Organizations are advocating for a connected walking and cycling network throughout Winnipeg.
Organizers from Green Action Centre, Winnipeg Trails, Safe Speeds Winnipeg and Bike Winnipeg, along with fellow signatories, say an improved active transportation network would promote physical and mental well-being, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and address transportation inequity.
Letters https://greenactioncentre.ca/ stating the request were sent to Mayor Brian Bowman, Premier Brian Pallister, and Saint Boniface-Saint Vital MP Dan Vandal earlier this month.
Fearless R2W, a North End-based group concerned with child welfare, was one of the letter signatories.
"Fearless R2W has a network of families who rely heavily on public transportation, walking, active transportation, and being able to have a safer way for themselves and their children to transport themselves in between home and school and work and leisure," spokesperson Michael Redhead Champagne told *The Times*.
He said area residents praised the City of Winnipeg’s open streets project — which saw some streets blocked off for pedestrian and cyclist use only — last year and were hoping to see it expanded this summer.
The city was planning to reboot the program in May of this year; however, a legal technicality may rule out pedestrians from using the open streets. Earlier this month, the public works department released a report that said Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act prohibits pedestrian use of a roadway when a sidewalk is present. So, the "open" streets would be welcome to cyclists only.
Mel Marginet, co-ordinator of the Green Action Centre’s sustainable transportation team, said the city needs to start implementing permanent solutions rather than temporary and recreational-based options.
"At this point, we really need to move beyond a recreation response towards real transportation choice … and we just see that a connected walk/bike network is the logical next step that they need to do," Marginet said.
"We really need to see some clear action, some political motivation and to just really get moving on offering all Winnipeggers transportation choice."
Traffic volumes have been down at least 20 per cent during the pandemic. Organizers say now that the streets are emptier, it’s the ideal time to form new travel habits.
The city released the Winnipeg Pedestrian and Cycling Strategies report in 2014. The document outlines opportunities to improve connectivity, convenience, safety and accessibility throughout the city.
Marginet said the groups want the city to return to the strategies, identify gaps, and use temporary infrastructure to provide solutions until permanent change can be implemented.
"As part of a modern growing city, the (m)ayor has and continues to support active transportation and the City’s Pedestrian and Cycling Strategies with significant annual investments since he was first elected in 2014," a spokesperson from the mayor’s office said in an email, adding that the mayor is optimistic about the federal government’s new active transportation fund.
In March, the Canadian government announced an investment of $400 million over five years to help build new and expanded networks of pathways, bike lanes, trails and pedestrian bridges across the country. At press time, the federal government had not revealed how the funding will be allocated.