Milan is to introduce one of Europe’s most ambitious schemes reallocating
street space from cars to cycling and walking, in response to the
The city has announced that 35km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed
over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling
and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
*Time to park cars outside parks *
AS the pandemic grinds on and confinement in our homes becomes bleak at
times, Winnipeg’s abundant green spaces offer a therapeutic escape. It’s
unfortunate motorized vehicles are allowed to intrude.
A temporary ban on cars, trucks and motorcycles from city parks would go a
long way toward helping pedestrians enjoy outings while still keeping the
required physical distance. Pedestrians in parks could use the full width
of the the roadways to keep a safe space from each other.
Vancouver did it with Stanley Park on April 8, banning vehicles from its
world-class park so pedestrians can walk on roads and enjoy the tonic of
the natural world while remaining distanced from other people.
Minneapolis-St. Paul has banned vehicle traffic from three of its parkways.
Portland, Ore., has closed 10 of its parks to cars and trucks. Similar
sensible measures are underway in U.S. cities including Cleveland,
Philadelphia and Denver.
Like all urban centres struggling to contain COVID-19, these cities banned
vehicles from green spaces because of two pragmatic realities: 1) it’s
physically and mentally healthy for people to enjoy the rejuvenating
effects of nature as a break from being cooped up under stressful
circumstances; and 2) city parks can accommodate a lot of people safely,
with everyone heeding physical distancing guidelines, as long as vehicles
are removed so pedestrians have room to spread out.
Personally, the need to bar vehicles from Winnipeg parks was clear last
weekend when my wife and I, in dire need of fresh air and exercise, walked
the two-kilometre loop around Kildonan Park, the green-space jewel in north
Winnipeg. The main walking path is a rind of the roadway’s edge, only one
metre wide, so walkers are separated from traffic only by lines painted on
asphalt. The vehicle traffic is often bumperto- bumper, so close that
walkers could literally touch moving vehicles.
With pedestrians at Kildonan Park squeezed into such narrow paths, we
couldn’t adhere to the physical distancing guidelines as we met and passed
The vehicles also marred our walk in other ways. The constant din of
vehicle engines erased the soothing sounds of birds and the wind blowing
through branches. The smell of exhaust fumes overpowered the delicate
scents of grass and tree foliage springing into new life.
I’m told some pedestrians who use Assiniboine Park feel the same way. If
vehicles were barred, people in search of a pandemic panacea would be
better able to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of the natural
Some of our area’s most precious green spaces have been closed or changed
by COVID-19 restrictions. The showcase gathering at Birds Hill Provincial
Park, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, was cancelled on Tuesday, but the park
itself remains open for people who want trees to massage their minds
(although washroom facilities at Birds Hill remain closed).
Unfortunately, Fort Whyte Alive is completely closed (perhaps the geese are
wondering when the humans will flock back).
Winnipeg is fortunate to have more than 1,200 neighbourhood, community and
regional parks, and this pandemic crisis is a time when they are needed
more than ever.
Banning vehicles from parks to allow pedestrians room to roam is the
natural next step after the city decided earlier this month to designate
four streets in Winnipeg as bicycle/active transportation routes. Sections
of Lyndale Drive, Scotia Street, Wellington Crescent and Wolseley Avenue
have been largely freed from vehicles, so the space is free and clear for
pedestrians, joggers and cyclists.
Winnipeg’s green spaces have long been urban treasures that greatly enhance
the quality of life by providing mini-oases amid the buildings, concrete
roads and parking lots. That said, the trees that tower over Winnipeg’s
green spaces have had a tough time in recent years, battered by the triple
assault of Dutch elm disease, the emerald ash borer and a freak ice story
in October that damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of trees.
The mayor had planned a planting spree called the Million Tree Challenge to
restore the giant sentinels, but now the roles can be reversed. Trees can
Plenty of evidence shows connecting with nature can refresh our brains,
relieve tension and brighten grim moods. These healing properties are
particularly appealing to the many Winnipeggers whose lives have been
disrupted by pandemic measures and might make one feel a bit stir-crazy
after weeks of sitting at home and watching the walls.
