s “bike-friendliness” should consider
the attitudes of drivers toward cyclists. Winnipeg’s bikeability score of
61 is tied with that of Toronto, a city in which 41 cyclists were killed or
seriously injured in 2018. Is that really “bikeable”?
An Australian study published this year found that around half of
non-cyclists viewed cyclists as “less than fully human,” and that
“dehumanization measures were significantly correlated with aggression
It’s not a stretch to say Winnipeg can be a rather cyclist-hostile city.
Yes, there are bad cyclists and bad drivers, to acknowledge another common
argument. But a bike does not become lethal weapon the way a 2,000-kilogram
car travelling at 60 km/h does.
To become a truly bikeable city that actually merits being on a top-10 list
is a noble goal. Cycling is good for our increasingly sedentary bodies and
good for our environment. But getting there will involve more than building
protected lanes and more cyclists embracing our designation as a winter
city the way cyclists in Nordic countries have. It will also involve an
attitude adjustment that extends across the broader community.
*City gives frosty reception to reopened bridge over troubled water*
Plus CBC coverage:
THERE’S not much love at city hall for the two residents who did what the
entire public works department was unable to: reopen the Omand’s Creek
Brad Hignell and Chris Beauvilain spent three hours Saturday morning
clearing ice from the footbridge — a key link in the active transportation
network which connects Wolseley to River Heights and Assiniboine Park —
which the City of Winnipeg had closed for safety concerns after an unusual
late fall flood and freeze-up.
While area residents may be grateful for not having to make a long cold
walk or bike ride detour, the city was not impressed.
“What the residents did at the Omand’s Creek footbridge, though
well-intentioned, did not mitigate the public safety risk that existed at
this location, as it went beyond simply clearing ice off the bridge
surface,” a city spokeswoman said Monday in an email to the Free Press.
“Opening and closing bridge structures can only be done by professional
engineers; the residents who ultimately cleared and reopened the bridge had
no way of knowing whether the structure was sound. Luckily, an inspection
by our bridge engineers (Monday) morning confirmed that the bridge had not
sustained any structural damage due to the ice nor subsequent unsanctioned
Despite what Hignell and Beauvilain had accomplished with a bit of sweat
and hard work, the spokeswoman said conditions in the area had been simply
unsafe for crews to access with their equipment.
“Fluctuating water levels through late October and November caused overland
flooding that formed thick, hazardous ice that — for weeks — expanded and
contracted on, underneath and around the bridge,” she said.
“This posed potential for damage to the bridge structure, which we were
unable to inspect until the ice was cleared — a simple task in and of
itself, but one the city decided not to undertake due to other, less easily
mitigated hazards in the area.
“When the ice formed, expanded, and contracted on the pathways, it created
a two-layered system of thick, uneven surface that made the trail
incredibly steep and unstable and also left a sharp drop-off leading onto
the bridge. The risk of taking machinery down these pathways to adequately
clear them and lay enough sand to create traction outweighed opening the
area to foot and bike traffic through the winter.”
City hall thus erected barricades, and forced those who used the route on
foot and bike to take a long, windy detour, until Hignell and his friend
(both of whom had studied engineering at university) grabbed a couple of
picks, bars, shovels and a bucket of gravel.
Ward Coun. Cindy Gilroy did not respond to questions on the bridge.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, chairwoman of council’s protection, community
services and parks committee, said she understood the two men’s frustration
but said city hall opted to side with caution when safety is at stake.
“Sometimes things are closed for reasons. Whether it’s high river levels,
and this is a reality this year, where there’s a lot of paths and skating
(closed) that isn’t about budgetary cutbacks, it’s about safety,” Rollins
said. “I don’t want Winnipeggers to be confused by that.”
