Business owners criticize changes
Exchange redesign puts priority on cycling lanes
A RECENT redesign in the Exchange District is making cycling in the city more accessible, but not all Winnipeggers are cheerful about the changes.
In addition to new protected bike lanes, the City of Winnipeg has installed a number of no-right-on-red signs along Mc Dermot and Bannatyne avenues downtown. The installation of special traffic lights for cyclists along those two streets in the Exchange is also underway.
The new infrastructure is part of the West Alexander to East Exchange Corridor project, an initiative to connect Winnipeg’s cycling network at a $2.6-million price tag.
“We’re just relocating some of our road space to give people more options,” said Mark Cohoe of the Bike Winnipeg advocacy group.
Cohoe said the new infrastructure isn’t only about drawing cyclists into the downtown core, it’s also about catering to pedestrians.
The bike lanes make the streets less daunting to cross because there are fewer lanes and by making righton- red turns illegal, there will be fewer collisions with cars, cyclists and people on foot, he said.
The no-right-on-red rule applies to almost 20 new intersections in the Exchange, and eight sets of traffic lights for cyclists will be installed over the next two weeks.
The traffic lights will signal a phase for cyclists to proceed into the intersection before the light turns green for motorists.
Pavement markings and signage will help both cyclists and motorists navigate the changes safely, city spokeswoman Michelle Finley said in a statement.
“Visually, it’s very daunting right now. That’s my perspective as a driver,” said Clinton Skibitzky, co-owner of Across the Board Game Café at the corner of Main Street and Bannatyne Avenue. His perspective as a business owner, however, is the changes that have taken place in the Exchange this summer have been negative overall. “It’s been a very inconvenient summer.”
Skibitzky said the majority of his clients aren’t cyclists, so the bike lanes that have replaced the parking spots outside his store and the roadway changes are all inconveniencing his customers. (The bike lanes have pushed the city to create two parking hubs and install angled spots on certain streets in the district.) Construction on the bike lane on Bannatyne Avenue started in early June and only recently ended. The city is also currently finishing up four other bike lane stretches in the area.
For Skibitzky, it’s also been in with the bike lane and out a loading zone.That’s made incoming beer keg deliveries difficult to say the least, he added.
A number of store owners in the Exchange said constant construction and parking spots being moved from in front of stores have affected profits throughout June, July and August.
“In theory (bike lanes are) good, it’s a really positive thing with the area, but I don’t think it’s really that practical here,” said Mark Turner, owner of Amsterdam Tea Room. “I really want it to work, but I’m seeing it not be used very often and, half the time, I’m seeing cyclists use the road and not the bike lane.”
It might take some time, but Cohoe said everyone will eventually adjust to the new infrastructure, adding he’s also optimistic foot traffic will increase in the Exchange going forward.
Erica Mendritzski and some friends were walking down Princess Street for a lunch date Tuesday. The Winnipegger owns a studio space in the Exchange, and said she’s pro-bike lane.
“(Cycling) is a healthy form of transportation, it’s better for the environment and honestly I think that’s the way most cities are headed,” she said. “It’s important for Winnipeg to catch up.”