Group wants to see more active transportation in Steinbach
Strong Towns Steinbach held its first public event on Sunday at E.A.
Friesen Park in Steinbach. The group met with their bikes and with
like-minded citizens to bring awareness to active transportation.
“We’re living in a city that is well suited for getting around by car and
it’s possible to actually get around by walking and by riding. So, I think
we’re wanting to encourage people to think more consciously about the fact
that they can get to so many places by bike and do it efficiently and
safely,” said Gary Snider, co-founder of Strong Towns Steinbach.
While there are bike routes in the city, the group feels that there needs
to be more especially at major roadways.
“There are in the original square mile – the older community – there are a
lot of bike paths. The challenges is where you come into crossing the
larger streets like Main street and (Highway 12) there isn’t a lot of
access for that…I have three kids that are under six-years-old and I would
like them to cycle safely with me on their own bikes and really to be able
to get anywhere in Steinbach,” said co-founder Wade Wiebe.
“As more people choose cycling as a way of getting around they will let the
councillors know what we need is more access to bike paths, which are
separate from car paths. Bike paths alongside car paths are OK, but it’s
not ideal for kids unless they’re with an adult and even with an adult it
can be challenging or intimidating sometimes. We want to make a push to
make that happen.”
Wiebe hopes that within 10 to 15 years there will be bike paths all over
the city and that biking will be encouraged.
“I think we can do a lot better as a city and that’s the hope,” he said.
City expands active-transportation network with new pathway in north
Also Global News:
The wheels of a few dozen cyclists sliced through several metres of ribbon
in place of the classic, comically-large pair of scissors during an offbeat
ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday marking the official opening of Winnipeg’s
newest active-transportation path.
After a soft opening earlier in the week, the Northwest Hydro Corridor
Multi-Use Path was formally unveiled to the public during a news conference
Thursday at Simkin Park in Garden City.
“By embracing the opportunity to partner and invest in our transportation
network, we are ensuring that we provide healthy opportunities for safe and
accessible pathways for our residents,” Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma told
Cyclists and pedestrians could be seen using the new trail while
councillors, the mayor and representatives from Manitoba Hydro, Trails
Manitoba and the Manitoba government delivered speeches.
The 4.5-metre-wide path, running parallel to McPhillips Street, consists of
a 2.4-kilometre stretch between Leila and Church avenues. It cost a total
of $2.5 million and was funded, in part, by a $450,000 grant from Trails
Manitoba and the province.
The multi-use trail will service a wide range of shops, workplaces and
institutions in north Winnipeg, including the Garden City Shopping Centre,
Seven Oaks Hospital and several schools.
Don Denesiuk cycled north from his home in Downtown Winnipeg to test out
the path and gather with other bike enthusiasts.
“Any kind of infrastructure, especially if it separates the bike from
traffic, is going to be a good thing,” Denesiuk said. “The points of
contention are going to be where it crosses the major thoroughfares.”
To improve cyclist and pedestrian safety in the future, Denesiuk wants the
city to address more gaps in the municipal active-transportation network
and invest in snow-clearing infrastructure designed specifically for the
routes in the winter months.
Mayor Scott Gillingham raved about the city’s growing investment in
projects such as the pathway in the past year. The city’s 2023 preliminary
budget committed $17.5 million to active-transportation projects.
“Our investment in active-transportation projects this year is 300 per cent
higher than what was forecasted in the 2022 budget,” Gillingham said.
He added that the city is also installing protected lanes along River and
Stradbrook avenues and multi-use paths down Keewatin and Archibald streets.
Over the years, multiple hydro corridors have been transformed into
multi-use pathways. Awasisak Mēskanow Trail, formerly known as the Bishop
Grandin Greenway, was the city’s first.
Colleen Galbraith, Manitoba Hydro’s customer energy services department
manager, said active transportation is one of the best uses for hydro
“We’re so happy to see the right-of-way to be used for such a great
community,” Galbraith said. “The project is a perfect example of what our
community can achieve by working towards a common goal: giving
Winnipeggers, young and old, a safe place to get outside, ride a bike and
get some exercise.”
In Phase 2, the multi-use path will extend into Point Douglas. Gillingham
couldn’t provide further details on when that will happen.
Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos said she was eager to welcome more
active-transportation investments into her ward, which has historically
*HIGHER STANDARD FOR SNOW CLEARING *
CITY council has backed a call to ramp up snow-clearing for residential
sidewalks, while moving forward a request to greatly increase the annual
Council voted Thursday to refer the call to raise the annual ice and snow
control budget to $54.2 million, from around $35 million, to next year’s
*The vote also approves a plan to spend an extra $216,000 in 2023, plus
$552,000 or more per year from 2024 through 2027, to ramp up snow-clearing
for residential sidewalks and pathways.*
*The Idaho stop: a step forward for safety *
WHY isn’t the Idaho stop legal in Manitoba?
That’s not the latest TikTok dance trend, it’s a rule that allows cyclists
to “roll” through stop signs when safe to do so and research indicates it
saves lives. The Idaho stop, named after the state that first made it legal
in 1982, isn’t allowed anywhere in Canada, but is slowly becoming part of
the legal landscape in the United States.
Here’s how it works. When a cyclist comes to an intersection in states with
stop-as-yield laws, they must reduce their speed, ensure that there is no
traffic coming and proceed carefully. It also means stopping at red lights,
but only for as long as needed for the intersection to be safe to ride
through. It doesn’t mean blast through all the stop signs, red lights and
any other traffic measures. It does mean that the rider doesn’t have to
stop the bike, put their foot down and stop their momentum if it’s safe to
continue to ride.
As Bike Winnipeg’s Patty Wiens explains: “Stop signs are for controlling
speeds and making sure that cars aren’t treating every street like a
highway. Bikes aren’t high-speed vehicles, with even e-bikes being speed
controlled at a maximum of 32 km/h, having the Idaho stop become legal,
would just help to keep traffic moving.”
Obviously then, this treats cyclists differently than vehicles. And that’s
not a bad thing. Research conducted suggests that allowing cyclists the
opportunity to maintain their momentum and get “in front of traffic” at
intersections is safer.
According to Manitoba Public Insurance, there are on average four cyclists
killed and 78 injured annually in collisions with vehicles. Intersections
are the most dangerous place for cyclists. Interestingly, a 2007 study
indicated that women cyclists are more likely to be killed than men by
large transport trucks, largely because women are more likely to obey
signage and stop, and as a result, are hit by trucks who don’t see them in
their blind spot.
Here’s why the Idaho stop should be implemented in Manitoba.
First as stated, research suggests it saves lives because it allows
cyclists to get out ahead of traffic and away from blind spots. According
to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, after Idaho
adopted the law, cyclist injuries from traffic crashes declined by 14.5 per
cent in 1983. When Delaware adopted a similar stop law in 2017, crashes
involving cyclists at stop sign intersections fell by 23 per cent.
Second, while building more bike paths should still be the goal for city
planners, stop-as-yield laws may divert cyclists off of main thoroughfares
and onto side streets which have more stop signs. If cyclists don’t have to
slow down their momentum and aren’t going to be ticketed by police for
Idaho stops, this may be a safer response to trying to cycle on Kenaston at
Corydon in the middle of rush hour in Winnipeg. (No, I am not letting city
hall off the hook about bike paths, but this feels like a reasonable
compromise until something is finally done.)
Third, it decriminalizes cycling behaviour and it may actually encourage
more people to become cyclists. With more people riding bikes, there’s more
visibility and there’s more safety. Research indicates that there is safety
in numbers for cyclists and accidents are reduced when there are more
riders on the streets.
Finally, it also may reduce the opportunity to harass cyclists. It’s
perhaps one of the most annoying habit Winnipeggers seem to engage in and
it’s something I have never experienced as an avid rider who has biked in
Cuba, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Quebec, Alberta and New York City.
People (very often, driving large trucks) will scream at you while waiting
at the intersection. The Idaho stop means cyclists could ride away from
that kind of vitriol. (Seriously, what is wrong with you?)
As Wiens says, cycling is more than just a leisure activity and we should
normalize it as another form of active transportation. For many who live on
a lower income, cycling is the only form of transportation that is
affordable and reliable. As well, Wiens says: “due to the rising price of
gas, insurance and car ownership, there are more and more people commuting
on their bikes in Winnipeg, including in winter.” Making cycling safe for
everyone should be a priority that has to be promoted by the government
from the top down.
