Future of city active transportation routes draws debate https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/future-of-city-active-transpo...
Some Winnipeggers fear a route restricting vehicle access to make more room for pedestrians and cyclists has created new safety concerns.
The city introduced nine active transportation routes as an option for socially distanced exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic, where vehicle traffic is limited to one block from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
While that was slated to end July 6, city council is now considering a motion that would keep the paths open to Sept. 7.
Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) opposed the extension, however, after the Assiniboine Avenue route (from Bedson Street to Westwood Drive) triggered complaints.
"There’s buses and there’s a lot of turns and dips on that road, so it’s difficult to see pedestrians and cyclists," Klein said Tuesday, noting there are also multiple bus stops along Assiniboine. "It creates a diversion of traffic that’s not expected in the community."
The councillor said the vehicle restrictions also fuel notable traffic increases in a nearby back lane, as drivers search for alternative routes.
"Right now, it’s creating division among the street, it’s creating issues. I don’t want to see a child get hit in the back lane because a ball went out of their yard (and they weren’t expecting the traffic)," he said.
Klein said some of his constituents do support the AT route. However, he urged city staff to conduct consultations to determine if other nearby alternatives may be better suited to active transportation.
He said each ward councillor should be invited to provide input on route placement before any extension occurs. If that doesn’t happen, council could also consider restricting the vehicle limits to Saturdays, Sundays and weekday evening hours.
Darlene Van Ruiten, a resident of the ward, told the committee she’s also concerned about heavy bus traffic forced to move around the route’s barricades.
"The barricade causes this bus, this full-sized bus, to go (switch lanes) to make those corners… It causes a potential danger to either hit a car or a child that’s not paying attention," said Van Ruiten.
On Tuesday, the public works committee voted to support the extensions, which means the AT access for sections of Lyndale Drive, Scotia Street, Wellington Crescent, Wolseley Avenue, Assiniboine Avenue, Churchill Drive, Egerton Road, Kildonan Drive and Kilkenny Drive will be extended.
Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), committee chairman, noted the motion does call for all councillors to be consulted to see if any changes to the routes are required.
Allard said that should ensure ward concerns can be addressed without AT routes getting shut down to do so.
"By design, this motion is meant to include the area councillor," he said, adding he’s heard plenty of support for the route extension.
By late Tuesday afternoon, more than 8,000 Winnipeggers had signed an online Winnipeg Trails Association petition to support the extension and call for more permanent AT routes.
The public works committee also heard clear support from many delegates at Tuesday’s meeting.
"A small inconvenience for some folks to limit their driving to a block during designated hours in exchange for all of the benefits of movement and fresh air is an incredibly simple trade-off for the city to champion," said Mel Marginet of the Green Action Centre.
Marginet said the routes must be expanded, however, since many Winnipeggers live too far from the current ones to easily access them.
If council approves the changes as proposed, the city’s public service would also study the addition of permanent, year-round active transportation routes.