Coun. Matt Allard, chairman of the public works committee, echoed that
stance. “City staff did their job, and made a judgment call using the
available information to ensure public safety,” he said in an email
Ironically, the public works department had envisioned such a scenario, and
had proposed replacing the bridge in 2010 with one with greater river
clearance. It dropped the idea in the face of overwhelming opposition from
The civic spokeswoman said while the footbridge is structurally sound and
safe to cross, the same can’t be said for the pathway on either side. Crews
and heavy equipment were in the area Monday.
“We urge anyone who chooses to use the pathway to please exercise caution
and be aware of the steep incline and decline, as well as the uneven
terrain,” the spokeswoman said.
Anders Swanson, executive director of Winnipeg Trails Association, said the
public works department appears to have done a good job keeping other parts
of the active transportation network cleared this winter.
“I don’t know why they gave up on the bridge,” Swanson said, adding the
bike and pedestrian paths continue to be treated in a second-class fashion.
“If there was a sewer line break or a big pothole in the middle of Portage
Avenue, it wouldn’t be acceptable to stretch snow fencing across it and
— with files from Danielle DaSilva
*Driver charged with death at crosswalk *
* Police allege novice motorist not supervised*
A 31-year-old Winnipeg woman charged in connection with a collision at a
crosswalk in March, in which a child was killed, was allegedly a novice
driver who should not have been driving without supervision, police say.
On Friday, Winnipeg police announced that Highway Traffic Act charges have
been laid against the unidentified driver in connection with the March 18
incident that killed a four-year-old girl and injured her mother.
Genet Bruk and her daughter Galila were struck at the crosswalk at Isabel
Street and Alexander Avenue, on their way to Dufferin School to meet her
six-year-old son at lunch time. Galila later died in hospital and her
mother is still recovering from her injuries, a family friend said Friday.
The charges related to the collision include careless driving causing
death, careless driving causing bodily harm, disobeying a traffic device
and operating a vehicle as a novice driver without a supervising driver.
The driver was released on an appearance notice, Winnipeg police said in a
press release. It stated the Highway Traffic Act charges were laid at the
direction of the Crown. The most serious charges — careless driving causing
death and bodily harm — have a maximum penalty of up to two years in
prison. It defines careless driving as driving “without due care and
attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the
Had the driver been charged under the Criminal Code of Canada, the
penalties would have been much harsher and required the Crown to prove the
driver was criminally negligent and driving in a way that’s a “marked and
substantial departure from the standard of a reasonable driver.”
“That would be driving with wanton disregard — so poorly and badly in a way
nobody could possibly expect for someone to operate a vehicle,” said
criminal defence lawyer Scott Newman, who has no connection to the case.
“The Highway Traffic Act has a lower burden of proof.”
Hearing that the driver has been charged nine months after the fatal
collision was news to Dorota Blumczynksa, a friend of Galila’s mother and
the executive director of IRCOM Isabel, where the Eritrean family has lived
since arriving in Canada last January.
“If there was a mistake made or inadequate training, or someone was not
supposed to be driving, should a person be held to account for their
actions? Absolutely,” said Blumczynska, who doesn’t know anything about the
accused. “Nothing will bring Galila back, but it’s for the safety of
The child’s mother, Genet Bruk, now uses a wheelchair outside the home and
a walker inside the home and is receiving physiotherapy, said Blumczynska,
who’s had tea at the home several times and cries with the woman every
“She’s got a very, very long road to physical recovery. She hopes to walk
Emotionally and spiritually, she and her husband are coping, Blumczynska
said. “They have found an enormous amount of comfort in their faith. They
believe their daughter was called to be at God’s side. They’re able to make
sense of their world in that way and come to some peace with this tragedy.”
She hopes that news of the charges being laid may act as a deterrent and
prevent more fatalities.
“None of the children who witnessed that accident, none of my colleagues
who accompanied the (victims) to hospital or saw Galila’s lifeless body
will ever be the same,” she said. “I think it’s important to understand we
are accountable to one another and responsible for one another.”
*Omand’s Creek footbridge closed till spring due to ice *
A well-used footbridge in Wolseley, considered an integral part of the
active transportation network, will be closed until late spring.