And in the winter, a stop-as-yield law will be even more important. Wiens
says cyclists end up sharing the road even more because there are many
times where the snow gets cleared onto the bike lane and the separated bike
paths don’t get the priority snow clearing that roads get.
It’s time to do the Idaho stop Manitoba. Let’s save some lives.
Shannon Sampert is a communications consultant, freelance editor for Policy
Options and former politics and perspectives editor at the Free Press. She
teaches part time at the University of Manitoba.
*Winnipeg top three in residential bus stop accessibility *
WINNIPEG is — or should be — one of the easiest places to catch a bus in
the country, according to new Statistics Canada data.
Data released Tuesday compared population density and how many people live
within 500 metres of a bus stop across 36 cities.
In Winnipeg, 84.8 per cent of its population has convenient access to a bus
stop, following only Montreal and Toronto, at 87.5 per cent and 85.3 per
Cities with similarly high percentages include Vancouver, Victoria and
Regina. The lowest was Belleville, Ont., where just over half of residents
can get to a bus stop in a short walk.
However, access to a bus stop is not access to a reliable bus, Functional
Transit Winnipeg president Kyle Owens said Wednesday.
“In the past, there has been sufficient investment to at least put those
stops in place, to understand that having lots of stops makes transit
service broadly accessible to more people … Infrastructure was put in place
with the expectation that people would be using and valuing transit to get
where they’re going as part of their routine,” he said.
“That we have not seen widespread use of Winnipeg Transit reflects the fact
that we just haven’t seen that commensurate investment.”
The grassroots non-profit organization also questioned the value of the
data, as a 500-metre distance isn’t always indicative of true
accessibility, noting struggles for people with physical disabilities to
traverse winter sidewalks that aren’t regularly cleared.
“It is crucial that we think about making that access possible for so many
people, whether or not they have mobility needs, and if they do have
mobility needs, we’re seeing broken sidewalks, sidewalks that are not to
grade, all that infrastructure maintenance is crucial for transit to work
properly,” Owens said.
Functional Transit member Brian Pincott called the data “meaningless”
without more investment in Transit services.
“I think honestly what the city should do is go, ‘So what?’ and then look
at the plan that they have … and make it happen quickly,” he said.
The Winnipeg Transit Master Plan incorporates several broad revisions,
repairs, fixes, improvements to service, Owens said.
“We are trying to encourage the city to accelerate the Transit Master Plan…
What we consider to be the key (improvement) is frequent service.”
The number of city residents close to a bus stop has dropped in the past
— Malak Abas
Free programming promotes safe bike habits
Start your (non-existent) engines!
Manitoba Public Insurance is offering free cycling programs for cyclists of
all ages to promote road safety, comfort, and good cycling habits.
Most notable are MPI’s Cycle Safety Bike Rodeos, which will be presented in
the highest number of communities ever this summer, after being around for
“MPI’s free cycling programming has reached over 12,000 people so far this
year, and will grow to over 13,000 Manitobans by the end of the summer,”
said Kristy Rydz, manager of communications at MPI. “In 2023, MPI
anticipates it will reach approximately 50,000 Manitobans of all ages.”
Cycle Safety Bike Rodeos are available to kids aged between six and 10,
every year between May and August
The BEST (Bicycle Education & Training in Schools) program — created and
presented in partnership with the Seven Oaks School Division, Green Action
Centre, Bike Winnipeg, and the WRENCH — is delivered to students in grades
6 to 8 at over 20 schools in the city.
The program teaches cycling safety basics, such as hand signals, lane
positioning, as well as bicycle maintenance — similar to motor vehicles,
not all bikes are roadworthy.
“MPI’s goal is to begin sharing road safety messages with Manitobans as
early as possible to help everyone learn the rules of the road from a young
age,” Rydz said. “By teaching young people how to share the road, first as
a cyclist, and then as a driver as they get older, MPI aims to make
Manitoba’s roads safer for all road users.”
In Manitoba, drivers and cyclists are expected to share the road. Although
cyclists must ride as far to the right side of the street as possible, they
judge traffic the same way one would in a car and can ride further into a
lane if it’s safest for them.