Winter-weary Manitobans traditionally have a zealous appreciation for
spring and summer, but our usual methods of enjoying the warmer weather —
cottages, camping, restaurant patios, picnics and festivals — have been
cancelled, prohibited or declared inadvisable.
City green spaces remain open, however, and if vehicles are banned from
entry, our parks offer the breathing space we need to recuperate before
returning to our residences to resume our submission to the necessary
discipline of confinement.
*Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.*
[*It seems the propensity to speed with the lower traffic volumes reaches
far and wide*.]
East London council to block cars to protect cyclists and pedestrians from
speeding drivers during pandemic
An east London council could be the first in the UK to cut rat running
traffic on neighbourhood streets in a bid to ease pressure on its parks and
pavements, as part of emergency plans to help people walk and cycle safely
during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Hackney councillor has “crowdsourced” potential locations from residents
on social media, and the council is in the process of creating a shortlist
- but they are 100% planning to “filter” a number of residential streets to
protect people from a growing number of speeding drivers on the borough’s
The council will use low-cost planters and bollards on selected streets to
allow walking and cycling through trips, and access to key workers and
emergency vehicles, but preventing people driving through – a process known
as filtering. According to the government, traffic levels on London’s main
roads have dropped by 63% during the crisis.
Hackney Councillor, Jon Burke, said: “By creating those temporary liveable,
healthy streets we could also be reducing pressure on some of our green
spaces, as we approach some of the warmer months. If we heavily restrict
the vehicles on the public highway people will be able to walk in the
middle of the road safely, while socially distancing.”
Burke wants to “use this as a teachable moment to see what’s possible
around road closures”.
He said: “We haven’t got weeks to deliver it, we need to deliver it now,
because this crisis is happening now,” he says.
The council will treat the changes like an “ongoing event” during the
crisis, and after the restrictions on movement are lifted they will ask
residents if they want the changes made more permanent.
“I think we can create healthy urban environments in this moment. We might
realise, with the support of the public, which might be able to stay
afterwards, when we return,” he says.
“This is in inflection point in our future, we are running around making
sure vulnerable people have enough food but we aren’t doing something about
the 40,000 people that are dying each year because of air pollution.”
Although other councils may be quietly considering similar measures, Cllr
Burke is the first politician in the UK to announce any action so far.
Temporary cycle lanes on main roads won’t be part of Hackney’s plans,
however, due to concerns over emergency vehicle access.
There are also concerns over increased levels of speeding during the
crisis. Cllr Burke says on 30mph roads across London, average speeds are
“We have noticed a significant up-tick in speeding on our 20mph roads,” he
“The kinds of speeds we usually see at night when the roads are empty, we
are now seeing in the day.”
He says while “the responsible drivers have heeded the government advice”,
many of those still driving are behaving badly. Burke argues there is a
case to “heavily fine and remove licenses of those individuals”.
The council will create a shortlist of locations on Monday, and a final
decision will need approval from the cabinet and Hackney mayor. Cllr Burke
says they will have the final list on 20 April.
Burke adds: “I think we have just got to throw stuff up against the wall
and see what sticks, adding there is a risk that otherwise, “by the time we
have got around to doing this the crisis will be over and we will be back
to business as usual.”
London’s walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, says there are no
citywide plans to implement emergency cycle lanes during the crisis.
Norman said: “The Mayor and the Government’s clear message is that
Londoners should stay at home to save lives. Our continued investment in
walking and cycling over the past four years is making it easier and safer
for critical workers to get to where they need to be and we’ve ensured that
NHS staff, care workers and the police can use our Santander Cycles hire
bikes free of charge.”
“Any temporary cycle lanes on TfL’s road network would not be effective at
keeping people safe without major changes to junctions. These changes would
need to be installed by a significant number of on-site workers and the
Mayor has made it clear that construction workers – including those who
were constructing new cycleways - should not be travelling at this time.”
