Reduced vehicle traffic creates opportunity
THE city has extended seasonal limitations of motor-vehicle traffic on
certain streets, including Wolseley Avenue, Wellington Crescent, Lyndale
Drive and Scotia Street. Motorists will be limited to one block from 8 a.m.
to 8 p.m. on weekdays, allowing the streets to be used by cyclists and
It’s a good idea, with vehicle traffic down due to business and school
closures and many people staying in place and working from their homes
rather than commuting. The decrease has had an effect: Manitoba Public
Insurance processed 4,108 fewer claims last month than in the same period
in 2019, a direct result of fewer vehicles being on the road. That’s a lot
of damage and injury being avoided.
Now, with vehicle traffic reduced and more people out for walks or bike
rides as other entertainment and exercise options are shuttered, it raises
an interesting question: what do we want to use our streets for? In the
neighbourhoods where the newly-extended traffic limitations have opened up
long stretches for safe walking and cycling, Winnipeggers are being given
an opportunity to find out.
Maintaining safe social distancing on sidewalks can be a challenge when one
of the few options still available to people during this period of
restricted activity is going for a walk or a run. Crowded sidewalks don’t
allow for two metres of distance when passing whether one is walking,
jogging or using a wheelchair. Some pedestrians take advantage of
additional space on the less-traveled streets. But safe distances must be
maintained, even when cyclists are added to the mix. Cars take up the
greatest amount of space, and in Winnipeg’s traffic flow, the vast majority
of motor vehicles in motion have only one occupant. If we could trade some
of those single-occupant cars and trucks for bicycles, we would suddenly
find there is a whole lot more space for everyone.
In addition to the reduction in injuries from motor-vehicle collisions,
there are also obvious exercise-related health benefits to having more
space for walking, riding and other non-motorized pursuits.
Skeptics may point out that once physical distancing and self-isolation
requirements are relaxed, all those cars will be back on the road. The
likelihood of that is high, since our city is largely designed with
motor-vehicle traffic in mind, and other factors such as winter snow and
ice can make cycling a challenge for some.
But why not consider this brief respite from rat-race traffic a trial run?
With fewer cars on the streets, we might learn some unexpected lessons
about using them in different ways.
In addition to the obvious appeal of a reduction in motor-vehicle
accidents, there’s also the benefit of getting to know our neighbourhoods
better, including where our local businesses are and what they have to
offer. It’s easier to stop and look in the window when you’re not zooming
past at the motor-vehicle speed limit or looking for parking.
Such benefits extend beyond the specific streets where vehicle traffic is
being temporarily restricted, which might prompt one to wonder why we
aren’t using more of our infrastructure in different ways. Perhaps it’s
time to consider adding protected bike lanes to more of Winnipeg’s streets.
As we experience new options for walking and biking, some might be inclined
to conclude that motor vehicle traffic doesn’t have to return to what it
was pre-pandemic. We’ve been given a chance to try out a healthier, greener
approach to getting around, and many of us just might prefer it.
Are physical distancing measures giving bikes a new lease on life?
To slow the spread of coronavirus, we've had to physically distance
ourselves from others, which has meant a lot of lifestyle changes,
including the way we get around.
Getting into an enclosed bus or train with other passengers — or even a
taxi or ride-hailing service with a driver — is no longer a recommended
option. To make matters worse, many transit agencies are cutting back
service. Yet many people still have to get to work and medical
Meanwhile, we're being told to stay home as much as possible, but also to
get fresh air and exercise (while gyms are closed). An influx of park
visitors — many of whom weren't physically distant enough from each other —
has caused governments to close parking lots at national, provincial and
The solution to this conundrum? In many cases, it's getting on a bike.
New Yorkers have already done this in droves, with *bike shops reporting
double the sales*
they normally get at this time of year. Meanwhile, *bike repair shops in
also say business is booming.
In Canada, so many people are cycling in cities like Winnipeg and *Calgary*
that the municipalities are closing some lanes and roads to vehicles to
give cyclists (and pedestrians) more space. Meanwhile, bike shops remain
open as many provincial governments have recognized them as an essential
Brian Pincott, executive director of Vélo Canada Bikes, a group that
promotes cycling and advocates for infrastructure to make the activity
safer, said that kind of government support is welcome.