“Motor vehicles and cyclists share the same roads, the same rights and the
same rules,” said Mark Cohoe, executive director of Bike Winnipeg.
The different biking programs all encourage consistent safe practices,
proper communication between bikers and drivers, and better navigation of
the city’s active transportation system.
Alongside the younger aged education, the corporation will be offering
several adult classes, including MPI’s Bike It! for riders aged 16 and
older, which will include theory and on-road lessons for participants,
separated into daytime sessions throughout the summer.
For older cyclists, Cycling Champions workshops can be arranged for work,
neighbourhood groups, or classrooms. This group-oriented (six people or
more) program lasts a full day and is a hybrid of presentation and
road-based learning. Custom times can be arranged in advance.
At press time, registration is open and programming will be available
throughout the summer. To learn more about the mentioned programming or
register for a session in advance, visit online at mpi.mb.ca or email
*Emma Honeybun is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community
Review. She graduated RRC Polytech’s creative communications program, with
a specialization in journalism, in 2023.*
*The latest: Portage and Main*
IT’S not some kind of mythical Gordian Knot, tangled and tightened beyond
all hope of being untied. Nor is it a creation of author Franz Kafka: one
night, the pedestrian access beneath Portage and Main did not metamorphose
into a giant, otherworldly mandible-clacking beetle.
But sometimes it seems more than a little bit like both of those things.
And the saga continues. In the past few weeks, City Hall has been examining
the idea of closing and demolishing the bunker — the stairwell that takes
pedestrians (well, brave ones, anyway) down into the concourse beneath the
storied Winnipeg intersection. Make no mistake — the bunker, stairs and
connection to the underground concourse is stinky, scary and unpleasant.
Often a urinal — and sometimes disgustingly more than that — it is in no
way a route of choice for those trying to cross at the intersection.
Sometimes, though, it’s the only route. The idea being considered is one
put forward by the city’s property committee, and approved unanimously,
which would include the city paying Richardson Centre Ltd. $1.65 million to
remove the staircase as part of a redevelopment, and also put in place an
agreement to allow people to use parts of the Richardson Building to access
the concourse route underneath the intersection, using more expanded hours
than the current hours the building is open.
The arrangement doesn’t appear to be establishing or maintaining a public
right-of-way: it seems more like a move to develop a commercial arrangement
for access through private property. And commercial arrangements have their
complications and costs. The proposal approved by the property committee is
worded like this: “That authority be delegated to the Chief Administrative
Officer to negotiate and approve all future agreements with Richardson
Centre Limited with respect to public use and access to the City concourse
through Richardson Centre Limited’s property located at 365 and 375 Main
Street and such other terms and conditions deemed necessary by the City
Solicitor/Director of Legal Services to protect the interests of the City,”
the motion says.
And generally speaking, things like access, cleaning, additional opening
and security can end up being commercial costs that have to be borne by
The question of public access is not lost on committee chairperson Coun.
Sherri Rollins: “Most Winnipeggers want to not have to rely on a
private-sector access agreement to be able to access their city in a
Another way of looking at it? Like putting lipstick on a pig — or else as
yet another hitch and coil in the ever-growing Portage and Main Gordonian
Pedestrian Knot. Moving the public through the Richardson Centre property
doesn’t actually simplify things: it just throws in a whole new element.
Other larger and more complex intersections in larger and busier cities
than our own have managed to function without such complications. Without
sky gardens. Without years of planning and replanning, consultants’ reports
and public input and scary staircases and concrete barricades.
A functional downtown needs the ability for a right of way from point A to
point B, not just for vehicles, but for living, breathing, walking people.
Alexander the Great, by solving the Gordian Knot by cutting it in half with
his sword, was prophesied to become the ruler of all Asia.
Perhaps endless travails over an intersection would benefit from such a
simple and direct approach.
Whoever finally unravels meaningful, simple, public pedestrian access
through Portage and Main won’t rule all of Asia.
But maybe there’s an argument that they could rule all of Winnipeg.
Cyclist in hospital, four suspects sought in hit, run
Reconstructing the scene of a hit-and-run collision that hospitalized a
cyclist June 30 is a key aspect of the city police probe into the incident,
a spokesman says.