He adds road traffic has halved, making it easier to take advantage of
quieter streets to cycle.
“We would remind drivers that breaking the speed limit is dangerous and
especially reckless during this time of national crisis. Robust
action will be taken against drivers who put themselves and others at risk.”
Waverley West speed-limit cut given red light
A PROPOSED three-year pilot project to reduce the speed limit on
residential streets in Waverley West is set to be put in park.
The councillor for the area, Janice Lukes, said she will tell councillors
on the public works committee on Monday to put aside her motion for now.
The proposal involved reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h. Lukes said it
makes no sense to implement that when people are staying home and children
are away from school because of the fight against COVID-19.
“With Waverley West only having three or four specific entrances into it, I
thought, ‘Let’s try for a pilot project on speeds here,’” she said on
“We have a lot of speeding cars, but in light of the pandemic, what is most
needed now is seeing more streets open for cycling and pedestrian access.
Is (the pilot project) important now? No. There are other things the public
works department could do, including identifying which streets can be
The idea was to drop the speed limit on residential streets in
Bridgwater Forest, Bridgwater Lakes, Bridgwater Trails, Bridgwater Town
Centre, South Pointe and Prairie Pointe.
Coun. Matt Allard, chairman of the committee, said it makes sense to delay
the pilot project.
“We do have a residential, citywide, street report coming… in June,” Allard
“Not all roads are created equal in Winnipeg. We have priority one, two,
three streets, we have streets with different engineering, we have
high-speed streets (and) residential streets. I think all of this needs to
be considered and there needs to be a response that makes sense citywide.”
Enjoying the great outdoors during the COVID-19 era
IN times of high anxiety and uncertainty, many people turn to physical
activity as a means of stress relief.
With gym closures and the city’s parks a little too crowded to keep a safe
physical distance, many people are turning to the city streets to get their
fitness fix by walking, running, biking and even — depending on snowfall —
Though the April weather is unpredictable, here are five places
Winnipeggers are getting a breath of fresh air right now, and you can join
them — just make sure to stay at least two metres apart.
*Harte Trail, Charleswood*
Ridge Romanshin, 23, is an apprentice stage manager in Winnipeg’s
temporarily closed theatre scene. To keep himself busy, he’s been going for
plenty of walks in his neighbourhood of Charleswood, which boasts a
semi-rural atmosphere full of trails and places to walk.
Though Romanshin admits that some of the sidewalks are still icy — he’s
been walking on the roads instead — he does have one favourite place: Harte
The 6.5-kilometre walkway is part of the Trans Canada Trail and, according
to Romanshin, is in decent shape for this time of year.
“There are some pretty icy patches but it seems to be melting quickly,” he
says. “The gravel is starting to show.”
“My running route is the Wellington-Wolseley loop,” says Jack Maier. “I
live about a block away from Wellington Crescent in North River Heights, so
that’s where I start.”
The route has served 22-year-old Maier well for the past three years, but
spring weather and increasingly large numbers of people outside initially
made it trickier than usual for Maier to maintain a safe distance and stay
“The sidewalks are soaked right now,” he says, “especially the central
walking path on Wellington, which has basically turned to mud. Your options
are running on the road or trying to leap and sidestep over the puddles.”
Just a few days after Maier took to running on the road to stay dry, the
city opened the seasonal Sunday and holiday bike routes to cyclists and
pedestrians seven days a week, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The four roadway closures are Wellington Crescent between Academy Road and
Guelph Street; Lyndale Drive between Cromwell Street and Gauvin Street;
Scotia Street between Anderson Avenue and Armstrong Avenue; and Wolseley
Avenue between Raglan Road and Maryland Street. Motor vehicles are
restricted to one block of travel on these routes.
For people living in Winnipeg’s central neighbourhoods, the best trails
seem to be the ones right outside the front door: sidewalks.
While many folks in suburban areas report a higher number of pedestrians
than usual, Charlene Van Buekenhout, who lives in the West End, has noticed
“The sidewalks are slushy, icy nightmares,” says Van Buekenhout, “but there
haven’t been many people out.”
