It shouldn’t take a squeaky wheel
DESPITE a convoluted response from city staff last week, hazardous pavement heaving on a well-used local bike path was patched within days of a Free Press story highlighting the issue.
It’s a chain of events that raises questions about the inner workings of City Hall, as well as its active transportation priorities.
For months, cyclists have been skirting around a section of dangerously uneven pavement at the corner of Rover Avenue and Hallet Street in North Point Douglas. The soil under the sidewalk had shifted, causing the concrete slabs to buckle and creating a large ridge at the roadway.
One daily user interviewed by the Free Press said the fissure had developed in the spring, forcing cyclists to dismount or find an alternate route during the height of bike season. The junction would likewise have been impassable for wheelchair users, pedestrians with limited mobility or parents with strollers heading to nearby Michaëlle Jean Park.
In its initial response, a city spokesperson pointed to riverbank failure as the cause of the newly formed curb. A costly and lengthy proposal and investigation process was needed before the sidewalk could be fixed. “Making the repair is not as simple as just repaving the pathway,” read the emailed statement.
Yet, within 24-hours of that assessment, new asphalt had been poured by public works and the gap corrected.
The patch may not be a permanent solution to the underlying issue of ground shifting in the area, but it does make the neighbourhood’s infrastructure usable again.
While a gap of several inches might seem like a minor inconvenience in a city with pockmarked streets and thousands of potholes, it’s the latest in a growing list of controversies that illustrate the city’s dismissive attitude toward active transportation routes.
This past winter, Winnipeggers took up shovels to clear ice and snow from local bike paths in response to the city’s lackluster clearing efforts.
Last year, Free Press reporting found that two multi-use path projects in the city had been funded, but not completed. When pressed, the city couldn’t answer where the budgeted money went or why the projects were stalled. An inquiring city councillor was met with similar silence.
In the winter of 2019, two Wolseley residents took it upon themselves to clear ice from the Omand’s Creek footbridge after the city determined the job was too difficult and that the busy bridge should be left impassable until the spring melt. A request for information by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation following the incident revealed 97 pages of internal communications related to the bridge-clearing decision.
Time after time, Winnipeggers who opt for active transportation — either by choice or by necessity — are forced to deal with physical and bureaucratic roadblocks during their daily commute. It’s an embarrassing state of affairs that hampers the city’s livability and its environmental goals. Last week, Coun. Janice Lukes rightly described the North Point Douglas issue as “completely unacceptable” and promised that maintenance of Winnipeg’s active transportation network would be a priority for the public works department next year — an admission that suggests bike and pedestrian pathways aren’t currently very high on the agenda.
Our infrastructure isn’t the only thing in desperate need of repair. It appears the municipal workflow could also use a tune-up.
While the promise of better city-wide bike infrastructure has yet to be delivered, commuting has gotten a little smoother for one cohort of local cyclists.
It’s too bad those users had to wait for media coverage in order to find a fix.