He noted that many urban, lower-income people don't have other good
transportation options right now.
"So it is also a matter of equity to be able to have the appropriate
infrastructure in place for people to actually go about their day-to-day
[lives]," he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently improved cycling conditions by
taking a lot of automobiles off the road. Pincott said the car-centric
design of our cities often discourages people from taking a two-wheeler.
"Now that there are a lot fewer cars on the road, more and more people are
seeing that cycling is a viable choice," he said. "It's a great family
But will the boost in cycling last after the pandemic is over and physical
distancing measures are lifted?
Pincott thinks it depends on whether governments continue to make it safer
and easier for people to ride their bikes. He thinks this is a great
opportunity for cities to create space for it.
In the meantime, he hopes as the weather gets warmer, people will take
advantage of the "perfect time" to get on their bikes.
"It's impossible not to be happy when you're getting around on your bike,"
he said. "And God knows we need a little bit of happiness."
— *Emily Chung*
*[Thanks to Terry Zdan for the share]*
IIHS study finds simple centerline hardening can make left turns safer for
Bollards and rubber curbs that prevent drivers from cutting across
intersections at a diagonal can make streets safer for pedestrians,
to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Such “centerline hardening” forces drivers to turn more slowly at close to
a right angle by blocking the diagonal path through the crosswalk. In
Washington, D.C., the infrastructure changes reduced the number of times
drivers had to swerve or brake suddenly or pedestrians had to dodge out of
the way by 70%, said IIHS Senior Research Transportation Engineer Wen Hu,
the author of the paper.
The calming infrastructure also resulted in a reduction in average
left-turn speeds and decreased the odds that drivers made the turn at
speeds exceeding 15 mph.
While the headline references gender, vehicle type is also relevant and the interaction between gender and vehicle type particularly so.
Men pose more risk to other road users than women
Greater gender equity in road transport jobs might help lessen risks
April 6, 2020
Men pose more risk to other road users than women do and they are more likely to drive more dangerous vehicles, reveals the first study of its kind, published online in the journal Injury Prevention.
The findings prompt the researchers to suggest that greater gender equity in road transport jobs, overall, might help lessen these risks.
Road safety analysis has traditionally focused on an individual's injury risk from their own use of a particular type of transport rather than the risk that might be posed to others.
To try and plug this knowledge gap, the researchers drew on four sets of official data for England for the period 2005-15: police injury statistics (Stats19); Road Traffic Statistics; National Travel Survey data; and Office for National Statistics population/gender figures.
They used the data to analyse the risks posed to other road users from bicycles, cars and taxis, vans, buses, lorries and motorbikes per billion vehicle kilometres travelled, and categorised by road type -- major and minor roads in urban and rural areas -- and gender.
In terms of absolute numbers, cars and taxis were associated with most (two-thirds) of fatalities to other road users. But a comparison of fatalities per distance travelled shows that other vehicles might be even more dangerous.
Lorries were associated with one in six deaths to other road users: each km driven was associated with more than five times the number of such deaths than each km driven in a car. There was a similarly high death toll for buses per km driven.
Despite their small size, motorbikes also put other road users at high risk. Each km driven was associated with around 2.5 times more deaths to other parties than was each km driven in a car.
In urban areas, most of those deaths -- 173 over the entire study period -- were pedestrians. Policy-makers should ensure that measures to discourage car use don't inadvertently encourage a shift to motorbike transport, suggest the researchers.
At the other end of the scale, cycling seems relatively safe for others: it was associated with fewer deaths to other parties per km ridden than all the other types of transport, with just one other death per billion km cycled.
Analysis of the data by gender showed that men posed a significantly higher risk to other road users for five of the six vehicle types studied.
For cars and vans, the risk posed by male drivers was double that posed by women per km driven, rising to four times higher for lorry drivers, and more than 10 times higher for motorbike riders.
In a linked podcast, lead researcher Dr Rachel Aldred, points out that driving jobs tend to be male dominated, citing the high death toll to other road users associated with lorries, 95% of which are driven by men.
While lorries in general are dangerous vehicles, male lorry drivers pose a particularly high risk compared to female lorry drivers, she adds.
