*Narrowing sidewalk a step backward *
ALMOST since the invention of the automobile, downtown Winnipeg has been
shaped by cars. In 1931, right turns on red lights were introduced,
diagonal parking was removed and one-way streets began to appear. In 1955,
streetcars were discontinued and the elm trees that lined the
once-residential streets were cut down to widen the roads.
Housing was slowly bought up and turned into parking lots. Today, with more
than 32,000 stalls, a staggering 40 per cent of downtown’s land area is
dedicated to parking.
This slow evolution of prioritizing cars over places for people transformed
the character of downtown — its pedestrian barricades, wide roads and
windswept parking lots left few places for people to linger and enjoy. We
designed for cars and we got cars, lots of them. Our once bustling
sidewalks today see the fewest pedestrians and are lined by the lowest
number of retail storefronts of any major Canadian city.
There is no longer a downtown shopping street, and even the Exchange
District, with all its charm, has fewer storefronts and restaurants than
similar areas in other cities.
Over the past decade, however, this has slowly begun to change. Beginning
with the construction of Waterfront Drive, we have started to use the
design of our streets to bring people back. Sidewalks have been widened and
improved, bike lanes have been installed and, after almost 90 years,
diagonal parking has returned.
There has been a great investment in public space, with new lighting,
public art, trees, benching and other street furniture. Innovative
government tax incentive programs that have in the past driven residential
growth have helped make downtown a more attractive place for people are
working. More people live downtown today than ever have, and the population
of the Exchange District has gone to 2,500 from 250 in 15 years. Shops and
restaurants have begun to follow.
Recently, however, we took a small but important step backward, when a
segment of the sidewalk on Main Street at Bannatyne Avenue was reduced by
more than half to add a drop-off lane to a street that is already eight
lanes wide. The resulting sidewalk, about two metres wide, is narrower than
the city’s own standards for accessibility, even before factoring in snow
accumulation and space for vehicle-door swings.
The design was explained as a compromise to provide tenants of the adjacent
building a new drop-off area, sometimes for children, after loading on
Bannatyne Avenue was moved across the street to accommodate a new bike
lane. If we look holistically at the overwhelming amount of adjacent area
given to cars, it suggests there may have been opportunity to find the
compromise within existing vehicle space.
The building has two associated surface parking lots. One takes up a
significant portion of Old Market Square, an important public place, and
the other creates a permanent open space along Main Street and a driveway
across its sidewalk. Main Street itself is eight lanes wide and has
curb-lane parking and loading all the way down its length, including on the
blocks directly on either side of the new drop-off area.
It is unclear why that configuration was not pursued on this block.
Bannatyne Avenue has parking and loading zones on the opposite side of the
street, less convenient, but a possible compromise might have been for
parents dropping off their children to get out of their cars and escort
them the short distance to the building entrance.
We have been making progress creating spaces that invite more pedestrians,
but narrowing sidewalks works to repel them.
It demonstrates the difficult challenge planners and engineers face,
balancing the needs of cyclists, drivers and pedestrians, particularly in
response to the demands of local, street-level business.
Downtown Winnipeg is in a unique transition phase. There are so few
street-level shops because downtown has been designed to prioritize
drivers, making it an unattractive place to walk. This has resulted in too
few pedestrians on the sidewalks to support businesses, which in turn
requires increased space for cars to attract more drivers to help support
It creates a challenging cycle: drive-up business may represent a smaller
proportion of downtown storefront commerce, but removing even a few parking
stalls can be enough to affect the viability of a shop or restaurant.
This has put downtown shop owners in a difficult position, as they
generally believe part of what they are selling is a unique urban
experience that includes bike lanes and great pedestrian environments, but,
in the short term, they need parking to survive. This becomes even more
important with residential growth slowing because of the end of tax
incentives and bike-lane implementation that has been slow to create a
complete functioning network that will increase the number of cyclists to
replace business lost by the removed parking spaces.
It is generally recognized that to have prosperous storefronts and
sidewalk-focused commerce in downtowns, the only viable long-term solution
is to attract more pedestrians and grow the population so businesses are
This explains why the city has worked so hard to incentivize residential
growth, redesign public space and add bike lanes — all initiatives that
have proven in other cities to be very good for urban business in the long
The current challenge is a difficult one. We have made strides toward the
continuing goal of a downtown that attracts people to live, work and shop,
but as we move forward, it is important to not take our eye off that goal
and do what we can to avoid trading pedestrian space for car space, which
reduces accessibility, degrades the pedestrian experience and is likely a
step backward in downtown’s long-term evolution.
*Brent Bellamy is creative director at Number Ten Architectural Group.*
*Pedestrian deaths up in 2019, MPI warns*
MANITOBA Public Insurance is warning pedestrians and motorists alike to
stay alert on the roads, as this year’s pedestrian fatality count
approaches a record high.
Manitoba has seen 12 pedestrian deaths on public roadways so far in 2019 —
the same number as the annual average over the past five years, and the
highest nine-month count in the past 20.
