Archived Local Media Stories (January 2010 to December 2012)

Doing a wheely good thing for kids

posted at December 18, 2012 10:26 (20 days ago)
December 17, 2012
Geoff Kirbyson

Volunteers fix up bikes for needy children

Have tool kit, will travel.

Bike mechanics from around the city descended upon the Atomic Centre on Logan Avenue over the weekend for a 24-hour blitz of fixing flat tires, lubing up chains and mixing and matching bicycle parts.

When they were done at the second annual Cycle of Giving event — a number of mechanics worked through the night — nearly 250 bikes for underprivileged children aged two to 8 had been not only salvaged from the dump and sheds around town, but refurbished so they were as good as new.

“There are more bikes than we have people, so why doesn’t everybody have a bike?” asked Pat Krawec, executive director of the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH) and one of the driving forces behind the Cycle of Giving. “It’s bringing everybody closer together. It’s a way for us to bridge the divides in our community. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The bikes will be donated to community-services organizations throughout Winnipeg, such as the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre and the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, and doled out from there.

With many of the bikes sure to end up in higher-crime neighbourhoods, WRENCH is hoping its ongoing fundraising efforts — it’s looking to come up with $15,000 — will also help fund bike locks, helmets, lights and programming for many children. And by putting bikes in the hands of kids who need them most, Krawec is also hoping to reduce the temptation for theft.

About 80 per cent of the bicycles and parts — which weigh about 1,800 kilograms — came from the Brady Road landfill.

One of the youngest to be brandishing tools in his grease-stained hands was Seth Belmore, 12. He has been fixing bikes since joining the Bike Lab, a community bike shop run by the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, more than a year ago.

“I can fix pretty much anything,” he said, before admitting part of the reason he was volunteering his time Sunday was because he got grounded at home.

“I wanted to help people, too. I’m a nice person. I want kids to stay fit and follow their dreams,” he said.

Jason Carter, past president of the Manitoba Cycling Association, spent a good part of Saturday rounding up bikes and spare parts from his buddies’ garages. Then, as he was dropping them off on Sunday, he thought he should strap on a tool belt and get to work.

“I figured this is a good way to help people out. I’d rather give a kid a bicycle than a toy gun,” he said.

“Everybody can have fun and we can have another life for these bikes.”


Katz takes the lead on rapid transit

posted at December 14, 2012 11:04 (24 days ago)
December 14, 2012
Bartley Kives

For Winnipeggers who follow politics as well as hockey, the only thing more unattainable than NHL labour peace might just be a deal to complete the Southwest Transitway.

But a surprise move by Mayor Sam Katz has made the rapid-transit negotiations appear more promising than any closed-door discussions at hockey central in New York City. By offering $137.5 million to extend the Southwest Transitway to the University of Manitoba campus, Winnipeg’s mayor has opened up the possibility of ending an impasse that effectively began in September 2008.

At the end of the Labour Day long weekend that year, Katz and former premier Gary Doer stood inside a Fort Rouge bus garage to announce a $138-million plan to build the Southwest Transitway’s first leg, a 3.6-kilometre busway that runs from Queen Elizabeth Way near The Forks to Jubilee Avenue at Pembina Highway.

After Doer resigned, successor Greg Selinger repeatedly asked Katz to show him the money to complete the corridor. What transpired next was just as painful as the NHL labour negotiations, albeit stretched out over three years.

First, the city pulled the completion of the Southwest Transitway from its list of big-ticket spending priorities. Then, Katz announced a preference for light-rail tracks over busways, claiming it would be cheaper to lay down train tracks than previously thought.

The city and province traded barbs about who would pay for a busway leg that now comes with a $350-million price tag. Katz wanted money on the table, while Selinger said future property-tax revenue could cover the tab.

Any hope to complete a deal seemed remote until Thursday, when Katz came almost out of nowhere with a pledge to spend $137.5 million to complete the Southwest Transitway.

Standing inside the same Fort Rouge transit garage, albeit without the premier beside him, Katz promised to devote $10 million in the city’s 2014 capital budget toward the busway construction and then another $127.5 million in 2015.