The Winnipeg Police Service was called to the reported collision between a
cyclist and a vehicle at Isabel Street and Notre Dame Avenue at about 8
p.m. Friday. Patrol officers found the 63-year-old man lying unconscious in
He remains in hospital, in critical but stable condition.
The vehicle involved left the scene, but was ditched a block west on the
100 block of Juno Street, police said Sunday.
Community support officers found the vehicle, a “heavily” damaged grey 2007
Pontiac G6, with no one inside. Witnesses told police four males ran from
WPS spokesman Const. Claude Chancy said Monday he could not reveal whether
the vehicle had been reported or suspected stolen prior to the collision.
Chancy added the four suspects who fled the damaged sedan have not yet been
located. He said much of the investigation will be focused on rebuilding
“There’s a lot of work insofar as the reconstruction of the accident
itself — the rest is just based on sourcing out information, whether it be
from witnesses, the involved party and, of course, video surveillance that
is available to investigators,” Chancy said.
“That’s why we usually ask for public assistance in order to gain that
Jeremy Epp, owner of Independent Jewellers, said Monday he knew little of
what occurred — noting his business at the northwest corner of Isabel
Street and Notre Dame Avenue was closed at the time of the collision and
over the weekend.
However, “It’s a high-traffic corner,” said Epp.
Traffic investigators learned the cyclist had crossed the intersection
against a red light when he was hit by the vehicle, throwing him onto the
road, police said Sunday.
Police are still seeking witnesses who saw the collision or spotted the
vehicle around the time of the collision, as well as any surveillance
footage, including from homes and dash cameras, captured around that time.
Traffic investigators ask anyone with tips to call the division at
204-986-7085 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 204786-8477.
[Note: Also see Brent Bellamy's response to the article, pasted below this
* * * * *
*More recreation space, roads, rapid transit near-equal priorities*
*City split three ways on desired infrastructure path: poll*
TINA Montemayor is like many Winnipeggers, staring at a public policy fork
in the road.
As a commuter, she knows how frustrating driving in the city can be —
especially on Kenaston Boulevard at rush hour.
Route 90 has become a no-go zone for her. She takes Shaftesbury Boulevard,
then McCreary Road, McGillivray Boulevard and a short stretch on Kenaston
to reach her Bridgwater neighbourhood home after work.
“For my own mental health, I’m avoiding Kenaston,” Montemayor said with a
laugh. “I know how crazy the traffic is.”
If another lane were added, however, she says she would take Kenaston all
the way home.
But when asked to choose between more concrete traffic lanes, more green
and recreational space or more rapid transit, Montemayor’s decision mirrors
that of most Winnipeggers, according to a new Probe Research survey for the
While she’s all for widening roadways — like 31 per cent of respondents —
Montemayor desires more spending on recreation, which edged out
transportation as the top priority in Probe’s poll at 36 per cent.
“For me, (it’s) more funding so that people get more active and get to
interact with each other,” Montemayor said.
With the City of Winnipeg proposing two road-widenings — Route 90
(Kenaston) between Ness and Taylor avenues, and Chief Peguis Trail, at an
estimated cost of $1 billion — the Free Press asked Probe to survey
residents to ask which of the following would be their top priority:
widening major roadways, building more rapid transit, or creating and
renovating recreation facilities and other amenities that improve quality
The results elicited a near three-way split.
Suburban residents in north Winnipeg were most likely to prioritize
expanding roadways, as were Progressive Conservative voters.
“Not surprisingly, you have… people who live in some of the more suburban
areas who are affected by congestion and gridlock (picking roadway
expansion),” said Curtis Brown, a principal with Probe Research.
However, despite Winnipeg capital spending debates often being framed
around “better roads” or more active and rapid transit, the data show “a
pretty strong current across the city” of people wanting recreation
investment, Brown said.
Spending more on recreation topped Robin LaFreniere’s list.
“Everyone’s struggling with their mental health,” said LaFreniere, 35.
“Wrapping around more wellness and (having) a bit (of a) slower pace for
people, I think, would be good.”
She’s taken her five-year-old son to parks, pools and play structures. She
couldn’t choose a favourite spot — all are “unique” — but more free
programming at facilities is needed, LaFreniere said.
