[Note: This same group is raising funds to try to stop the Wolseley Bike Walk Project https://ca.gofundme.com/f/halt-the-wolseley-walk-bike-project-now]
Walk Bike project creates debate, concern
BY TONY ZERUCHA
SPECIAL TO CANSTAR
Not everybody is convinced increased active transportation measures are a good idea for Wolseley, but all sides agree that more public consultation should be done on the issue.
The City of Winnipeg is currently designing the Wolseley to Downtown Walk Bike Project to improve travel choices, accessibility and connectivity in the area.
The areas affected by the project include Wolseley Avenue, Westminster Avenue, Balmoral Street and Granite Way.
According to the current plan, the interconnected section of Balmoral Street, Young Street and Westminster Avenue between Langside Street and Granite Way will see dedicated 1.8-metre bike lanes on both sides protected by adjustable curbs along with two 3.3-metre-wide traffic lanes.
Beginning at Young Street, these will switch to one two-way bike lane on the south side of the street. Westminster Avenue between Langside and Chestnut streets will see two traffic lanes ranging in width between 3.2 and four metres, along with dedicated bike lanes on each side of the street.
Some people in the neighbourhood believe the inconveniences of the changes far outweigh any benefits they provide.
Ray Hignell, who’s lived in Wolseley for 40 years, is spokesperson for the Wolseley West Broadway Coalition, which recently delivered flyers throughout the neighbourhood. He believes the project will have negative net impact.
“People are using the pandemic to promote this thing to say we should all ride bicycles,” Hignell said. “It’s a great inconvenience for everybody.” The WWBC fears the changes will make Wolseley a “car-unfriendly” neighbourhood with unintended side effects.
With the narrower lanes, Hignell suspects traffic will back up on already busy streets during peak periods if it cannot move around cars waiting to turn. That will drive people to use side streets more frequently and take longer routes in a bid to avoid slowdowns. Pollution will increase and counter what some of the measures are supposed to address.
The changes will also require the removal of 48 parking spots and loading zones. According to the City of Winnipeg, peak parking rates on Westminster occur between 10 a.m. and noon, when 70 per cent of spaces are full. Midday parking percentages on Chestnut, Walnut and Furby are 34, 60 and 75. The problem is worse on weekends and when events are held at area churches, Hignell said. The loss of parking spots will increase scarcity.
“How would you like it if your street banned parking and you have friends over and there is nowhere to park?” Hignell asked.
“It is a terrible deal. It’s a lot of parking spots to get rid of. Parking’s already tight there.”
Wolseley Residents Association president Marianne Cerilli said her organization supports the open streets concept as a needed step to combat climate change.
“The reason why we’re in support of open streets and the move to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is because we realize we have to change our transportation methods from individual car trips as much as possible,” Cerilli said. “Many understand the climate crisis and they want to bring a climate justice agenda to the neighbourhood.”
Cerilli said cars are the second-highest emitters of greenhouse gases in the area and that society needs to understand the significant role they play in pollution.
She disagrees with Hignell’s concerns about increased traffic.
“They’re based on the assumption people won’t mode-shift,” Cerilli said.
Cerilli said Wolseley is a very walkable neighbourhood with a good mix of residential development and small shops. She believes that addressing the issue of vehicles using the neighbourhood as a shortcut to Maryland Street would significantly reduce traffic volumes.
Adrian Challis is the chair of the WRA’s transportation committee. He believes there is no way of knowing what the impact of the changes will be until they are made, even if only for a trial period.
“I don’t see how anyone can have such a crystal ball to say those things will happen,” Challis said. “This is all highly speculative and is hard to know.”
Like Cerilli, Challis said he is concerned about the climate and anything we can do to persuade people to use their cars less is a good thing.
“I am a car driver, too,” Challis said. “But we can’t just use our cars, we have to make the neighbourhood conducive to walking and biking.
“If I have to experience a little inconvenience (as a driver) I am OK with that.”
The WWBC is also concerned about the impact of moving the No. 10 Wolseley bus route away from the area around Balmoral Hall School. The current route takes riders down Westminster from Evanson all the way to Broadway via Balmoral, but a proposed new route uses Wolseley and Maryland/ Sherbrook to connect to Broadway.
That will affect many of the 2,000 people living near Balmoral Hall, Hignell said.
“Many people have low incomes and they need the bus. That bus has been there for 93 years,” Hignell said. “This is going to be a great disservice to a lot of people.”
Cerilli and Challis said moving the bus route is a legitimate concern but the impacts have not yet been studied.
But this, too, may be an instance in which Winnipeg Transit tries the change to see what the effects are.
“I don’t think anybody can confidently say that putting it on Wolseley is a good or bad idea. I think we have to try it,” Challis said.
While the City of Winnipeg has held open houses, workshops and surveys, both the WRA and WWBC feel meaningful dialogue is lacking. Hignell believes more than half of residents do not know what changes are being considered as they did not receive notices or surveys. Many of those most affected by the changing bus route had no idea it’s coming.
Longtime Wolseley resident Ray Hignell believes the costs of planned active transportation measures will do more harm than good, while Leona Fontaine says a proposed new route for the No. 10 bus will negatively affect many in the neighbourhood.