“We have made this a priority,” said Katz, explaining the city wants to have its money in place in time for the province to make a commitment of its own. “We have an opportunity to make sure this gets done.”

The funding commitment, which will be included in the city’s spending forecast early in 2013, marks the first time Katz has pledged money for rapid transit before other levels of government offered hard cash.

Back in 2008, Katz only came to the transitway table after Ottawa made a use-it-or-lose-it offer of $17.5 million for transportation funding in Manitoba. The city rebuffed subsequent provincial offers to pay for one-third of the second phase, as Katz insisted knowing where exactly the city was supposed to find the money.

On Thursday, the mayor made the unusual pledge of promising to borrow all $137.5 million of the city’s money if the province follows through on its pledge to fund the project.

This amounts to both a compromise and a challenge, as the province faces mounting debt, an enormous deficit and a recent pledge to cut spending.

“There is no doubt in my mind about the province’s desire to do this,” Katz said. “You have heard them say rapid transit is a priority on many occasions.”

Council finance chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona) also asked the province to match a $1.1-million city commitment in 2013 to continue work on the design of the Southwest Transitway’s second leg and begin plans for an East Transitway that will connect downtown to Transcona.

Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux said the province has already agreed to devote $1.1 million to transitway design and also stands by its repeated pledges to cover one-third of the cost of the Southwest Transitway’s second leg.

Although that works out to only $116.7 million, Lemieux said he believes further discussions with the federal government may yield additional money.

“I’m pleased we’re looking at a firm commitment from the city, instead of looking at every option under the sun,” said Lemieux, who hopes all three levels of government will cover one-third of the $350-million tab.

The city, however, is only expecting Ottawa to pony up $75 million through a fund dedicated for public-private partnerships. Although the city will own the entire Southwest Transitway, the second leg could be constructed as a design-build partnership with a private consortium, Wyatt said.

If a deal can be reached between all three levels of government, construction could begin in 2014 and the corridor would be finished by 2018, said Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop.

Pending council approval of an alignment recommendation early next year, the second leg would run west through the Parker neighbourhood and then south along a Manitoba Hydro corridor. A study by Dillon Consulting concluded this seven-kilometre route offers more benefits and fewer drawbacks than installing a busway along the CN Letellier line, parallel to Pembina Highway.

Although this western dogleg is longer, Winnipeg Transit maintains it will create less traffic disruption in Fort Garry — and allow buses to run at higher speeds — because it will cross fewer streets. The western route should also be cheaper and have more room for new housing developments that could generate property taxes to offset construction costs, according to material presented at open houses in October.

The redevelopment of the former Southwood Golf Course land on the U of M campus may also allow this route to terminate directly at Investors Group Field, the new football stadium slated to open in 2013. The original intention was for the transitway to be finished in time to service the stadium.

But there are few complaints among transit proponents on city council about a deal to complete the line by 2018.

“I’ve always said the city has to take the lead in showing our commitment. This is a very positive step,” said Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, praising Katz for pledging Southwest Transitway funds and starting on the East Transitway. “If you’re expecting to get other funders on board, we have to get ourselves on board.”


Movement on Phase II?
Proposed second leg of the Southwest Transitway:

PROJECTED COST: $350 million

FUNDING: The city has committed $137.5 million. Ottawa has been asked to contribute $75 million. The province has committed $116.7 million.

ROUTE: Pending council approval in 2013, west from Pembina Highway through the Parker neighbourhood then south along the Manitoba Hydro right-of-way that separates the Fort Garry Industrial Park from the Beaumont and Maybank neighbourhoods.

LENGTH: Seven kilometres


NEW INFRASTRUCTURE REQUIRED: One bridge over Pembina Highway and a pair of rail underpasses near Jubilee Avenue; one long rail overpass at Sugar Beet lands south of Chevrier Boulevard; five new rapid-transit stations; and a bike-and-pedestrian path

STREET CROSSINGS: Four in total. New traffic signals are required in Parker lands and at McGillivray Boulevard; transit-priority gates required at Clarence Avenue and Chevrier Boulevard.