“I think no matter where you live — whether you live in Wolseley, or
whether you live in the far reaches of North Kildonan — you want to have
rinks and pools and splash pads that you and your family can use,” Brown
said. “It’s pretty much universal.”
Graham Lowes considers Winnipeg behind, when comparing it to peers’
recreation centres: “Go to a pool in any place in B.C. or Alberta… even
Support for recreation was widespread throughout Winnipeg, Probe’s survey
At least one-third of respondents in each area — central Winnipeg, the
suburban north and the suburban south — listed recreation centres as their
top priority, at 41, 37, and 33 per cent, respectively.
Julie Chamberlain, a University of Winnipeg urban studies professor who
researches urban development and planning, counted herself among the group
to put recreation at the forefront.
“It addresses… a whole range of concerns the city has that seem
Studies show accessible recreation improves physical and mental health,
community safety and connection, she said.
“It’s especially important in neighbourhoods where people can’t afford to
pay to send their kids to programs, and where there isn’t adequate and safe
and attractive greenspace.”
Widening roadways, of the three options, was at the bottom of Chamberlain’s
“The expansion of roadways is…. notoriously poor planning practice. I know
it seems counter-intuitive,” she said. “It doesn’t do what people think it
Road-widening draws more traffic and pollution, and often comes at the
expense of green space, Chamberlain said.
Ciara Okumura, 25, would prefer to not own a vehicle. Lately, she’s been
living the lifestyle; her car broke down.
“I think we should be moving away from a car-oriented city anyways,”
Okumura said, waiting at a rapid transit station near Pembina Highway.
“Just for our carbon footprint.”
Thirty-two per cent of survey respondents crowned rapid transit their top
priority. The number jumps to 45 per cent when counting respondents ages 18
through 34, and 43 per cent when considering households earning less than
Nearly half of NDP voters — 47 per cent — ranked rapid transit a top
priority, as did central neighbourhood residents (45 per cent).
“We need a way better bus system,” Okumura said. “Not even just rapid
transit, just all the buses working better.”
She’d like reliable bus service — especially in the winter, as she’s
waiting in freezing temperatures for a ride to university.
It’s not uncommon for buses to be late or pass her by, too full to stop.
The Linden Woods resident said she needs a car because buses don’t come
frequently or transport her everywhere she needs.
Chamberlain, who lives in the North End, echoed that concern.
“By the time I’ve waited for the bus to come, I could’ve ridden my bike
there already,” Chamberlain said.
Kyle Owens, president of Functional Transit Winnipeg, believes increasing
bus frequency — and returning the fleet to 2018 levels — is the first step
to improving Winnipeg Transit.
“No one can be forced onto a bus with enough advertising,” Owens said. “It
has to be a more convenient option than just taking your car.”
Speeding up implementation of the city’s Winnipeg Transit Master Plan is
also critical, Owens said.
“So many families are suffering economically,” he added. “The existing
system does not meet the needs of so many people who would be happy to not
buy a car, not use their car or get rid of their car.”
Winnipeg Transit has made headlines for a persistent driver shortage.
Meantime, the City of Winnipeg is projecting a $27-million deficit this
year, one which is expected to drain its so-called “rainy day” fund.
Several people the Free Press spoke to highlighted the need for more active
transit, including Lowes, who bikes on major arteries such as Kenaston
“If they’re going to widen the roads, they should put a (protected) bike
lane,” he said, adding he regularly visits a bustling Assiniboine Avenue
cycle track. “When you build that infrastructure, people use it.”
Survey respondents answered online from May 31 through June 13, after being
randomly recruited via phone call. The survey has a 95 per cent accuracy,
plus or minus four percentage points, if Winnipeg’s entire adult population
had been surveyed.
* * * * *
Winnipeg’s three Rs: recreation, roads, rapid transit
The *Winnipeg Free **Press* and Probe Research recently conducted a poll
asking people to identify their top infrastructure spending priority for
the City of Winnipeg. The results reveal Winnipeggers have diverse opinions
about how to improve their quality of life.
Thirty-six per cent of respondents identified their top priority as
building and renovating recreation centres and related amenities such as
community clubs, parks, splash pads and arenas.
Thirty-two per cent favoured building a rapid transit network.