City crews blocked access to the footbridge over Omand’s Creek last week,
after late-November flooding submerged the structure and froze into thick,
hazardous ice, public works spokeswoman Julie Dooley said. “It’s completely
iced over, so it’s just not safe for people to walk over it,” she said.
Every spring, the bridge is flooded when the Assiniboine River spills into
the creek and submerges parts of Omand Park in Wolseley. Latefall flooding,
however, is uncommon.
Dooley said the crossing had been under ice for a few weeks before it was
closed, and creek levels have since returned to normal.
There’s no indication the structural integrity of the bridge has been
affected, she said, yet the city won’t make an effort to restore public
access this winter.
“We appreciate the inconvenience of the closure but want to ensure all park
users stay safe. Pedestrians can still access the other side of the bridge
by rerouting down Raglan Street to Portage Avenue,” she said.
Anders Swanson, executive director of Winnipeg Trails Association, said the
closure is an example of deficiencies in the city’s maintenance of active
“That bridge and the detour is indicative of a number of gaps in the city
where we need things to be designed to accommodate all users, all year
long,” Swanson said.
The path through Omand Park is popular with cyclists, runners and
pedestrians who use the footbridge to cross Omand’s Creek while out for
walks with their dogs, running the popular Wolseley- Wellington loop or
travelling between the Polo Park area and downtown.
Without access to the crossing, people are choosing instead to traverse the
heaved ice of the frozen creek, or head north on Raglan Street to Portage
Avenue, and south again to the parkway to get to their destination, and
neither option is ideal, Swanson said.
“It really points to the fact that what are your alternatives? And when you
have a city with the bare minimum of connectivity, every little piece
counts,” he said.
The bridge is also part of the North Assiniboine Parkway, which ties into
the city’s planned active transportation network on Empress Street, part of
a $22.83-million rehabilitation project of Empress Street and the overpass.
It’s also a critical alternative to cycling on Portage Avenue, Swanson said.
Given the importance of the bridge to the active transportation network,
and the frequent flooding of the creek, more political attention could be
paid to improving infrastructure in Omand Park, Swanson said. Raising the
bridge to avoid chronic flooding would be a good starting point.
Please join Green Action Centre and Bike Winnipeg for a group viewing of
the monthly APBP webinar in the EcoCentre
This will be followed by discussion for those who wish to stay.
* * * * *
Education and Encouragement: Bringing the Right People Together
December 18 at 2:00pm
What really changes a person’s behavior? How can agencies and activists
help inform appropriate behavior on our streets and pathways? When new
infrastructure or operations are introduced, how can we ensure that users
understand intentions and exhibit safe operation? How do we best utilize
the resources of agency staff and advocacy resources to help this process?
We'll examine the effectiveness of Education and Encouragement, and how to
broaden the tent of who’s involved in the "soft" E's.
Canmore will charge for downtown parking to keep bus service fare free Parking
downtown will cost $6 a day on weekdays starting summer 2020 ttps://
The Town of Canmore is hoping to alleviate congestion and fund its transit
service by charging parking fees.
Town council approved the change on Tuesday, which will affect those
parking between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, starting summer 2020.
Parking downtown will cost $6 a day, or between $1 and $1.50 per hour to
park, depending on whether or not it's peak season. Residents who live in
the area will be able to register for permits.
Mayor John Borrowman said while the move has been controversial, he's
urging residents to wait and see how it plays out.
"Parking has never been free. It's always been a cost that has been borne
by the local taxpayer: the cost of providing that infrastructure and
maintaining it," he said. "With paid parking and those paid parking
revenues going toward our transit fares, our visitors are helping to pay
for those costs, rather than 100 per cent of them coming from local
The money is earmarked for Canmore's local transit service, Roam, which is
Borrowman hopes the parking fees might alleviate congestion — which has
been an increasing problem in the Bow Valley.