CONSTRUCTION: Could begin in 2015 and wind up in 2018 if a deal is reached next year.

— Kives

36 years and counting

The long and winding road toward the completion of the Southwest Transitway:


During the waning years of the Stephen Juba administration, the Winnipeg Southwest Transit Corridor Study concludes a diesel busway connecting downtown and southern Fort Garry makes more financial and operational sense than a monorail, a light-rail track or an electric-trolley bus corridor.


During the Bill Norrie administration, the first Plan Winnipeg calls for three dedicated busways: A southwest corridor along Pembina Highway, an eastern corridor along Regent Avenue and a southeast corridor to the Trans-Canada Highway.


After Susan Thompson is elected mayor, an update called Plan Winnipeg: Toward 2010 makes little mention of rapid transit. But the city begins buying land and setting it aside for a southwest corridor.


Transplan 2010 recommends the city hold off on rapid transit. Glen Murray is then elected mayor and creates a working group on public transportation.


The working group’s final report, Direction to Our Future, recommends the construction of a rapid-transit corridor. Murray proposes a $50-million plan to finally build an abbreviated version of the southwest corridor.


Plan Winnipeg 2020, calls for five busways — corridors in the southwest, northwest, eastern, northeast and southeast.


Council sets aside $1.7 million to plan and design the Southwest Transit Corridor.


All three levels of government announce plans to build a $51-million southwest corridor by 2007. Murray then resigns. Newly elected Mayor Sam Katz convinces council to scrap the project and creates a Rapid Transit Task Force to review the city’s options.


Katz convinces Ottawa and the province to allow Winnipeg to redirect $43 million of buscorridor money to recreation projects. The Rapid Transit Task Force concludes the city should build two busways, to the University of Manitoba and Transcona.


After Ottawa pledges $17.5 million to Manitoba transit, the city and province re-announce plans to build a 9.6-kilometre southwest rapid-transit corridor at a cost of the $327 million over six years. But funding is only confirmed for the 3.6-kilometre first phase, a $138-million link between Queen Elizabeth Way and Jubilee Avenue at Pembina Highway.


Katz announces he wants to see four light-rail lines in Winnipeg and convinces council to remove the second phase of the southwest corridor from a list of city infrastructure priorities.


The Transportation Master Plan identifies six rapid-transit corridors to be complete by 2031. Council approves a plan to bump up the completion date for the Southwest Transit Corridor to 2016.


The Southwest Transitway opens on April 8 and the city starts looking at alignment options. In December, Katz commits to spending $137.5 million on the second phase of the Southwest Transitway, whose pricetag is now $350 million.


Pending a funding deal with Ottawa and Broadway, construction on the second phase could begin.


Proposed completion of the Southwest Transitway.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2012 B1

Idea to reduce residential speed limits gets more time

posted at November 29, 2012 09:00 (about 1 month ago)
November 29, 2012
Bernice Pontanilla

A City committee has ordered more study into a motion requesting a decrease to 40 km/h on Winnipeg’s residential streets.

Councillors on the infrastructure renewal and public works committee voted in favour of a 60-day extension on the motion, which was originally brought to the July city council meeting by Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) and Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski).

Cycling and walking advocate Anders Swanson delivered a detailed PowerPoint presentation to committee members, stating that in collisions between cars, pedestrians and cyclists, speed is a huge determinant of the outcomes.

“What chance do you give people?,” Swanson said. “Pedestrians have a less than 50% chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h, pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact at 80 km/h.”

Swanson used pictures from his travels in Europe to demonstrate different methods of handling traffic, be it vehicles, bikes or pedestrians.

He also showed what a street beside a Winnipeg school would look like if these European methods were used.

Committee member Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said she’d like the City’s administration to do a cost benefit analysis, with ideas on phased-in approaches or pilot projects.

This motion has no bearing on the speed limit in school zones, which is 30 km/h.

City icy on speed-limit hikes

posted at November 28, 2012 09:01 (about 1 month ago)
November 28, 2012
Bartley Kives

Councillors question idea before provincial board

The idea of raising speed limits on selected stretches of city streets received a generally icy reception at the first of several Highway Traffic Board hearings planned for this fall.

Politicians, activists and citizens all appeared before the provincial body Tuesday to offer their opinions about boosting speed limits on sections of Dugald Road, Grant Avenue, Pembina Highway and Waverley Street.

A broad coalition of River Heights residents, daycare and school representatives and cycling activists all expressed concern about the safety of increasing speed limits, especially alongside residential streets, while a trio of city councillors and Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard questioned why the provincial board chose to poke its nose into city territory.

Couns. Russ Wyatt (Transcona), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) and Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) said the City of Winnipeg’s public works department routinely makes recommendations about speed limits, based on consultations with residents as well as traffic-engineering reports.

Swandel urged the board to actually meet with residents, not just invite them to make three-minute presentations in the middle of a workday. Orlikow opined the matter was best left to the city to decide.

Wyatt offered a harsher appraisal of the board, accusing it of ignoring the city’s wishes and being a “Jurrasic-era” relic out of step with the traffic-engineering times.

“Most of the research today is saying there are benefits in dense urban areas to reduce speeds for the purposes of saving lives and reducing injuries,” Wyatt said after the hearing. “It seems the Highway Traffic Board is going in the exact opposite direction of the modern world and that doesn’t make any sense, especially since it’s an arm of the same provincial government which pays for health care.”

The Highway Traffic Board operates independently of the province, which played no role in the proposal to boost speed limits, said Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton. “This was their initiative. It’s not an initiative of MIT,” he said.

Traffic-board chairman Alf Rivers said his organization proposed the idea of increasing the speed limits in order to reduce confusion for drivers who face a number of different speed limits on the same roadway.

At Tuesday’s hearing, several Winnipeggers and members of anti-ticket activist group Wise Up Winnipeg applauded that move, while University of Manitoba professor Barry Prentice said it’s important to have consistent speed limits on the same stretch of roadway.

Wyatt accused the board of pandering to “a small but loud minority of individuals who are right-wing reactionaries trying to make an issue out of speed limits in the city.”

The board made no decision Wednesday. Another hearing is slated for Dec. 4 to solicit opinion about boosting speed limits on Roblin Boulevard, Corydon Avenue and University Crescent.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2012 B1

Winnipeg cyclists not sold on speed limit increases

Metro News

by Shane Gibson, November 20

While the province’s Highway Traffic Board considers increasing the speed limit on a number of Winnipeg streets a group of city cyclists who advocate for bike safety say not so fast.

Bike to the Future executive director Mark Cohoe told Metro the group would meet Tuesday night to discuss the changes proposed for many four-lane divided streets in Winnipeg.

“It’s really seems they haven’t thought about cyclists,” said Cohoe. “They are just thinking about how to get cars moving quicker but they have to put the context of all road users into consideration as well.”

The Highway Traffic Board has reviewed all the existing 50-km/h four-lane divided roadways within the city and is considering increasing them to 60-km/h.

Board chair Al Rivers explained the idea is to eliminate sections where speed limits suddenly change—which have become popular spots for cops to set up speed traps.

“It’s just far too confusing,” said Rivers. “Our job is to make everything as consistent as possible, and when you do that the roadways become safer.”

Among the dozens of roadways being considered for increases are University Crescent between Chancellor Matheson Road and Pembina Highway, Broadway between Osborne Street and Main Street and Moray Street between Portage Avenue and Ness Avenue.

Cohoe is also worried about pedestrian safety on roadways like Waverly Street between Taylor Avenue and Grant Avenue that have residential houses on both sides.

“It seems like they’ve gone with the decision that if a roadway is divided it automatically goes to a higher speed limit, and for some of the areas that doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” he said.

The board has three public hearings planned for Nov. 27, Dec. 4, and Dec. 11 to go over the proposed changes with Winnipeggers, and Rivers said it’s too soon to say if or when limits will increase.

