Tired of waiting for city, cyclists grab shovels, clear bike lane
DISSATISFIED with the city’s efforts to clear snow and ice from bike lanes, some Winnipeg cyclists have taken matters into their own hands.
Hillary Rosentreter was among a group of about 10 people, including a child, who shovelled and scraped a bike lane on Westminster Avenue, between Maryland and Sherbrook streets, down to the pavement Tuesday.
“It was a safety thing, and just being fed up with the city not taking concerns into account and not taking appropriate action,” said Rosentreter. “It had been neglected. We wanted to do whatever we could to make sure it wasn’t neglected.”
Rosentreter and others complained to the city and some councillors, after noticing vehicles had been parked in the cycling lane.
“The snow had not been cleared off the road or the bike lane. There was no way of telling there was a bike lane or where parking stopped,” she said.
While the group was there, a city employee showed up and took photos of the lane, said Rosentreter, who cycles throughout winter.
About a dozen cyclists passed by while the group shovelled snow and chipped ice.
“They were all saying thank you that we were there,” said Rosentreter. “I think we will make this a regular thing now. We do plan to go out and tackle spots that are being neglected.”
The lane in West Broadway is part of a key route to and from downtown.
Rosentreter said it is a “precarious” spot when it hasn’t been cleared.
City of Winnipeg spokesman Ken Allen said sidewalks and active transportation paths on Priority 1 and 2 streets are to be cleared to a compacted snow surface instead of bare pavement.
“We inspected the location on Monday and found it to be cleared as per the policy,” Allen wrote in an email. “Residents are asked to not clear snow from the roadways due to safety concerns, and to report any trouble spots instead.”
Winnipeggers can make reports or snow removal requests to 311 or on the city’s website.
Frustrated by the “prioritization” of vehicles over active transportation, Rosentreter said bike lanes should be cleared down to the pavement.
A compacted snow surface becomes soft and icy when temperatures fluctuate, she said.
Winnipeggers have raised concerns about a lack of snow-clearing or the state of some streets or active transportation paths after the first major snowfall Nov. 10-11 and lighter dustings since then.
Plowing of residential streets is due to begin Thursday following an onslaught of complaints made to the city.
Snow-clearing on streets, sidewalks and bike paths is based on three priority levels and depends on factors such as the amount of accumulation.
The bike lane on Westminster Avenue, which is Priority 2, is supposed be cleared when the street is plowed, said Sherri Rollins, the local city councillor (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).
Rollins, who received complaints from the group, said residents shouldn’t have to resort to clearing a bike lane themselves.
“I share their frustration,” she said. She is concerned the city isn’t meeting its standards for snow removal.
“Snow-clearing has not kept up, and that’s our first snow clear,” said Rollins, referring to the Nov. 10-11 storm.
Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel Mclntyre) wants the city to review and update its priority system.
She is “very concerned” when Winnipeggers feel they have no choice but to clear active transportation paths themselves.
“We have to make sure we get to those routes first,” she said in a voice message.
New public works chair Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) described the situation on Westminster Avenue as “terribly unfortunate.”
The fact “no action” was taken when the group reported its concerns to 311 is a problem, Lukes said.
“We’re a winter city. People need to be mobile,” she said. “We really want to provide a good level of service. I think the public wants to see a better level than is currently provided, and so do I.”
The councillor noticed some bike lanes hadn’t been cleared, including a newer corridor on Pembina Highway, as of Saturday.
Some accountability issues need to be addressed, she said, as city hall explores options to speed up snow-clearing.
The public works committee will discuss snow removal on Nov. 29, including whether to give more work to private contractors in an effort to clear sidewalks and paths faster.
In July, council approved a roughly $3.7-million purchase of 15 machines which will clear snow from sidewalks and paths when they enter service. The order has been subject to supply-chain issues, said Lukes, who hopes the machines will arrive next year.
With a new budget cycle starting next year, council will have to look at changing the city’s policy or spending more on snow clearing, said Lukes.
Thanks to a series of heavy snowfalls last winter and spring, the city expects to finish the year $40 million over its $35-million snow-clearing budget.
email@example.com Twitter: @chriskitching