Wheels in motion on push for active transportation network
IT’S time to make it as easy to cycle or walk throughout Winnipeg as it is to drive.
That’s the message to Mayor Brian Bowman, Premier Brian Pallister and federal cabinet minister Dan Vandal, from a lobby group that has demanded they take urgent action to provide a connected network of cycling and walking routes throughout the city.
“Right now, unless you own a personal vehicle, your ability to get around Winnipeg to access employment, to access services, is really limited. You either have to use Winnipeg Transit … and your time for that trip is often twice or even four times as long as it would be for somebody in a personal vehicle. Or, if you travel on foot or by bike, you often have to face sections of your route that are very unsafe,” said Mel Marginet of the Green Action Centre, which is part of the campaign.
Marginet said about 70 per cent of Winnipeg families surveyed by Green Action Centre said they live within three kilometres or less of their childrens’ schools. Only about 16 per cent said they walk or bike to get there, often due to safety concerns, she said.
“People need safe ways to get to work, to school, to run their essential errands on foot and by bike and that’s really how we’re going to see… a response to our need for mode shift (from personal vehicle transportation to greener options),” she said.
Ideally, the group hopes politicians will immediately take steps to add a temporary grid for a full active transportation network throughout the city, which would eventually be made permanent.
Marginet welcomed Winnipeg’s temporary “open streets” but says such recreation options don’t help commuters. Nearly a dozen streets were designated as “open” in 2020, where vehicular traffic was limited to just one block from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians.
She said governments should also invest in active transportation to ensure equity, since Black, Indigenous and people of colour, as well as women and youth, are more likely to rely on transit, cycling and walking to reach their destinations.
“(This is) really a response to those (Winnipeggers) to say that you matter in our society and that our transportation system should offer you comfortable choices as well,” Marginet said.
Her organization, and representatives from 14 others, signed letters to lobby for the change, which were hand delivered to the politicians this week. Members of the group include several community organizations, as well as the superintendents of the Pembina Trails and Louis Riel school divisions.
In an email, Mayor Bowman’s office said he continues to support Winnipeg’s pedestrian and cycling strategy and “remains open to looking at more ways the city can be innovative in its approach in the creation of new walking and cycling paths.”
The statement did not promise specific action.
In a written statement, a spokesperson for Manitoba Municipal Relations Minister Derek Johnson said his government spent $7.5 million to expand hiking and biking trails last year.
The statement didn’t promise specific action on a connected active transportation network for Winnipeg, but noted the city could spend some of the $75.3 million in provincial capital funding it will receive this year on that purpose.
Dan Vandal could not be reached for comment.