A breakdown of streets under consideration for speed limit increases in Winnipeg:

On November 27/12 the Board will be hearing the following streets: Dugald Road, between a point 400 metres east and west of Plessis Road;

Grant Avenue, between Kenaston Boulevard and Stafford Street

Pembina Highway, between Ducharme Avenue and the bridge crossing the La Salle River (also under consideration is increasing the speed zone from 60 km/h to 80 km/h between rue des Trappistes to south of Turnbull Drive and increase the 90 km/h to 100 km/h between Turnbull Drive and the City limit);

Waverley Street, between Taylor Avenue and Grant Avenue.

On December 4, 2012 the Board will be hearing the following streets:

Corydon Avenue, between Kelvin Boulevard and Cambridge Street;

Roblin Boulevard, between Haney Street and Wexford Street;

University Crescent, between Chancellor Matheson Road and Pembina Highway.

On December 11, 2012 the Board will be hearing the following streets:

Broadway, between Osborne Street and Main Street;

Memorial Boulevard/Colony Street/Balmoral Street, between Broadway and Qu’Appelle Avenue;

Isabel Street/Salter Street, between William Avenue and Stella Avenue;

Main Street, between Assiniboine Avenue and Manitoba Avenue;

Inkster Boulevard, between Lansdowne Avenue and Main Street;

Moray Street, between Portage Avenue and Ness Avenue;

Wellington Avenue, between the east limit of James Armstrong Richardson International Airport and St. James Street.

Additional streets not yet advertised:

Kenaston Boulevard;

Taylor Avenue;

Provencher Boulevard.

Manitoba Supports Active Transportation Planning and Development in Rural Communities

posted at November 27, 2012 20:25 (about 1 month ago)
November 27, 2012
Manitoba government

New Active Transportation Fund Launched

Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 27, 2012 – New Active Transportation funding is now available to help rural communities start projects and improve local infrastructure designed to encourage people to use alternatives to motor vehicle transportation.

Municipalities and northern communities with populations of fewer than 50,000 residents are eligible to apply to the Active Transportation Fund, made possible by a $1-million investment from the federal Gas Tax Fund.

“This program builds on the Small Communities Transit Fund launched in 2010, making $1 million in federal Gas Tax funding available to cost-share active transportation projects with eligible municipalities over the next two years,” said the Honourable Ron Lemieux, Local Government Minister. “People are becoming more health and environmentally conscious and are switching to public transportation, bicycles and walking. As these activities increase, people will see improved health benefits, lower transportation costs and fewer cars and trucks on the road. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is good for us and for our environment.”

“Our Government is committed to supporting infrastructure projects in municipalities across Canada,” said the Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport) and Member of Parliament for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia. “We are proud of our $1-million investment in this program which will help municipalities across Manitoba promote environmentally friendly transportation. The Gas Tax fund is just one of the ways our Government is carrying out our promise to help create jobs and stimulate economic growth across the country.”

The program provides 50 per cent cost-shared funding for eligible projects up to a maximum of $50,000 per project. Eligible projects include:

  • bike racks/lockers;
  • bike paths;
  • sidewalks and other pathways for pedestrian use;
  • lighting and signage on trails, sidewalks and bike paths; and
  • active transportation design/project plans that lead to future active transportation development.

“The benefits of active transportation for Manitoba communities are wide ranging,” said Association of Manitoba Municipalities President Doug Dobrowolski. “This initiative will reduce pressure on our over-burdened municipal streets and roads. The health of our citizens is also important to local governments. That’s why active transportation options are a win-win – they reduce costs and improve our quality of life.”

The Manitoba government is launching a dedicated active transportation website to promote and support small communities in developing sustainable active transportation options. The website offers Manitoba success stories; resources and tools for municipalities, schools and community groups; information on safety; maps of trails and pathways around the province; and information on programs and agencies that support active transportation. The new provincial government web address is gov.mb.ca/ia.

Together, all these tools and resources will help municipalities integrate active transportation planning, design and implementation with land use and transportation planning. Today’s commitments are part of the Manitoba government’s three-year action plan to promote and improve active transportation across Manitoba.

The Government of Canada’s Gas Tax Fund provides long-term funding to local governments to help them build and revitalize public infrastructure. In December 2011, the Government of Canada passed legislation to make the Gas Tax Fund a permanent annual investment of $2 billion per year. Through this fund alone, the federal government provides $66,157,000 in funding annually for municipal infrastructure in Manitoba.

