Cyclists ready to hit Winnipeg’s ‘open’ roads
WINNIPEGGERS who are eagerly waiting to cycle down “open streets” this year wish the city could have put its pedal to the metal.
On Wednesday, the city announced the long-awaited timeline to set up the routes, which were popular last year.
Cyclist Zach Fleisher welcomed the move, but questioned why city council and staff couldn’t have implemented the plan sooner.
“Especially during COVID, at this stage of the lockdown, there’s not much else to do and it would have been really, really nice (to use these),” he said. “For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why this isn’t a priority.”
City council recently approved a pilot project that will limit vehicle traffic to one block on sections of 17 streets so cyclists have more room. Now known as “enhanced summer bike routes,” these were slated to begin as early as May 3 and last until Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except for a few routes restricted to weekends and holidays.
That’s an extension from the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily hours offered last year.
While none of the routes had the proper barricades and signs in place to officially begin operating on Wednesday, a city official announced that will soon change.
Jim Berezowsky, Winnipeg’s public works director, said eight of the routes — on Rover Avenue, Scotia Street, Lyndale Drive, Wolseley Avenue, Kildonan Drive, Wellington Avenue, Wellington Crescent, and Assiniboine Avenue — will open by Saturday. The rest will be installed between May 17 and May 21.
Fleisher said the traffic-calmed routes offered a much-needed pandemic reprieve last year, which he looks forward to using again under the current lockdown.
“People don’t have a lot going on right now. You can’t go anywhere. You can’t even go to a patio with friends or stay (with friends) in the backyard,” he said. “Having the opportunity to ride my bike on weekends with my kid… is one of the few things (I could do) right now.”
Julie Penner was also frustrated by the wait, as her family found biking together on Wolseley Avenue to be a rare “highlight of the pandemic” last year.
“We’re already in mid-May, it’s going to be 23 C today. It’s the first day of remote schooling, I have two little kids at home and (this is needed),” said Penner on Wednesday morning.
She said she’s excited to learn a timeline to open the routes is in place, especially after pandemic restrictions cut off sports and other activities for her kids.
“Time is of the essence. People need things to do outside safely,” she said.
Berezowsky said the routes couldn’t open by May 3 because the city needed to create new signs and education material to reflect key changes from last year’s routes, which council finalized in a vote on April 29.
“This is a fundamental shift or change in understanding and we’ve got to make sure we get it right or we’re going to create conflict,” he said.
Unlike last year’s “open streets,” the cycling routes won’t allow pedestrians, since the city has since discovered that doing so violated the Highway Traffic Act. The act prohibits pedestrians from walking on roadways where a “reasonably passable” sidewalk is present.
The 2021 routes will also operate for longer hours.
“We’re providing that information, education and awareness to the community about what’s happening, how you can use it and what you can’t do,” said Berezowsky.
The city’s education efforts will include hand-delivered information to homes near the routes.
Coun. Matt Allard, chairman of the public works committee, said council approved the program as quickly as it could.
“I think council got the job done in plenty of time. We provided very clear direction to the public service,” said Allard.
Ready to roll
THE following summer cycling routes will open by May 15:
● Lyndale Drive: Cromwell to Gauvin streets
● Scotia Street: Anderson (at St. Cross Street) to Armstrong avenues (weekends, holidays only)
● Wellington Crescent: Academy Road to Guelph Street
● Wolseley Avenue: Raglan Road to Maryland Street
● Kildonan Drive: Helmsdale Avenue to Irving Place
● Rover Avenue — Hallet to Stephens streets (weekends, holidays only)
● Assiniboine Avenue: Parkside Drive to Ferry Road (weekends, holidays only)
● Wellington Avenue: Maryland to Strathcona streets (weekends, holidays only) THE following routes will open between May 17 and May 21:
● Churchill Drive: Hay Street to Jubilee Avenue
● Egerton Road: Bank to Morier avenues
● Kilkenny Drive/Kings Drive: Burgess to Patricia avenues
● Alexander Avenue: Arlington to Princess streets
● Ravelston Avenue: Wayoata to Brewster streets
● Linwood Street: Portage to Silver avenues
● Harbison Avenue West: Henderson Highway to its eastern end
● Rose Lake Court, surrounding Rose Lake Green
● Youville Street: Eugenie Street to Haig Avenue (after reconstruction of Des Meurons Street)