Province refuses to amend law to let pedestrians and cyclists share
Back to Square 1 on open streets
THE province has rejected calls to change the law to let Winnipeg welcome
back pedestrians to “open streets” this year, arguing the city can mark out
separate spaces for vehicles and foot traffic instead.
However, a city councillor fears that option would force Winnipeg to start
the entire concept over from scratch.
Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said the province would never alter the
Highway Traffic Act to let the city mix pedestrians with vehicle traffic.
“The law is very clear and we’re not going to budge on the law…. We are not
contemplating an exemption, either,” Schuler said. “We do not believe, as a
government, that pedestrians and traffic are a good mix.”
Last year, Winnipeg designated 10 sections of local streets where vehicle
access was restricted to one block between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily to
create space for pedestrians and cyclists to get outside for some fresh air
at a safe social distance.
Council is considering a proposal to test 14 more routes this year. But the
new routes would be reserved for cyclists only, after the city discovered
including pedestrians violated the Highway Traffic Act.
The act prohibits pedestrians from walking on roadways where a “reasonably
passable” sidewalk is present.
Schuler said the city can offer active transportation access to both
pedestrians and cyclists by closing a section of a street or lane to
He said the city would need to use road paint and add signs at every
affected block to make the rule obvious.
Coun. Matt Allard, council’s public works chairman, said that concept isn’t
a good fit for “open streets” because it would cut off vehicle access
“We would have to look at every street, at how parking and traffic would be
impacted. So it really would be a starting-from-scratch scenario,” said
Ideally, Allard said he’d like to find a legal way to allow pedestrian
Jim Berezowsky, Winnipeg’s public works director, said the city would need
to complete a new round of public consultation before it could
implement the province’s
“We engaged with the public last year…. We would have to go back to that
same community and ask these new questions,” said Berezowsky.
Several groups are urging the city to find a way to restore pedestrian
“People walking really did make up such a large percentage of the people who
took part in our open streets program,” Mel Marginet, a co-ordinator with
the Green Action Centre’s sustainable transportation team, told council’s
public works committee Friday.
“In Winnipeg, our sidewalks are narrow, they are often in poor shape where
they exist at all. So relegating people to walking during a pandemic on
narrow spaces fails in terms of accessibility and public health.”
Marginet said it would be difficult for the city to keep pedestrians off
cycling only routes.
“This is going to create a lot of confusion and we don’t think it’s really
possible or equitable to start ticketing people for walking,” she said.
Emma Durand-Wood, an active transportation advocate, called it
“mind-boggling” that pedestrians could suddenly lose this access.
“We saw last year that (this) more or less worked fine,” said Durand-Wood.
“This (change) just lacks common sense.”
If the proposal is approved as is, this year’s seasonal active
transportation routes would serve only cyclists and limit vehicular traffic
to one block from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. That’s expected to begin as early
as May 3 and continue until Nov. 5, pending consultation.
The changes require full council approval. Council’s public works committee
will vote on the matter Tuesday.
Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says it’s possible for the
city to move forward with its spring and summer Open Streets active
transportation routes, but only under certain conditions that conform to
the law and preserve safety.
Last year, to encourage residents to get outside during the pandemic, the
City opened up multiple streets for cycling, walking and running. Vehicles,
which were limited to one block at a time from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., mixed with
pedestrians and cyclists. However, a recent Winnipeg public service report
said mixing pedestrians and vehicles is a contravention of section 143 (1)
of Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act. According to the City, the act prohibits
pedestrians from using roads when sidewalks are present. As a result, this
year’s Open Streets initiative will only be able to accommodate cyclists —
relegating pedestrians to sidewalks.
“There’s a little bit of confusion on the Highway Traffic Act and what it
says in regards to what the city would like to do,” said Schuler, a regular
active transportation route user who sometimes cycles 40 km a day. “We are
not advocating the City does, or not does something. That has nothing to do
with us. The question is, how do you mix pedestrians and traffic?”
Schuler said where there’s a sidewalk, the usual recommendation is
pedestrians use the sidewalk and cyclists share the road with vehicles. But
there’s another way, he said. As demonstrated by the city of Edmonton,
Winnipeg can section-off a piece of road, which could then be dedicated to
pedestrians and cyclists.