Thirty-one per cent preferred widening and expanding roads.
[image: WENDY SAWATZKY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS]
SAWATZKY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
At first glance, the responses appear to be distinct priorities whose
implementation would require choosing one over another. With careful and
strategic planning however, they can be tied together in a symbiotic
relationship that allows the city to achieve the goals of each.
The poll illustrates Winnipeg’s connection to its community centres runs
While many cities have moved to a big-box recreation model that combines
several uses into large, regional complexes, Winnipeg has been able to
maintain a wonderful network of community centres deeply woven into the
fabric of neighbourhoods.
For generations, they have supported physical and mental health, providing
people from youth to seniors with places for social connection and
relationship building. Skating at the local rink or joining an after-school
program, creates a sense of community and represents a vital building block
of a walkable neighbourhood.
The community centre model in Winnipeg is unique from other Canadian cities
in that they are owned by the city but governed and operated by volunteers.
It’s estimated each year, 17,000 volunteers devote more than 1.2 million
hours to them.
As important as the facilities are, they are facing significant challenges,
including the ability to maintain such a level of volunteer support.
The challenges facing Winnipeg’s 63 community centres can in many ways be
connected to how the city has grown and developed over the last 50 years.
Most of Winnipeg’s mature neighbourhoods have at least 30 per cent fewer
people living in them today than in the 1970s, largely due to smaller
household sizes. In contrast, population growth has exploded in new
The impact is recreation services in older areas are underused and being
supported by a smaller community, while at the same time, new facilities
are being built to support new communities. This growth pattern has meant
more thinly-spread volunteer support and a stretching of city budgets to
maintain facilities and programming.
In 2018, 40 per cent of Winnipeg’s community centres, and 100 per cent of
city-run arenas, were evaluated to be in poor condition, requiring funding
for maintenance and new construction to meet modern building codes,
evolving recreation trends and community needs.
Rapid transit, the second priority identified in the Probe/*Free Press* poll,
offers part of the solution to the challenges recreation facilities face.
Rapid transit can address issues of social equity, cost of living, and
environmental sustainability, but it can also be used as a strong urban
When rapid transit is effective and convenient, large numbers of people
want to use it, creating market pressure for high-density residential
development near the system’s access points. This can create powerful
magnets for population growth in established communities.
Known as transit oriented development (TOD), it allows planners to
strategically locate rapid transit stations to target areas for infill
growth and densification. This has proven to be particularly successful
with light rail transit systems.
Growing a mature neighbourhood’s population through TOD can breathe new
life into existing community centres by increasing the number of potential
users and broadening the volunteer pool. This also allows overall
population to grow without creating the need to build new facilities to
serve new residents.
With more taxpayers supporting a smaller number of recreation facilities,
the city’s financial model becomes more viable, freeing up funding to
improve maintenance schedules and explore redevelopment options for
existing community centres.
The financial advantages of higher-density existing neighbourhoods
stimulated by initiatives such as TOD also hold true for the recent poll’s
third identified priority: building and expanding roads.
Larger roads aren’t necessarily the end goal, but higher levels of
maintenance and lower levels of traffic congestion are likely to be.
Using TOD as a tool to direct population growth to mature neighbourhoods
means more people using roads that already exist, requiring fewer
expensive, new roads to be built. More taxpayers paying to maintain less
road naturally results in better road conditions.
As for reducing traffic congestion, a good rapid transit system has
consistently proven to be far more effective than increasing vehicle
capacity. Bigger roads result in more cars — always.
The speed, lower cost and reliability of rapid transit make it an
attractive alternative to driving. This mode shift can reduce the number of
cars on the road and the corresponding traffic they create.
In Calgary, as an example, the convenience and affordability of the C-Train
has made it North America’s busiest light-rail system, attracting almost
half of downtown commuters to transit.
An important takeaway from this poll is city building is an interconnected
network of priorities. The ability to implement one can be directly
affected by another.
When strategic investments are made that more efficiently use existing
resources, it creates financial flexibility for other priorities.
Rapid transit is just one example of an infrastructure investment that, if
combined with strong planning strategies, can transcend its primary
function — to become a city-building tool that enables a wide range of
other quality-of-life public investments.
*Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural