'Playing catch-up': Winnipeg mayor weighs in on adjustable bike grid ideaCoun. Janice Lukes has been trying to get her council colleagues on board with a plan to catch up to other major cities quickly with a downtown bike grid.
*By:* Braeden Jones http://www.metronews.ca/authors.jones_braeden.html
Winnipeg’s Mayor Brian Bowman is setting off for the Big City Mayors’ Caucus meeting in Ottawa this week, where he’ll sit on a panel with his colleagues from the west, Mayors Gregor Robertson, Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi.
They’re not meant to discuss cycling, but among that company, Bowman is the lone leader who hasn’t fast-tracked the expansion of downtown bike lanes.
On Tuesday, after the current and former chair of Winnipeg’s public works committee traded jabs over the former’s attempt to get a downtown adjustable grid fast tracked — in vain — Bowman weighed in on the concept, and whether or not Winnipeg is late to the game Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary are already playing.
“I don’t agree we are falling behind, we are actually playing catch-up significantly,” Bowman said.
He explained this current council “inherited” poor active transportation (AT) infrastructure, and said it’s “going to take time to play catchup,” but noted progress has already been made during his tenure.
“It’s a 20-year long-term plan, but let’s even look at this year,” he said. “This year we increased the AT budget by 57 per cent, a sizeable improvement from the previous year.”
He also lauded the council-supported pedestrian and cycling strategy.
But even with that plan, AT upgrades in Winnipeg are tied to road renewal in most cases, far from the quick turnaround pushed for by big-city mayors he’s meeting with this week.
Innovative solutions like Edmonton’s efforts to install adjustable pre-cast curbs to rapidly build bike lanes downtown, which is still underway but was just initiated last fall, are exactly what former public works chairperson Coun. Janice Lukes tried to get current chair Coun. Marty Morantz to consider Tuesday.
Bowman said he’d look at “any opportunities” the city has “to do things more efficiently,” but he wouldn’t voice support for the idea, even in principle.
“It would be nice to fix all of the roads, to build all the bike paths, and fix everything with transit all in one year, but we are committed to a thoughtful plan that is an award winning plan, and pursing its implementation,” Bowman said.