"Greater gender equity would have a positive impact on these injuries," she suggests, adding that: "Policy-makers should be looking to measure the risk posed to others, and how to reduce it."
The researchers conclude: "We suggest policy-makers consider policies to increase gender balance in occupations that substantially involve driving, given the greater likelihood that other road users will be killed if men rather than women are driving or riding."
<https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/men-pose-more-risk-to-other-road-users…> Materials provided by <http://www.bmj.com/> BMJ. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
1. Rachel Aldred, Rob Johnson, Christopher Jackson, James Woodcock. How does mode of travel affect risks posed to other road users? An analysis of English road fatality data, incorporating gender and road type. Injury Prevention, 2020; injuryprev-2019-043534
Vehicle restrictions to remain in place until start of May
THE return of sunny weather came just in time for new motor-vehicle limits
starting today in hopes of making it easier for people getting out of the
house to safely maintain social distancing.
As of Monday, Lyndale Drive, Scotia Street, Wellington Crescent and
Wolseley Avenue will limit motor-vehicle traffic daily to one block from 8
a.m. to 8 p.m.
The new restrictions, originally announced by City of Winnipeg emergency
operations manager Jason Shaw on March 31, is an expansion of designated
bicycle and active transportation routes that are in place on Sundays and
holidays from June to September.
Signage warning motorists of the restrictions began going up on Scotia
Street Monday, which saw its own share of walkers, some of whom took to the
roads. Derek Dexter, a Luxton resident, called the restrictions “a great
“My wife and I actually thought of it about two days before the city
implemented it,” he said. “In the summer this is always closed on Sundays,
so people are used to using it as a bike path and a walking path.”
While he said he had seen “the odd group” still mingling, the neighbourhood
seemed to have picked up the message of physical distancing.
“For the most part, I’ve seen people changing sides of the street and
jumping from the sidewalk to the street to keep their distance,” he said.
He said he hoped the restrictions would expand beyond a few Winnipeg
“I think they could implement this on other streets in the city as well,
just to give you that space to walk,” he said. “We often find we’re walking
and trying to zig-zag from one side to the other to keep that social
distancing, and if the whole street is closed down it just makes that
Shaw said in the original announcement that expanding routes eventually was
not off the table.
“We need to balance this approach out to make sure that it works first, and we
know these routes are familiar,” he said.
Andrea Janzen, a school psychologist out for a walk on her lunch
break, said that
familiarity would likely mean the restrictions wouldn’t affect the traffic
activity on the street.
“I don’t know what the people feel like who live here on this particular
street,” she said. “This street doesn’t get a lot of traffic anyways, I
don’t know that it will really change a lot.”
However, she said she hopes it sends a message to drivers.
“I’m going to walk this street regardless, whether there’s a road blockade
or not,” she said. “I think it’s probably just good for people who are out
driving who are not from the area to be aware that they need to be more
Jane Casey, an instructor at the University of Manitoba, said she hadn’t
heard about the blockades going up but was used to them in the
“If people can walk down the middle of the road, and be able to have that
comfortable distance, that would be a good thing,” she said.
The restrictions will be in place until the beginning of May, when they’ll
be re-evaluated and possibly extended.
malak.abas(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: malakabas_
Rethinking infrastructure after the pandemic
IN our desperate battle to slow the spread of the coronavirus, almost four
billion people, half the world’s population, are living under stay-at- home
orders. In a rare united effort, governments, industry and citizens alike
are working together to combat a common global enemy. The scale and speed
of societal change left in its wake would have been unthinkable only a few
As we move through and out of this fight, the power of this new social
cohesion presents us with an opportunity to boldly rebuild a country that
is more economically resilient, environmentally sustainable, socially just
and physically healthier. Cities will be at the front lines of this
opportunity, and rethinking the way we move around them will be fundamental
to these goals.
We have suddenly learned the importance of physical distancing, and with
more people out walking, we are also learning how little pedestrian space
there actually is in our cities.
Across the world, streets are being closed to cars, as cities scramble to
create temporary public space for people to access sunlight and fresh air
while maintaining safe distances from each other.
As the increased need for easily accessible space to walk and ride a bike
becomes more permanent, so will these solutions.