“It would have to be marked off by a painted line,” Schuler said. “We would
recommend you do like Edmonton. I believe they bought 1,500 traffic cones
and some planters, so that you really differentiate road traffic from
pedestrian and cyclist traffic. But it can be done. The Highway Traffic Act
does allow for it, but it has to be very clearly signed each and every
Schuler said the City has the authority to block off roads, like Wellington
Crescent. Local traffic would be allowed, but he’s recommending a separate
lane, exclusively for cyclists and pedestrians.
“The mixing of traffic and pedestrians is a very dangerous situation,” he
said. “So the Highway Traffic Act is very clear. When it comes to
pedestrians, they must be separated, and it must be clearly marked and has
to be done every block. The City of Winnipeg has the ability to do this, as
does any municipality.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the city said they’re aware of their
authority in terms of full or partial lane closures to restrict vehicle
access. They said the city is committed to investigating safe, long-term
solutions for shared streets, and would consider physical separation as a
potential future, safe solution.
Glad we got coverage on this issue; it is shocking that the city was going
forward to long term planning with a climate plan that did not meet the
national standard, and nobody was raising a red flag.
A local community cycling advocacy group is asking the City of Winnipeg to
align municipal plans moving forward with climate change targets in step
with the rest of Canada and the world.
Charles Feaver, a volunteer with Bike Winnipeg, says the group has submitted
a lengthy criticism of a draft municipal planning document, OurWinnipeg
According to the city's website, the document, "is the city's 25-year
development plan which is intended to guide everything the city does. It
provides a vision, goals and policies intended to influence leadership and
good governance, priority setting, delivery of city services, how residents
get around in the city, and decisions about how the city grows."
The problem, Feaver says, is the planning document draft is built upon
Winnipeg's current climate targets, which are out of line with Canadian
climate targets and international goals that hope to constrain global
warming to 2 C above pre-industrial levels.
The City of Winnipeg aims to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2030
over 2011 levels, and by 80 per cent by 2050. Both targets fail to meet the
thresholds needed to meet the Paris Agreement targets, or more ambitious
targets that would constrain warming to 2 C.
‘Speeding’ can have different meanings
WHAT does it mean to be “speeding”?
Does it mean you’re exceeding the posted speed limit? Driving too fast for
conditions? Travelling at a speed that makes people outside your vehicle
nervous or uncomfortable?
Judging by the number of requests for traffic calming over the last several
years, speeding is a huge problem throughout Winnipeg. Often, those
requests result in a traffic study being approved. What happens next?
The city comes and sets up equipment to measure speeds over the course of a
certain period. The findings are almost always the same: few drivers are
actually exceeding the legal speed limit.
Nevertheless, residents say there is a “speeding problem” on their street
and they’re worried about it. Their concerns go unanswered because
technically, there is no problem to address. People aren’t speeding.
Nothing to worry about. No traffic calming is warranted.
But lay people — everyday citizens in a neighbourhood — are trying to
communicate feelings of concern about comfort and safety, but the only way
to describe those feelings is with words such as “speeding” and “too fast”
— concepts traffic engineers will measure in concrete numbers and compare
against the posted speed limit.
When neighbours say there’s a speeding problem on their street, what they
are really saying is that the posted speed limit, which drivers are
following, is too high.
Just a few weeks ago, my youngest child mastered the two-wheeler. She’s now
keen to spend every waking moment enjoying her newfound freedom. It’s a joy
to witness, and fun that we can ride bikes together as family. But sadly,
as parents, as we move throughout our neighbourhood, that enjoyment is
tempered by a constant state of high alert as we try to anticipate every
car’s movement, speed, direction and intention.
As a driver, you might think to yourself, “I see that family riding bikes
up there – I’ll be careful.” But as the parent outside the vehicle, with
three kids in tow, I have no idea whether you see us, whether you’ll slow
down, whether you’ll give us room to pass. It’s of zero comfort to me to
know that you’re not going over the 50 km/h speed limit. The knowledge that
“no one has died on this street” does not reassure me.
The pandemic has unlocked an enormous appetite and enthusiasm for spending
time in our own neighbourhoods. Bike sales are through the roof. Running
shoes, too. We want to be outside and we want not just to be safe, but to
be comfortable. We want to feel at ease going for a walk or a bike ride
with a friend, with our senior parents, with our children, with our pets.
Opponents of speed-limit reductions like to point out that residential
streets aren’t where people are getting killed anyway. They suggest
lowering speed limits tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and will
bring the city to a standstill because all the cars will have to drive
around at a snail’s pace.
