*City looks ready to roll with concrete bike-lane curbs *
CITY hall appears to be reconsidering its opposition to the use of low-profile concrete curbs for laying out protected bike lanes in Winnipeg.
The city announced a nine-month pilot project Tuesday that would result in the placement of the concrete curbs on a short block in the Exchange District and on a 100-metre stretch of Sherbrook Street, south of Cumberland Avenue.
The move is surprising. Coun. Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) has been proposing a similar approach for months, but each time, her efforts were rejected by the administration and the public works committee on the grounds the curbs were contrary to the city’s “award-winning” cycling strategy, which uses time-consuming and more expensive poured concrete.
“It just goes to show the dysfunction we operate under at city hall,” Lukes said. “Of course, I’m happy, but what a lot of needless nonsense, time and effort was spent when they were going to do it all along.”
Stephanie Whitehouse, city hall’s active transportation (AT) co-ordinator, said the nine-month pilot is a “materials test” to determine the suitability of the low-profile, portable concrete curbs, but added she was excited about the move.
Whitehouse said the city’s awardwinning AT strategy places the highest priority on building protected bike lanes leading into and throughout the downtown network, but it doesn’t stipulate which materials to be used.
She said the experience of other municipalities has shown concrete curbs to be an easy, efficient and less expensive way to build a bike network. The pilot will determine if they emerge as a preferred material to the city’s traditional method of using poured concrete.
“I’m excited about this one. I think it’s a win,” Whitehouse said. “They’re great, they’re adjustable and movable.”
Whitehouse said it took crews only three hours to lay down the 100 metres of concrete curbs on Sherbrook Street, adding she believes crews can beat that time on a similar stretch Wednesday along Bannatyne Avenue, between King and Albert streets.
Whitehouse said the pilot program will determine if the concrete curbs are compatible with winter snow-clearing and ensure they are durable.
“We don’t want to find efficiencies in installation and then discover we’ve created a whole host of deficiencies in our ability to deliver a street and cycling maintenance programs,” she said.
The City of Winnipeg has been slow to adopt and resistant to using adjustable materials to construct protected bike lanes. While Winnipeg’s current approved plan is to build 10 kilometres of protected bike lanes downtown over a three-year period, Calgary built a 6.6km network in four months in 2015 and Edmonton built a seven-km network in a three-month span earlier this year. Both cities used the low-profile concrete curbs, along with paint and flexible bollards.
Other municipalities, including Vancouver and Ottawa, have also incorporated the concrete curbs, along with other portable/adjustable materials, including planters, in constructing protected bike lanes.
Whitehouse said regardless of the outcome of the pilot program, the city is committed to constructing the Garry Street portion of the downtown network using poured concrete methods, as part of a major roadway reconstruction.
“We recognize this as an important material and a potential mechanism for delivering protected facilities,” she said. “They’re a great way to get (bike lanes) in and a more efficient way and generally more cost-effective.”
Whitehouse said staff decided to do the $15,000 pilot as part of a $100,000 initiative for the enhancement of delineated bike lanes. The overall funding had been approved by council, part of its $4.7 million for active transportation for 2017.
Whitehouse said the city will be looking for feedback from motorists and cyclists for the pilot areas. While the concrete curbs are fixed into the roadway, they are portable and can be moved and the routes adjusted in response to public concerns. (Details on the pilot program can be found on the city’s website: wfp.to/walkbike.) “Once people get a taste of it, they’ll want more,” Lukes said. “I’m glad we made the big effort and put the spotlight on the need for it.”
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Also coverage on CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ manitoba/winnipeg-adjustable-bike-lanes-1.4258288