With everyone at home, increased pedestrian and cycling space is important
for exercise and public health, but as time goes on, it will become
increasingly vital for connectivity, to access employment, education and
recreation. The coronavirus pandemic will likely have long-term impacts on
transit use, and we must find a way to replace that mobility.
In Winnipeg, people take a combined 170,000 trips every day on the bus. The
social, environmental and economic impact of losing any part of that could
be devastating. Creating infrastructure that allows people to safely walk
and bike to access their daily needs can be a big part of the response.
Winnipeg is well prepared to quickly implement a bold new mobility plan.
The city’s 20-year Pedestrian and Cycling Strategy provides a visionary
blueprint which, if implemented, would respond to many of our immediate
needs, and make Winnipeg an active-transportation leader in North America
as we move forward.
The design includes 80 kilometres of protected bike lanes crossing every
neighbourhood in the city, including a 13-lane downtown grid, as well as
hundreds of kilometres of new sidewalks, sidewalk widening and renewal, and
The plan also includes several active transportation bridges. With typical
construction costs being 80 to 90 per cent less than a vehicle bridge, they
could affordably introduce a new network of connectivity between Winnipeg’s
Strategically located bridges could provide easy walking and cycling access
to greenspace between communities — for example, connecting St. Vital Park
to Pembina Highway, or Kildonan Park to Henderson Highway.
With well-located pedestrian bridges, shops on Wolseley’s Westminster
Avenue could be a nine-minute walk from the shops on Academy Road; the
Osborne strip could be a seven-minute walk from Norwood Flats, or a
10-minute walk to the restaurants on Sherbrook Street.
The estimated cost to build the entire 20-year plan is pegged at $330
million, which sounds daunting, but within the scope of current and future
federal stimulus initiatives, doing it all at once is bold but not
unrealistic. Rebuilding our economy after the pandemic will be critical,
and active transportation construction has proven to be one of the best
infrastructure investments possible, in terms of job creation and economic
A comprehensive study at the University of Massachusetts showed that
because they use more labour and fewer materials, and the materials they do
use are more often locally produced, bicycle infrastructure projects can
create up to 11.4 jobs for every $1 million invested — 46 per cent more
than car-only road projects, with pedestrian-only projects falling
A comprehensive active-transportation network could be implemented quickly
on a temporary basis, following the Pedestrian and Cycling Strategy, and
then transitioned to permanent as the pandemic slows and economic stimulus
Reduced driving would lower greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution, a
potential carrier of airborne viruses, and improve physical health, which
can strengthen immune systems and reduce pre-existing conditions.
The coronavirus pandemic is a stark warning that we are part of a delicate,
interwoven ecosystem, and if we push it too hard, it breaks. Our response
requires both immediate solutions, and preparation for a long fight. We
must also consider future pandemics and, most importantly, this must be a
wake-up call to finally address the looming climate crisis, before it
becomes a similar global emergency.
Governments can work together now to make active transportation an
important part of the solution across Canada, helping to get us through
this crisis today and helping to meet our economic, environmental and
public-health needs in the world we build when it is over.
*Brent Bellamy is creative director at Number Ten Architectural Group.*
Covid-19 is having a significant impact on our transport systems and
services. The Innovating Streets programme can make a contribution by
providing councils with an opportunity to adapt their streets to better
support active and safe transport needs, while following official advice
about people movement.
*City closes downtown skywalks, underground concourse due to COVID-19
* No way to cross Portage and Main *
CROSSING the street at Portage and Main just became an even bigger obstacle.
As of Friday evening, the city shut the doors to the entire downtown
overhead walkway system, along with the underground concourse at Portage
and Main until further notice as a health precaution due to COVID-19. To
make it to the other side of the windy intersection, pedestrians will be
required to locate the nearest street level crossing.
People voiced their opinions on social media over the weekend, with a
common argument being everyone should be staying home anyway so the added
restrictions at Portage and Main is a non-issue. Brent Bellamy, a senior
design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group, couldn’t disagree more.
“We may be in a crisis situation, but people still need to access medical
appointments, fill prescriptions, buy groceries, get exercise, air and
sunlight,” Bellamy said.