Reality says otherwise. Most commuting is done on major arterials (or
should be), not on residential streets. Lower speed limits will result in
negligible increases in travel time. To the point of solving a problem that
doesn’t exist, surely we’re not just waiting for tragedy to occur to prove
otherwise? In truth, slower neighbourhood speeds are about so much more
than just preventing collisions.
Winnipeg’s adopted Climate Action Plan requires us to change the way people
get around the city, given that nearly one-third of emissions come from
personal vehicle use. Yet from Waverley West to St. Boniface to Weston,
people say their neighbourhoods are a hostile place for walking or biking.
How do we expect to convert more than one in every four car trips to other
modes when people don’t feel at ease outside a vehicle?
Imagine neighbourhoods with fewer exhaust fumes and cleaner air.
Neighbourhoods where pavement lasts longer because more of the traffic
involves bikes and people, not heavy vehicles.
Imagine, too, quieter neighbourhoods where you can hear birdsong and have a
chat with a neighbour from across the street without yelling: a reduction
of 10 km/h in vehicle speeds results in a 40 per cent reduction in noise.
Right now, many people seeking a pleasant and safe environment for walking
must hop in the car and drive to a regional park. But if people simply
drove more slowly, every neighbourhood in the city could have that
calm and comfortable
We also know from study after study that there’s a huge contingent — close
to 45 per cent — of potential bike riders in the “interested, but
concerned” category. They would like to ride, but are wary of existing
conditions and therefore don’t.
Those are the kinds of problems lower speed limits would solve.
*Emma Durand-Wood is a volunteer with Safe Speeds Winnipeg, a grassroots
group of people of all ages that are concerned about safety, comfort and
sustainability in our neighborhoods.*
A step backward for Open Streets initiative
HAS the Open Streets pilot project arrived at a “Don’t Walk” sign for city
pedestrians? The concept for seasonal active transportation across Winnipeg
that began in 2020 restricted motor vehicles to travel for only one block
on 10 different routes every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the spring,
summer and fall, allowing for cyclists and pedestrians greater and safer
It was a pandemic-inspired expansion of a similar plan that has been in use
for many years on summer weekends on Wellington Crescent and Wolseley
Open Streets proved to be welcome relief for Winnipeggers stuck at home
during the COVID- 19 crisis. Walking or pedalling on Churchill Drive or
Scotia Street along the Red River, or Egerton Road beside the Seine River,
became a way to get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying the city’s
scenery without having to dodge a procession of trucks and cars.
The concept allowed for physical distancing for pedestrians, keeping
sidewalks from getting crowded and becoming potential pandemic hot spots.
The city’s public works committee will vote today on a proposal to extend
the pilot project for a second year. If it receives approval from city
council, it would begin May 3, on 14 streets around the city.
While the cycling aspect of Open Streets is expected to roll on, the
pedestrian part of the plan has stepped squarely into an administrative mud
On Monday, city staff reminded councillors that allowing pedestrians to use
roadways that have “reasonably passable” sidewalks, such as Wolseley Avenue
and Wellington Crescent, contravenes the province’s Highway Traffic Act.
They recommend pedestrians be excluded from these “enhanced summer cycling
routes,” and should stick to sidewalks. However, crowding on sidewalks
remains a COVID-19 concern, especially considering new information
regarding outdoor transmission of the virus’s highly contagious variants.
Excluding pedestrians from Open Streets flies in the face of the reasoning
that launched the project in the first place.
Apparently, the city either didn’t know about the provisions in the Highway
Traffic Act or overlooked them when it gave the project the go-ahead last
year. Public works director Jim Berezowsky said the city was looking out
for Winnipeggers’ best interests when it launched the Open Streets project
during 2020’s state of emergency. A year later, a provincial state of
emergency remains in place, but legalities seem to have forced
interests to take a step back.
The recommendation also fails to recognize that pedestrians have walked on
Wellington Crescent and Wolseley Avenue for years without facing
enforcement or penalties when similar rules restricted motor vehicles on
The notion of excluding pedestrians from Open Streets is bound to create
resentment in those who strolled or jogged on those streets last year. They
will no doubt be struck by the irony of a provincial act intended for
motorists adding restrictions on those who choose to travel on foot.
City officials are lobbying the province to amend the HTA to allow for Open
Streets’ pedestrian plans, but legislative procedures, including a new bill
and debates, are hardly a walk in the park.
