Vicious cycle won't last longCity to dedicate more than 70 km to bicycle riders
By: Bartley Kives
More than 70 kilometres of Winnipeg streets will be handed over to cyclists in the next year, as most of the new money the city is about to spend on active-transportation corridors will create "bike boulevards."
Two Fridays ago, as part of a federal infrastructure-funding announcement, the city, province and Ottawa agreed to spend $20 million on 37 different active-transportation projects within Winnipeg.
The cash will add 102 kilometres of bike-and-pedestrian routes to an existing 274-kilometre city network comprised of multi-use paths, bike lanes on streets and extra-wide curb lanes called sharrows.
The projects include a new bridge over Omand's Creek that won't be submerged during spring and summer floods, 30 kilometres of new multi-use paths and 72 kilometres of bike boulevards, which are roads where cyclists receive priority over motor-vehicle traffic.
While bike boulevards do not separate cyclists from cars, they employ "traffic-calming measures" -- essentially obstacles -- to discourage all but local motor-vehicle traffic, said Kevin Nixon, Winnipeg's active-transportation co-ordinator.
The boulevards will be on low-traffic streets cyclists already use. The first street slated for conversion is Assiniboine Avenue, from Osborne Street to the Midtown Bridge.
That will be followed by downtown bike boulevards on Bannatyne and McDermot avenues between Waterfront Drive and Sherbrook Street, St. Boniface boulevards on Eugenie and Des Meurons streets between the Norwood Bridge and Fermor Avenue and boulevards on Alexander and Pacific avenues, which will connect Red River College's Notre Dame and Princess Street campuses.
Many of the other projects are small connections between existing routes and trails, Nixon added.
"Some of these pathways are tiny little things, but they have been highlighted to us (by cyclists) as important connections."
The infusion of new trail-building cash effectively multiplies the annual city trail-building budget by a factor of eight, as Winnipeg devoted $2.5 million to active transportation this year, not including another $1.9 million spent on trails built as part of road rehabilitation projects.
As recently as 2006, the city only spent $200,000 a year on active transportation. Since then, the city has more than doubled the size of its network, as every member of council embraces human-powered transportation.
"We are committed to this, not just as a quality-of-life initiative, but as a green initiative," said St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding, city council's property chairman. "You're never going to get people out of their cars, but you have to get them on buses and bikes as well. You have to do both."
Spending on active transportation
After years of indifference, Winnipeg has started devoting real money toward its human-powered transportation system. Here's what's been spent on recreational and commuter paths for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as bike lanes and sharrows in recent years:
2007 $1.75 million
2008 $2.65 million
2009 $4.4 million
Spending on active transportation this year
When Winnipeg fixes regional roads, new trails are built as well.
Money spent on new active-transportation corridors in the 2009 capital budget: $2.5 million
Additional money spent on activetransportation corridors alongside road rehabilitation projects this year: $1.9 million
What we have right now
Winnipeg has 274 kilometres of active-transportation corridors. The vast majority of this network -- 159.5 kilometres -- has been laid down over the past four years. Here's how those kilometres break down:
Multi-use paths: 149 kilometres
Neighbourhood paths: 61 kilometres
Bike lanes on streets: 12 kilometres
Separated bike lanes: none
Sharrows: 35 kilometres
Bike boulevards: 16 kilometres
What we're going to build
On Sept. 11, Ottawa, Manitoba and Winnipeg pledged to spend a combined $20 million on 37 active-transportation projects in Winnipeg. The cash will pay for 102 kilometres of new active-transportation corridors, which will go a long way toward the city's goal of adding 450 more kilometres of paths and trails. Here's what the money will build:
New bike boulevards: 72 kilometres
New pathways: 30 kilometres
New active-transportation bridge: Over Omand's Creek at Omand Park.
What do all these terms mean?
Active-transportation corridor: Any path, trail or lane intended for human-powered transportation, such as cycling, walking or in-line skating.
Multi-use path: A pathway separated from the road for use by both cyclists and pedestrians.
Neighbourhood paths: Older paths in city neighbourhoods designed before trail connectivity was a big consideration in city planning. These typically are not very useful for commuter cyclists.
Bike lane: A lane painted on a street for use by cyclists.
Sharrow: An extra-wide curb lane intended to be shared by cars and bikes. These are strongly disliked by many cyclists.
Bike boulevard: A shared roadway that gives priority to cyclists over cars, usually through the installation of barriers that slow or "calm" motor-vehicle traffic to the point where only local vehicle traffic will use the boulevards.
-- Compiled by Bartley Kives