“Many are still working in essential services. Many of these people need to
catch the bus, or walk to their employment. We have very deliberately made
the choice that even when the 70,000 workers and 25,000 students are not
downtown, the 17,000 people who live there must cross the city’s central
intersection by going underground. If we are going to live with that choice
we must ensure that option is available to everyone, always, first and
foremost for those with mobility challenges, because the alternatives are
unrealistic and quite honestly shameful in a modern city like ours.”
Forcing people to go outside and walk an extra block or two to get to a
crosswalk might not be a major inconvenience for some, but for seniors and
people with disabilities, it can make a simple errand difficult, especially
with this week’s snowfall. With the snow buildup and the construction going
on outside the office building at 201 Portage Ave., it’d be nearly
impossible for someone in a wheelchair to navigate around the building and
for people to stay six feet apart.
“When you actually look at how far it is just to cross the street ‘one
block over,’ it is the equivalent of walking between two and four-and-half
lengths of a football field, depending on which direction you are coming
from,” Bellamy said. “If you are in a wheelchair, or a senior, or just
about anyone actually, that is an unreasonable distance.”
Bellamy adds these obstacles are nothing new. Even when the skywalk and
underground are open, it isn’t easy for people to get around.
“The intersection being inaccessible right now is news because it is caused
by a pandemic, but the fact that it is inaccessible is the reality almost
more often than not. The ramps inside the concourse have been closed for
the last month because the roof is leaking across them. Before that, one of
the elevators was broken and took months to repair. Before that, the
sprinkler system in the concourse burst and an elevator was closed off.
Every day after business hours and on weekends, the elevators in the office
buildings required to access the concourse are closed. Every single day,”
“If we are going to force people in a wheelchair to use four elevators and
two ramps to get across the street, they should at least work.”
The barriers at Portage and Main have been the great debate in town for
years. Oly Backstrom, the president and CEO of SCE LifeWorks, said issues
like this one wouldn’t exist if people would simply be allowed to cross the
street. But to him, bringing light to the city’s recent decision goes much
further than making another point as to why the barriers should be gone.
“I don’t want to get bogged down in that specific issue because Portage and
Main is a bit of a lightning rod. But to me, it’s symbolic of how society
views accessibility, and even how people are viewing accessibility issues
during this pandemic,” said Backstrom, who asked his Twitter followers to
remember the current scenario the next time there’s a Portage and Main
“Some comments and responses to my original tweet seem to indicate that
‘Buddy, there’s a pandemic going on. Why are you tweeting about this?’ Kind
of implying that concerns around accessibility should take a back seat to
the pandemic. (The pandemic) has got us all sick with worry, but my
argument would be the stakes are even higher during emergencies like this
pandemic when it comes to accessibility.”
In the 2018 civic election, opening up Portage and Main was put to a vote.
The answer was a resounding “no” with 65 per cent of voters wanting to
leave the downtown hub as is.
“The people most impacted by the barriers, whether it be people with
disabilities, or people who live downtown, for the most part, were pretty
clear about how they felt about opening it up,” Backstrom said.
“But it was put to a vote for all Winnipeggers, including those who are not
directly impacted by that negatively on a day-to-day basis.
So, I look forward to the day when a leader reassesses and makes the right
decision and makes Portage and Main accessible.”
taylor.allen(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @TaylorAllen31
>From HUB Cycling:
We recently released our State of Cycling report
Metro Vancouver in BC, which comprises 23 Jurisdictions/municipalities.
This report was developed in partnership for our regional transportation
authority, TransLink. The report looks at cycling rates, safety, gender
balance, supportive policies, network change, accessibility of safe routes
and more for each area. Some highlights:
- The report classifies every bike facility (over 15K GIS segments)
across all 23 municipalities by level of comfort ranging between
comfortable for most, some, few or very few
- A bicycle type classification system was developed with input from all
member municipalities, TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation and
Infrastructure (similar to a DOT), providing the framework to classify each
- 46% of the network is comfortable for most people, and 65% of people
live within 400m of a comfortable bikeway
- The length of the bikeway network has nearly tripled in 10 years from
1,700 km (2009) to 4,600 km (2019)
- This is meant to be a benchmarking report, allowing us to measure
progress against this baseline with each new iteration