The Government of Canada has engaged provinces, territories, municipalities and key stakeholders in a series of roundtables to guide the development of a new long-term infrastructure plan that will support job creation, economic growth and prosperity. To improve infrastructure across Canada and ensure affordability and sustainability over the long term, the Government’s new plan will encourage greater use of public-private partnerships. This will help leverage new investments in infrastructure, while respecting Canadian taxpayers’ ability to pay.

Lemieux noted the Action Plan on Active Transportation is part of Manitoba’s green plan called TomorrowNow, which sets out an eight-year strategic action plan for mobilizing Manitobans to work together to protect the environment, while ensuring a prosperous and environmentally conscious economy. More information can be found at: gov.mb.ca/conservation/tomorrownowgreenplan.

Backgrounder — Active Transportation

The Manitoba government has a three-year, four-point action plan to encourage more Manitobans to walk, roller blade or cycle instead of driving. The action plan focuses on improved co-ordination, support and promotion of active transportation. The new Active Transportation Fund and active transportation web portal support Manitoba’s plan which will:

  • co-ordinate the province’s active transportation efforts and investments;
  • increase access to relevant, timely information and tools;
  • support and promote active transportation as a safe, viable transportation choice; and
  • build partnerships with local governments and community stakeholders.

The province has adopted land-use planning policies to promote land-use patterns and development designs that support public transit, cyclists, pedestrians and the mobility challenged and reduce reliance on automobiles.

Municipalities and planning districts are encouraged to consider and use all forms of transportation, particularly more active and environmentally sustainable forms such as walking, cycling and public transit when developing land-use or transportation plans for their regions, municipalities or neighbourhoods. Additional support for transportation planning is available through Manitoba’s Community Planning Assistance grants, which provide up to $60,000 in cost-shared funding to support:

  • the review and preparation of integrated and comprehensive development plans,
  • additional studies that address important planning and land-use issues, and
  • detailed land-use information and digital mapping in each rural municipality.

Life in the curb lane

posted at November 22, 2012 09:31 (about 1 month ago)
November 18, 2012
Bev Watson

A grandmother spends a summer as a bike courier — and lives to tell the tale

The traffic on St. Mary’s Road didn’t seem as busy one morning as I neared Fermor Avenue to head back to the Exchange District. I can pedal at a fairly fast clip when my legs feel like it. I was making good time; I could feel the strength in my quadriceps, and I smiled. I was becoming quite proud of the shape my legs were in and how many miles they could take me on my bike.

As I cruised along, I became aware of the roar of a loud engine coming up behind me. That sound seems to spark a “spidey-sense” in cyclists; it usually means a large vehicle is approaching, and you automatically double check to make sure you’re hugging the curb.

Turning my head slightly to the left, I could see out of the corner of my eye a large dump truck gaining on me at a good clip, but he moved to the left lane. Suddenly, a second dump truck was speeding up to pass him in the curb lane; he was at my side in a split second: engine roaring in my ears, wheels up to my shoulder spinning in a blur, passing me by a whisper. I screamed out loud. And then swore. Out loud.

It’s my third week as a bike courier. I’m 51 years old. And I’m a grandmother.

If I could have caught up with that truck driver, who was probably my son’s age or younger, he would have had some finger wagging like never before. What if it were his grandmother, I’d say. How would you feel if someone did that to her? I’d ask him. She could be horribly hurt or even dead, all because someone was in a hurry, I’d nag, shaking my finger in his face. I’m sure he would no more than roll his eyes and drive away shaking his head at the crazy old lady.

I worked for Natural Cycle Courier for four months this summer. They deliver anywhere in the city, 12 months a year. They use no cars; larger items are towed behind the bike on a trailer. And they’re all very young. I swear I have 10 years on their mothers. But they took me on, and I had a summer like no other.

My new job as a bike courier opened my eyes to life in the curb lane. I’ve heard that cyclists are a nuisance. I’ve heard sneers at their “saving the environment” and their young, granola-thinking attitudes. I’ve heard comments that they ride bikes because they just can’t afford cars. I know otherwise.

