‘Open streets’ to open, but now only for cyclists
IT’S official: 17 “open streets” will be offered to Winnipeggers this year, but remain reserved for cyclists only.
Council cast a 15-1 final vote Thursday night to approve a 2021 pilot project of what are now called “enhanced summer cycling routes,” where vehicle traffic will be limited to one block to create more room for bike riders.
Pedestrians won’t be included this time around, after the city discovered inviting them to use similar routes in 2020 actually violated the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act.
The seasonal active transportation routes are slated to run from as early as May 3 until Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except for a few routes that will be restricted to weekends and holidays.
Despite the legal changes, Coun. Matt Allard, public works committee chairman, said the new routes mark a major step forward.
“There’s a lot of benefits to what’s being proposed. It’s adding the enhanced (cycle) routes to the active transportation strategy. So it increases the scope of our active transportation strategy substantially,” said Allard (St. Boniface).
Mayor Brian Bowman said he supports creating more space for active transportation, but shares provincial concerns.
“Obviously, there’s safety considerations when pedestrians and vehicles are using the same space... those are paramount for me,” said Bowman.
While many Winnipeggers have lobbied the city to restore the pedestrian access, the mayor said he’s still pursuing talks with the province to determine if or how that could occur. In the meantime, Bowman urged pedestrians to follow the act, which prohibits walking on roadways where a “reasonably passable” sidewalk is present.
“There will be a need to communicate (that) as clearly as we can to everyone,” he said.
While the routes have proven popular with many Winnipeggers, one councillor argued the city still hasn’t done a full and proper consultation. Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo- Westwood), who voted against the plan, said he’s received complaints about disputes between those travelling on the routes.
“Residents and cyclists and pedestrians get into arguments, and it becomes divisive,” said Klein.
The councillor said he also suspects many pedestrians will continue to use the routes, no matter what the official rules are — and doubts the city has the resources to ticket them for doing so.
“We’re basically doing something that is absurd, because we’re saying people are going to break the law but we support that,” he said.
A few final routes will also be more limited than some residents wish. Members of multiple residents associations urged council to expand sections of Scotia Street and Rover Avenue to provide daily access. However, the final council vote will limit those roadways to weekends and holidays only, after Coun. Ross Eadie expressed concern about delivery vehicle and bus access in those areas.
Junel Malapad is no stranger to Scotia Street’s pavement. An ultramarathon runner who regularly runs and bikes for charity, he often trains in the area.
While on a bike ride Friday afternoon, Malapad called the decision to leave Scotia Avenue out of the list of routes open to cyclists daily “strange.”
“I’ve lived in the North End all my life, and this is a route that I’ve always felt is accessible and (has) less traffic,” he said.
The neighbourhood needs more time than weekends and holidays to get out and enjoy the warm weather, especially as COVID-19 case counts begin to rise again, Malapad said.
“The opportunity right now, during COVID, it’s a big deal to be able to get outside and just walk freely, they’re closing down the gyms, which is understandable,” he said. “But this just loses the ability to get (outside for) mental health.”
*THE following areas will become enhanced summer cycling routes this year:*
● 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
● Churchill Drive: Hay Street to Jubilee Avenue
● Egerton Road: Bank to Morier avenues
● Kildonan Drive: Helmsdale Avenue to Irving Place
● Kilkenny Drive/Kings Drive: Burgess to Patricia avenues
● Rover Avenue — Hallet to Stephens streets (weekends, holidays only)
● 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
● Assiniboine Avenue: Parkside Drive to Ferry Road (weekends, holidays only)
● Wellington Avenue: Maryland to Strathcona streets (weekends, holidays only)
● Youville Street: Eugenie Street to Haig Avenue (after reconstruction of Des Meurons Street)