Van Buekenhout has even noticed one huge positive: “People have been waving
to us from inside their houses, which never happens,” she says. “That’s
been a nice development.”
Pedestrian activity in the West End, Downtown and the Exchange District is
light, so if you live in one of these neighbourhoods, there’s a good chance
physical distancing won’t be a problem.
*La Barriere Park*
“The sidewalks suck,” says Dolores Rintoul, “but the streets being
virtually free of vehicles means we can walk on the road in a lot of cases.”
Rintoul joins the ranks of many other pedestrians who have found sidewalks
too icy, too wet or too narrow and have instead taken to walking on the
road… but her partner goes one step further.
“My partner goes for a ski by the river every couple of days, or to La
While skiing may be out of the question now that the snow has mostly
melted, Rintoul says that La Barrière Park — located south of Winnipeg in
Ritchot — has plenty of room (and 2.9 km of trails) to safely move around
and get some vitamin D.
*Bike riding, anywhere*
“The average city sidewalk is 1.5 metres (wide), and the recommended amount
of space that individuals must have between them is a minimum of two
metres,” says Mel Marginet of the Green Action Centre. “To ensure
Winnipeggers are safe when walking and biking, the city must act quickly to
reallocate road space.”
While Winnipeggers wait for additional safe spaces to walk, there’s no
better time to start cycling now that traffic has been reduced, and many
bike shops in the city, such as Natural Cycle at 91 Albert St. in the
Exchange, are still open as of Monday morning to help with all of your
A complete list of bike routes in Winnipeg is available at wfp.to/bikeroutes
*Thanks to Lawrence Bird for the share...*
Pop-up bike lanes help with coronavirus physical distancing in Germany
Road markings redrawn after cyclists demand more space to comply with
German cities are redrawing road markings to create “pop-up” cycle lanes
for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown, as cyclists demand more space to
physically distance on their commutes to work.
Local authorities in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin trialled a temporary
widening of two cycle lanes on 27 March, arguing it would help cyclists
keep the required 1.5-metre distance apart while car traffic was down owing
to Germany’s coronavirus restrictions.
On Friday, the council declared the pilot scheme a success because it had
improved cycling safety while not hindering traffic. An expansion of the
scheme on further roads in Kreuzberg, as well as in the Schöneberg and
Tempelhof districts, is planned for the coming weeks.
The council said it had used removable tape and mobile signs to mark out
the expanded lanes, which can be removed when the current restrictions on
movement are lifted.
Residents in 133 other German cities have formally submitted applications
for similar pop-up bike lanes to their local authorities on the back of a
campaign by Environmental Action Germany
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/germany> (DUH), an environmental NGO.
The campaign group cites new research
air pollution to higher coronavirus death rates as an argument for
redrawing infrastructure across the country.
“The coronavirus is showing us that clean air is an indispensable asset,”
said DUH’s chair, Jürgen Resch. “It is now especially important to
temporarily make it more important for people to move safely on their
bikes. This will help improve air quality, enables exercise in fresh air
while keeping a safe distance and avoids unnecessary accidents.”
Proponents of the scheme cite the Colombian capital, Bogotá, as the example
to emulate, where the mayor, Claudia López, opened up nearly 72 miles
(117km) of new bike routes in mid-March in the hope of reducing congestion
and person-to-person contact.
In Berlin, opposition politicians from the pro-business Free Democratic
party have described the pop-up cycle lane plans as an “unnecessary
provocation” by the bike lobby, saying they will have little practical use.
German states have encouraged the use of bicycles in spite of the current
restrictions, under which gatherings of more than two people are banned,
with exceptions for families.
“The use of a bicycle allows citizens to meet the requirements for
minimising contact,” a spokesperson for the transport ministry in Thuringia
told the German news agency dpa.
In Germany, bike repair shops are currently exempt from state-ordered
closures because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Three federal states, Berlin,
Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, have also allowed bike vendors to