We’re young; we’re old. We’re rich; we’re poor. We’re fit; we’re fat. We do indeed “save the environment” to some degree every time we don’t use a car, but we do own cars. A few of us weave in and out of traffic; most of us follow the rules of the road, and don’t like to be lumped into the same group as the weavers. We are horrified when another cyclist — stranger or not — is injured or killed on the streets. And we don’t like the “you’re just asking for it” responses that we hear.

The cyclist you see every day throughout the city is a student saving money to get through university. She’s a girl who wants to play her part in doing something “green.” He’s a janitor making a few extra dollars working as a courier. It’s a business woman taking a hiatus for a summer to take her mind off things. It’s a grandmother wanting to get into better shape. And none of us want to lose our lives for a dump truck in a hurry.

In my four months of pedalling, I’ve been hit by two cars and wiped out three times. I’ve cut my knee, scraped my legs and bruised my hips. I’ve been yelled at: “Get on the sidewalk!” “Get off the sidewalk!” “You’re in my lane,” and “Get your fat ass off the road.”

I’ve discovered a real camaraderie between bike couriers and bike commuters alike. “Girl power!” yelled one cyclist with her long thick red hair flowing out from under her helmet. “Good for you!” calls out one man with a salt-and-pepper beard as he pedals along with his own deliveries. We talk about our bikes, we brag of miles travelled, and we share stories of those close calls.

I grew to love the painted bike lanes on the downtown one-way streets. There’s something about that solid white line embracing that large white bicycle decal that seems to keep vehicles at a safe distance from our handle bars. Diamond lanes create somewhat of a safe haven for us, even though we share the lane with the biggest vehicles out there — the city buses. Transit drivers may get frustrated with our speed, but most are amazingly patient.

Unpainted streets create a different feel for a cyclist; at times we get crowded out for being “in the car’s lane.” While some drivers give us no space at all and even speed up to pass, others give us such a wide berth that it causes a danger to cars in the neighbouring lanes. Just take your foot off the gas for a few seconds, squeeze to your left, and you’ll be on your way, and so will we.

I shake my head at the poorly thought out bike lanes over the Main Street Bridge. If I take the bike lanes within the cement barrier, they force me onto the sidewalk with no safe way to get back onto the road. If I stay on the road, drivers yell at me to get on the other side of the barrier. And the positioning of the southbound bike lane? Thousands of cars headed into St. Vital are forced down to one lane due to a barricaded bike lane that I can’t get on to or off of when I’m cycling. This makes no sense for cyclists or for motorized vehicles. I’ve seen it from both sides of the barrier.

You quickly learn of roadways in our city that are not bike friendly, or even worse: downright dangerous. St. Anne’s Road in South St. Vital has manhole covers in cement four inches higher than the road’s surface. At a minimum, that’s a horribly bruised crotch. At its worst, it’s a deadly wipe-out waiting to happen.

In St. James, the streets are roughest right along the curb. Add that to the very narrow lanes in the congested area and the impatience of the drivers, and it becomes one of the most difficult areas for deliveries. Lagimodiere is simply off limits for cyclists. There’s nowhere to go; no paved shoulders and no sidewalks as a safe alternative, legal or not. Travelling in gravel does not work. Just ask my front tire.

In my desperation to meet a delivery deadline, I tried to travel along the side of Highway 59 when my tire sunk into the dirt and threw me down hard. My helmet-covered head hit the dirt just a few feet from the white lined edge of the road. My leg slammed into the gravel, the bike chain ripped my skin and the handlebars stabbed into my side.

I got up, brushed the dirt off my bleeding leg and straightened out my handlebars, while tears welled up in my eyes. I remember thinking “bike couriers don’t cry!” So I walked along the gravel with my beat up bike and hurting body; blinking away tears until I reached the next paved intersection. Then I climbed back on my bike, and cycled away. Making my delivery on time.