The city and province could take a forward step together by agreeing on an
interim measure that would allow both cyclists and pedestrians to use Open
Streets’ designated roads this year while providing motorists the
restricted one block access to the streets.
It would give city council and administration more time to gather
information on whether Open Streets could become a permanent feature of
Winnipeg summers, and grant pedestrians another opportunity to enjoy one of
the few improvements on city life the pandemic has presented.
France is offering the owners of old, exhaust-belching cars the opportunity
to hand over their vehicles for scrap in return for a 2,500 euro
($2,975.00) grant to buy an electric bicycle.
Lawmakers in the National Assembly have just approved the measure in a
preliminary vote. It was an amendment to a draft climate bill passing
through parliament that aims to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40% in 2030
from 1990 levels.
If adopted, France will become the first country in the world to offer
people the chance to trade in an ageing vehicle for an electric or folding
bicycle, the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB) said.
"For the first time it is recognised that the solution is not to make cars
greener, but simply to reduce their number," said Olivier Schneider of the
Beth McKechnie (she/her) *| *Green Action Centre
3rd floor, 303 Portage Ave | (204) 925-3777 x102 | Find us here
*Green Action Centre is located on the ancestral lands of the Anishinaabeg,
Ininew, Anishininiwag, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of* *the
Métis Nation. We acknowledge that our water is sourced from Shoal Lake 40
First Nation and that our hydro is sourced from numerous First Nations here
in Manitoba**. *
Green Action Centre is your green living hub
Support our work by becoming a member
<http://greenactioncentre.ca/support/become-a-member/>. Donate at
Second pilot project to test seasonal active transportation routes
Open streets may prohibit pedestrians
WINNIPEG’S next round of “open streets” may be closed to foot traffic.
A proposal calls for council to approve a second pilot project testing
seasonal active transportation routes. Last year, the city limited vehicle
traffic to one block from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily on 10 different sections
of streets to create space for cyclists and pedestrians to engage in
physically distanced exercise.
This year, the change would apply from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily on sections
of 14 streets, from May 3 to Nov. 5, if council approves.
However, pedestrians will not be invited this time, since doing so could
violate the Highway Traffic Act. The act prohibits pedestrians from walking
on roadways where a “reasonably passable” sidewalk is present.
Jim Berezowsky, Winnipeg’s public works director, said the city wasn’t
aware of the legal issue when it moved to quickly offer “open streets” last
“We tried to operate in the best interests of (Winnipeggers) … under a
state of local emergency,” Berezowsky said.
City staff are now asking council to exclude pedestrians from what would be
deemed “enhanced summer cycling routes,” though officials are also in talks
with the province to try to amend the act so foot traffic can eventually
“What we would like to see is a safe opening with pedestrians, cyclists and
vehicles,” said Berezowsky, who warned that may not occur in time for this
year’s pilot project.
Public works officials also refrained from making the routes a permanent,
seasonal addition, since the “open streets” concept has only been tested
since traffic plummeted due to the pandemic.
Those who’ve lobbied for more active transportation options say cutting off
pedestrian access would ignore a large portion of Winnipeggers the routes
were meant to serve.
“This again will force pedestrians to crowd on to very narrow sidewalks, so
it misses that reallocation of (travel) space, which was the point of the
open streets … This is very disappointing,” said Mel Marginet, a
co-ordinator with the Green Action Centre’s sustainable transportation team.
Marginet said she’s seen many residents safely use open streets to walk and
“I experienced many of these streets as a pedestrian myself… Last year I
went on multiple times a day and I didn’t get that sense (of a safety
risk),” she said.
The executive director of Bike Winnipeg, a group that conducted cyclist and
pedestrian counts at open streets last year, said he’s also concerned about
cutting off pedestrian access.
“That will have a pretty big impact on the open streets. A lot of the
counts we did showed, especially on … Wellington Crescent, there were
really some huge uptakes from people walking on those corridors,” said Mark
Cohoe said he hopes the province can provide the city with interim
permission to allow pedestrians access to the routes during the pilot
Coun. Matt Allard, the chairperson of council’s public works committee,
said he ultimately wants the seasonal routes to return every year and
include pedestrians. Still, he believes the current proposal offers an
important step forward.
“If I had my (way, the routes) would be permanent. But I think this is a
step in the right direction. They were a tremendous success last year,”
said Allard (St. Boniface).