"I hear from residents that they simply don't come downtown anymore because
it's too busy. I am anticipating that through this program, we'll find
that residents start coming back into the downtown because it is easier and
it's less congested," he said.
Banff is also considering introducing parking fees.
*Fully linked grid would move city higher up Canadian list*
*Winnipeg pedals into Top 10 *
ASK a random Canadian about Winnipeg’s reputation, and they’re more likely
to mention the cold or crime than cycling. But new rankings from online
real estate brokerage Redfin put Winnipeg squarely in the Top 10 Canadian
cities for biking, tied with Toronto and Richmond, B.C.
The rankings don’t qualify Winnipeg as a “biker’s paradise” (for cities
with a score of 90 and above) or even “very bikeable” (70 to 89 points).
But Winnipeg’s 61-point score earns a modest “bikeable” status in Redfin’s
view, a category for cities with “some bike infrastructure.”
Redfin’s bike-score ratings are similar to its proprietary walk scores and
transit scores, which are often mentioned on real estate listings. (The
company acquired Walk Score in 2014. Winnipeg’s average Walk Score is just
53, while Toronto has a Walk Score of 71.) The company’s inaugural Canadian
bike-friendliness ranking covered roughly 100 cities, Redfin’s lead
economist, Taylor Marr, said.
“We know from our years of experience that people really value walkability.
They also value being close to transit increasingly... But also people
really value bikeability, not only for the health benefits but also for the
cost savings,” said Marr, who commutes by bike in his home city of Seattle.
The bike-score rankings evaluated cities across four criteria — topography,
cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes, the number of bikeable
destinations and the share of the population that commutes by bicycle.
Liz Shearer, co-chairwoman of cycling advocacy group Bike Winnipeg, said
bike ridership is on the increase in Winnipeg, “and as infrastructure is
built, so is ridership... When people feel safer, they ride more often,
which shouldn’t come as a surprise.”
But Winnipeg’s lack of a fully connected cycling grid keeps Manitoba’s
capital from being a true leader in bikeability, she said.
Shearer is concerned about the future of the 20-year active transportation
strategy Winnipeg passed in 2015, saying the plan is being underfunded by
“We’ve gotten international recognition for this cycling and pedestrian
plan, but words without action is just a dream,” Shearer said. “So if we’re
not enacting and funding this type of plan properly, we’ll never reach its
The chilling spectre of Winnipeg winters is frequently invoked in public
discourse around the city’s need for cycling infrastructure. Redfin’s Marr
said the company’s scoring model didn’t account for weather directly,
although the share of bike commuters serves as an indirect proxy,
especially in North America.
“(You) often see somewhat of a correlation in terms of places that are more
weather-friendly for biking do have higher shares of people biking. What is
really odd, though, is that you don’t necessarily see that relationship
very strongly on an international scale,” he said, citing the cold weather
cycling paradise of Copenhagen.
Winnipeggers tend to wear their cold weather credentials as a “badge of
honour,” Bike Winnipeg’s Shearer said.
“So it’s surprising when I hear that people think we’re not able to embrace
(winter cycling) as part of our lifestyles, and I do think that it is
because there is a lack of infrastructure so that people can feel safe and
protected,” she said.
“If we were to be able to make cycling a safe and convenient option
year-round, then the only barrier we’d have to face in taking our bikes out
on a winter’s day is the same battle we already face every day that we
leave our homes as Winnipeggers.”
Shearer encouraged Winnipeggers to try winter cycling if they haven’t
before, suggesting a test ride on a route that’s protected from traffic.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re pressured into trying something
that makes them feel unsafe, but I would encourage people to try something
new, and to see what routes are available to them — and if there isn’t a
safe route to get them from A to B, who should they talk to, to make that
Victoria led Redfin’s bike-friendliness rankings with a score of 80,
followed by Vancouver (79) and Montreal (73). Redfin rates Minneapolis as
the most bikeable city in the U.S., with a score of 84 points.
solomon.israel(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @sol_israel
*Slower speeds urged after pedestrian injuries *
HOPES for a safer, more pedestrian- friendly Winnipeg drew about five dozen
people to the Old Grace Housing Co-op on Thursday night to hear local
advocacy group Safe Speeds Winnipeg make its case for lower speed limits.