“This isn’t about pointing the finger of blame, this is all about raising
road-safety awareness so both (pedestrians and motorists) can use the road
safely and get home safe,” MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said Tuesday.
A total of 972 pedestrians were involved in incidents — 147 of which
resulted in serious injuries, while 68 were fatal — in 2013-18. The
record-high of 16 pedestrian fatalities during a single year occurred in
Historical data indicates about half of all pedestrian deaths occur at
intersections. One in 10 deaths take place either between intersections or
when pedestrians are walking on roadways.
Smiley said while MPI has observed bumps in statistics during January and
February, when roads are covered in ice, and in July and August, when
pedestrians are out and about in the warm weather, collisions involving
pedestrians are a year-round concern.
Last year, MPI launched “Save the 100,” a roadsafety campaign with the same
premise as the Vision Zero strategy. “One fatality is far too many,” Smiley
A road-safety strategy born in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero seeks to
eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while simultaneously
making a city safer and accessible for all residents and visitors to
navigate. Similarly, Towards Zero (fatalities) is a traffic-safety approach
that recognizes pedestrian deaths are preventable while driver error is
unavoidable, so traffic infrastructure must be forgiving of that.
The City of Winnipeg has adopted the latter and is seeking applications for
a $275,000 contract to develop a five-years-and-beyond plan to assess road
safety. Applications are due by Oct. 8.
Meanwhile, next week, world-renowned traffic safety experts will be in
Winnipeg for the second annual Mode Shift festival, five days of events
centred around transportation, culture and health, to discuss how the city
can mimic the successes seen in other parts of the world (such as
The Forks is hosting a Vision Zero panel discussion Oct. 1.
“We need to undo some of the endemic issues we have with the built
environment by investing heavily in things like traffic calming, upgraded
crosswalks, changing laws around speed limits,” said Anders Swanson,
program director at Mode Shift 2019, organized by the Winnipeg Trails
Swanson is in favour of a policy on the table at city hall to lower the
standard residential speed limit in Winnipeg to 30 km/h from 50 km/h. “If
we design a city that’s intended to move machines around as quickly as
possible, we have a city that’s not worth living in,” he said.
Smiley agreed, noting the chance of survival after being hit by a car going
50 km/h or less is much higher than otherwise.
A future with zero annual fatalities, he said, must involve a number of
partners, with municipalities and law enforcement at the forefront. More
traffic circles, speed-reducing bumps and jaywalking tickets could improve
safety, Smiley added.
Mode Shift just released a new short film for 2019 on Facebook
or Twitter <https://twitter.com/WinnipegTrails/status/1176512183229984768>
or Instagram <https://www.instagram.com/p/B2zGGB0AtXd/>.
Like Mode Shift Festival itself, the film is blend of sharing new ideas and
taking action. So, it is a piece about things that have happened, things
that should happen. This one touches on speed limits and a kid's right to
street hockey, but also family, dance, fairness, the joy of experiencing
the world under your own power no matter how you move ...or who you are and
the urgency of building better cities. It is meant to be about perspectives
on how we connect as people, and intends to people excited for the many
events happening next week, - which is why I am sharing it with you. As an
annual event, Mode Shift intends to release a new video like this each
year, to capture some of the changes that have gone on in the time between
events and to provoke conversation on the salient issue being discussed as
a city so we can look back and see these moments in time and watch
If you enjoy it, please share.
And if you see a GIANT version of this projected on a building somewhere
during Nuit Blanche <https://nuitblanchewinnipeg.ca/> this Saturday, come
say hi to the team!
Worth the read:
Our society's culture of fear is holding back children's fitness
Larouche is the lead author of one of the two new studies, which together
make the case that fitness patterns established in childhood have lasting
effects on adult health, and these patterns can be influenced by a wide
variety of sometimes unexpected factors such as parental attitudes about
traffic and morning temperatures. .
. The biggest and most easily modifiable factor affecting how much the
children moved was the amount of time they spent outdoors.
"Studies comparing physical activity in indoor versus outdoor environments
have consistently found that children are more active outdoors," Larouche
says. "Other studies suggest that children may be more active if, as adults,
we back off and let them play."
There were also some more subtle indicators that, in some cases, varied by
gender. Boys were less active if their parents reported driving to work,
were worried about traffic or were worried about other people in their
neighbourhood. Girls were more active as the morning temperature warmed,
adding 77 steps a day for each additional degree Celsius.
Active travel to school also played a role, but in general the children (who
were between 8 and 12 years old) had low levels of independent mobility, as
assessed by whether they were permitted to do six things on their own:
travel to and from school, travel to other places within walking distance,
cross main roads, go on local (non-school) buses and go out alone after
dark. On average, the children in the study were permitted to do two of
these things .