Other councillors said the pedestrian component is a critical aspect of the
“It’s definitely disappointing that pedestrians are not included and, in
fact, I think it changes the program altogether,” said Coun. Jeff Browaty
In an email, Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said changing the
Highway Traffic Act would require a new bill and legislative debate. He
didn’t directly answer whether or not the province supports the city’s
“The province remains open to exploring amendments to The Highway Traffic
Act if a permanent and long-term need is identified that benefits all
Manitobans,” said Schuler.
Council’s public works committee will cast the first vote on the proposal
on April 16, which also requires full council approval.
Open streets return in Winnipeg pilot project, but routes closed to
pedestrians Public works department says Highway Traffic Act prohibits
walking on future active transportation streets
A report from the city's public works department says pedestrians should
not be allowed to use any of the streets closed to vehicles for a coming
pilot project aimed at extending Winnipeg's Sunday/holiday active
The city has plans to reboot the popular program at the beginning of May
with vehicular restrictions on 14 streets, but only cyclists — not
pedestrians — can take advantage.
The report from public works, made public Monday, says allowing pedestrians
on those routes contravenes section 143 (1) of Manitoba's Highway Traffic
"The HTA currently prohibits pedestrian use of a roadway when a sidewalk is
present on the street in question," reads the report.
Thousands of Winnipeggers got some physically-distanced fresh air last year
on several streets that were closed to most vehicular traffic.
The city expanded its Sunday vehicular restrictions on four streets to
seven days a week, and last spring added five more routes.
Enthused by the response, last September city council directed public
works staff to look at making some of the streets year-round active
and expanding the program to other areas of the city.
The recommendations from public works staff say a new pilot program in May
2021 could be undertaken "that excludes pedestrians on the streets," and
says to communicate the change in policy, it should be "re-branded" as the
enhanced summer cycling route pilot.
Closures last year were a quick decision: Director
The director of the city's public works department, Jim Berezowsky, says
the streets were closed last year under the spectre of the COVID-19
pandemic and a desire to give residents some physically distanced exercise.
"Things were happening where we had to make decisions on a daily basis to
try and operate in the best interest of the public, and keeping people
close to home and those considerations were our number one focus while we
under that local state of emergency," Berezowsky said.
The city will appeal to residents to obey the law and keep off the streets
while on foot.
"We are asking pedestrians to cooperate in a safe and efficient manner as
it stands, while we work on a solution. We're reaching out to the public on
that. We really do want their support on this so we can find a viable
solution here," Berezowsky said.
The chair of the infrastructure and public works committee was repeatedly
asked if the proposed pilot would stop residents from walking on the
designated routes, and repeatedly Matt Allard gave a similar answer.
"I know that there are circumstances where pedestrians are legally allowed
to engage the street," Allard said.
Allard, who has championed the active transportation routes, acknowledged
he's liked having the streets open to both cyclists and pedestrians.
"Ideally, that would be the case. The director [of the public works
department] has has an opinion on the matter. We're branding these holiday
cycle routes in part based on that opinion from the director," Allard said.
Allard said he would have more to say about the issue at a meeting of the
committee on Friday.
The popularity of the open streets project last year was highlighted in a
survey done by the city. It found 65 per cent of the 5,600 respondents were
positive about the routes.
Berezowsky agreed monitoring the streets for breaches of the HTA would be
the responsibility of the Winnipeg Police Service, and says if there are
safety issues that are raised as the pilot project moves forward, his
department will look at those locations "on a case-by-case basis."
The 14 streets designated as part of the enhanced summer cycling route
pilot program are:
- Lyndale Drive – Cromwell Street to Gauvin Street.
- Scotia Street – Anderson Avenue (at St. Cross Street) to Armstrong
- Wellington Crescent – Academy Road (at Wellington Crescent) to Guelph
- Wolseley Avenue – Raglan Road to Maryland Street.
- Churchill Drive – Hay Street to Jubilee Avenue.
- Egerton Road – Bank Avenue to Morier Avenue
- Kildonan Drive – Helmsdale Avenue to Rossmere Crescent & Larchdale
Crescent to Irving Place
- Kilkenny Drive – Burgess Avenue to Patricia Avenue and Kings Drive.
- Rover Avenue – Hallet Street to Stephens Street.
- Youville Street – Eugenie Street to Haig Avenue.
- Alexander Avenue – Arlington Street to Princess Street.
- Ravelston Avenue – Plessis Road to Wayota Street.
- Linwood Street – Portage Avenue to Silver Avenue.
- Harbison Avenue West – Henderson Highway to eastern terminus.