Winnipeg Free Press
a.. Winnipeg Free PressColumnistsBike lanes were a bit of a wash bylineParse('By Bartley Kives')
Updated: September 12, 2008 at 02:55 AM CDT
A $100,000 plan to make Winnipeg roads safer for cyclists has literally washed off city streets, forcing officials to search for a more durable brand of paint.
Back in May, the city created extra-wide "sharrow" lanes on seven major streets to give cyclists and motorists a little extra breathing room.
Sharrows were created on Higgins Avenue, Roblin Boulevard, Grant Avenue, Regent Avenue, Plessis Road, Dakota Street and Dunkirk Drive. Bicycle symbols were painted on the streets and metal signs instructing motorists to "share the road" were erected along boulevards.
But most of the paint washed off by the middle of June because the city used a water-based paint.
"An attempt was made to use an environmentally friendly product for an environmentally friendly project. We're now looking for a better product," said city spokesman Terry Aseltine.
Water-based paint performs well when applied to houses, Aseltine said. But the city did not anticipate the pounding the paint would take after it was applied to asphalt.
The city is now searching for a more durable alternative, but probably won't get around to repainting the sharrows until 2009.
The new lanes, which cost the city $100,000, are part of Winnipeg's $3.2-million plan to create new bike paths and active-transportation corridors. Construction on most of those projects will begin later this month or in September, according to a trail-building update prepared by city active-transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon.
But trail groups were upset to see the sharrows disappear only weeks after they were painted.
"This is really disappointing. This was one of the first things the city did in terms of on-street improvements for cycling, and the paint came off in June," said Janice Lukes, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association.
Lukes said she is also frustrated to see the late-summer or fall start dates for construction of other trails and active-transportation corridors, such as new bike lanes on downtown streets, new trails alongside Bishop Grandin Boulevard and the extension of Northeast Pioneers Greenway.
Lukes also questioned whether sharrows are a good solution to Winnipeg's bike-trail woes.
"Paint doesn't make me feel safer from an SUV or a semi-trailer. Maybe it does for die-hard commuters, but I have kids. I want a barrier," she said.
Winnipeg has increased its funding for trail-building in recent years, boosting the annual budget from $200,000 in 2006 to $1.5 million in 2007 to $3.2 million this year.
The latter figure includes spending on trails as well as on-street improvements for cyclists.
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