*FRANCE SUBSIDIZES E-BIKE PURCHASE, US DOES NOT*
Streetsblog reported that lawmakers in France announced last week e-bike
owners in the greater Paris area may soon be able to get half the cost of
their wheels--up to 500 Euros ($553)--paid for by the government as part of
an effort to boost the eco-friendly vehicles. In the US, federal tax breaks
that can knock up to $7,500 off the cost of a new electric vehicle have
been available to car drivers for years, but those hoping to upgrade their
old 10-speed to an e-bike have always had to pay cost. Presently, there
isn't a hint of federal legislation that would provide tax relief for
e-bikes, whose widespread adoption studies say could significantly reduce
the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
*CA: TRADE IN CAR FOR E-BIKE OR BIKE SHARE VOUCHER*
Electrek reported California's "Clean Cars 4 All" program has already
helped many people trade in old, polluting gas cars for subsidies to buy
electric cars or hybrid cars. A new bill recently signed into law now
includes vouchers for electric bicycles and bike-sharing programs in the
program. (SB-400 Reduction of Greenhouse Gases Emissions: Mobility Options:
Check out the program-at-a-glance and new event details
We feel that it is rare, exciting, worthwhile and... ambitious event.
*If you are willing to share on social media, it is much appreciated. *
Share the program on Facebook
Twitter <https://twitter.com/WinnipegTrails/status/1173992349187366912> and
Some recent highlights now confirmed:
- SpaceMODE: an attempt to recreate the famous advocacy image showing the
space taken up by 4 kinds of transportation, outside the CMHR. Sign up here
- KidMODE: a new conference stream for you and youth at heart, including a
contest being fanned out to schools in Winnipeg, teaching about traffic
calming, street hockey and redesigning streets
- A day long Street Party at IRCOM on Ellen with street furniture building,
street food, painting, games, hockey, the Walktober launch, masterclasses
and walkabouts on Wednesday October 3
- We have a number of new panelists joining on the topic of road safety
technology, chronic disease prevention and vision zero including Karen
Laberee Dr.Gillian Booth and Craig Milligan.
- We are also very excited to welcome our own Dr.Gillian Booth, Janell
Henry and more.
Depending what you are into, the best may be yet to come.
Stay tuned for more for more details about MovieMODE and DanceMODE...
....and a very special Vision Zero event at the Forks!
You can register here.
to see you there!
PS. Huge kudos to the many of you on this mailing list or part of our
sponsor and organizing team who have helped make it happen. Really.
*For cyclists, permanent protection preferred route *
A recent City of Winnipeg report shows that when it comes to safe cycling
infrastructure, half-measures don’t cut it.
The report, which was sent to the city’s public works committee this week,
says temporary plastic pylons separating the cycling lane along Pembina
Highway from the other lanes of traffic were both expensive (part of a
$21-million cycling-path initiative) and largely ineffective (they were
flimsy and often driven over by motorists).
Cycling lanes in other parts of the city employ similar pylons; the one on
Sherbrook Street has a variety of rider-safety mechanisms, depending what
block you’re cycling along. They include concrete curb-height barriers
between the bike lane and motorist, the aforementioned pylons and nothing
more than a line of paint.
Trails Winnipeg executive director Anders Swanson and Bike Winnipeg
executive director Mark Cohoe agree that the inconsistent nature of cycling
lane infrastructure along Pembina Highway has been a disincentive to
cyclists using it.
This is a bit like being at a pedestrian crossing that sometimes lets you
cross a busy thoroughfare but most of the time doesn’t let you cross at
all. You’d quickly find another place to cross the street.
So it is with safe, permanent bike lanes. The pylons have typically been
removed in the winter, which meant the bike lane effectively became
invisible. Non-cyclists may argue that nobody rides their bike in the
winter (demonstrably not true, even in Winnipeg), but it becomes something
of a chicken-or-egg question: if the lane intended to allow cyclists to
ride safely isn’t reasonably clear of snow and visible to motorists, why
would anyone on a bicycle risk using it in the winter?
The simple reality that it’s easier to effectively clear snow from
permanently protected bike lanes makes the argument for them stronger.
Yes, a permanent cycling-lane barrier, even one not as wide as a sidewalk,
takes up room on the road. However, the reason it’s there is safety. And
although an adequate bike lane and a corresponding permanent barrier could
remove an entire lane of vehicular traffic, the safety that is gained
actually means less traffic headaches for motorists.
First, it prevents motor-vehicle drivers from plowing over flimsy plastic
barriers and risking a collision with a cyclist, while at the same time
preventing cyclists from weaving out of their lane to avoid a puddle or a
Second, on any Winnipeg street, consider how many cars passing by have more
than one occupant. Given this city’s car-focused infrastructure and
Winnipeggers’ seemingly unshakable attachment to their automobiles, the
ratio is often one human to one vehicle. If a safe-cycling option convinced
even a fraction of those motorists to trade four wheels and internal
combustion for two wheels and pedal power, it would remove a lot of
vehicles from rush hour.
That would also hold true for increasing the number of year-round cyclists.
The pesky Pembina pylons were installed before the city’s active
transportation plan was introduced in 2014, so they were a stopgap measure
at best. As the city moves forward with making its infrastructure work for
everyone, permanent barriers that allow motorists, cyclists and pedestrians
to navigate our streets safely is an option that should be built in.