Clayton Rudy, presenter and Safe Speeds Winnipeg member, said the
organization was founded after “so many incidents where people have been
injured or killed” on Winnipeg’s roads.
“And that sparked a grassroots group to form to discuss the problem and
explore some of the solutions.”
Safe Speed Winnipeg’s key goal is convincing the city to reduce the default
speed for Winnipeg roads from 50 kilometres an hour to 30 km/h unless
otherwise posted. Back lane speed limits would be cut from 30 km/h to 15
km/h under the proposed policy.
“Because there are thousands and thousands of kilometres of roads in the
city, rather than going block-by-block through the whole city to see what
needs to be lowered, the position of Safe Speeds Winnipeg is that the
default should be lowered and then the city can raise the speed limits, or
keep them as is in the case of higher-speed roads,” said Rudy, a
private-sector transportation engineer whose presentation to the town hall
focused on the science of pedestrian safety.
“But it’s far more efficient and effective, to improve safety on the
streets, to have a low default and then raise where it’s appropriate to do
Safe Speeds Winnipeg was among a number of groups that pushed Winnipeg’s
public works committee to lower speed limits this past summer, after the
provincial government allowed Manitoba municipalities to set speed limits
on their own. Rudy said that effort didn’t succeed, although the public
service has been assigned to study the matter.
“Because of the amount of people and the frequency with which they’re
injured or killed on the roads, it’s an urgent decision to make, and
there’s no real need to wait for more reports and more studies to make that
decision that the default should be lowered,” Rudy said in an interview
before the town hall.
Fellow presenter and Safe Speeds Winnipeg member Sylvia Buchholz believes
the city’s willingness to at least reconsider speed limits is promising.
“It’s a hard topic, right? People feel so passionate about it, but judging
just by the tragedies that we’re reading in the news more and more, I think
this is gaining public support,” she told the Free Press ahead of the event.
In her presentation, Buchholz highlighted that her group’s proposal
wouldn’t mean speeds would be limited to 30 km/h across the entire city,
saying the policy would mostly affect residential areas.
Cutting speed limits sounds like a good idea to attendee Allison Penner, a
Wolseley resident who attended the meeting with her partner and nearly
two-year-old son. She thinks improved infrastructure such as crosswalks and
speed bumps would also help calm traffic in her neighbourhood.
“Our kid is getting a little bit older, he’s going to be starting school in
a couple years,” Penner said. “And we live right on Westminster, so we see
how the traffic kind of just whips through, and it feels really unsafe.”
Fellow meeting attendee Donald Swanson said he’s almost been hit by cars
while crossing Portage Avenue, and also expressed concern about traffic on
Sherburn Street where he lives.
“On Sherburn Street, there’s a lot of kids, and they’re always playing in
the front and people are whipping up and down,” he said.
Coun. Scott Gillingham represents Winnipeg’s St. James ward, where two
teenagers were injured Wednesday morning after being struck by a car at
Ness Avenue and Woodlawn Street. He said he couldn’t attend the Thursday
town hall but was open to the idea of reducing speed limits in residential
“I don’t know if I support 30, but I’m certainly open to looking at
something lower than 50 km/h on residential streets,” he said.
MLA Lisa Naylor attended the event in her Wolseley constituency, and said
pedestrian safety was an issue she heard about frequently while door
knocking during the recent provincial election campaign.
“The presentation tonight was really well done,” Naylor said. “I think
they’re talking about a change across the entire city. I don’t feel like I
have enough information to have an opinion on that, but I certainly think
we would benefit by some lower speed limits in some areas of this
neighbourhood, for sure.”
solomon.israel(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @sol_israel