Bev Watson is a 51-year-old grandmother who has recently hung up her helmet and parked her bike for the winter. She is now driving her car to her much safer office job.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 18, 2012 A8

Law on bicycle helmets due soon

posted at November 05, 2012 11:21 (2 months ago)
November 05, 2012
Steve Lambert

First offenders get off with quiz

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s bicycle-helmet law will take effect within a few months, and first-time offenders will be able to avoid paying a fine by taking a new online safety quiz.

Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau is finalizing the details of the law, which the legislature approved last spring. The aim, he said, is to promote helmet use while using penalties as something of a last resort.

“Our goal is to actually not collect fines. Our goal would be for people to understand the law and put helmets on their head right away,” Rondeau said in an interview.

The law will require anyone under 18 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or face a $50 fine. But young cyclists caught in a first offence will be allowed to skip the fine by completing a test that will educate them about bicycling safety.

“We’re going to develop — are developing — a question-and-answer on bike safety that people can do as an alternative to paying a fine,” Rondeau said.

The law will come into effect before spring, he said, and be accompanied by a public-education campaign to make cyclists don helmets as automatically as motorists wear seatbelts.

When the law takes effect, Manitoba will join provinces such as Ontario, where minors are also required to wear helmets. But Manitoba’s approach stops short of laws in Nova Scotia and British Columbia that apply to adults as well.

Physicians, the opposition Liberals and many cyclists have criticized the exemption for adults, who say kids watch what their parents do.

“If I look at parents, they’re going to be the example that kids will follow. And I think if you don’t bring it in for everybody, you’re going to wind up getting a bad example,” said Charles Burchill, an avid cyclist who commutes by bicycle to his downtown job every day.

Doctors Manitoba, the provincial medical association, has said a broader law would reduce the number of severe head injuries cyclists suffer every year.

Rondeau is not ruling out an extension of the law to adults at some later time.

“Those are discussions we’ll have on the compliance and we will talk about further measures as we see compliance move forward. But right now, this is the next logical step — to apply to children. Let’s see what happens.”

— The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2012 A5

Bike lanes, trails popular, poll says

posted at October 29, 2012 07:48 (2 months ago)
October 29, 2012
Mia Rabson

Strong majority supports healthy initiatives

Winnipeggers may hate change, but thus far, the slew of new bike lanes and trails in the last two years have been met with a thumbs-up from most people.

A Probe Research poll for the Free Press found 71 per cent of Winnipeggers see the new bike paths and trails as very or somewhat successful for cyclists, and 60 per cent said they were very or somewhat successful for motorists.

Most people fell into the slightly happy crowd, with 50 per cent calling them somewhat successful for cyclists and 51 per cent calling them somewhat successful for motorists, compared to 21 per cent and nine per cent who said they were very successful for cyclists and motorists, respectively.

“When all is said and done, people think they are starting to do what they’re supposed to do,” said Probe Research president Scott MacKay.

MacKay said he “honestly didn’t know what to expect” when the question was asked, so he wasn’t surprised by the results.

More than $20 million was spent to build or improve more than three dozen bicycle paths, including dedicated bike lanes on major streets and multi-use trails.

Much of the money came via the federal government’s economic-stimulus plans, but required contributions from provincial and municipal governments.

The poll did not ask whether people are more likely to use bikes since the addition of the new trails and paths, but MacKay said this poll will be a good baseline for comparison in the future.

Bike to the Future, an advocacy group for cycling in Winnipeg, estimates the number of cyclists in downtown Winnipeg has gone up 47 per cent since 2011, to about 13,000 people a day.

Mark Cohoe, Bike to the Future’s executive director, said the new paths and bike lanes have greatly contributed to that increase. He said he is not surprised people like the new paths because they have been a great addition to the city’s cycling community.

“There is a definite improvement in how motorists and cyclists interact,” said Cohoe.

He said while there is still animosity between cyclists and drivers, the trails have helped make everyone safer.

Most of the bike paths were built in 2009 and 2010.

MacKay said the poll question came about because there was a lot of chatter on radio call-in shows and even around the water cooler in the Probe offices, about cycling in Winnipeg.

“There’s always been this debate between car people and the bike people,” he said.

On a personal level, he’s seen many more cyclists on his way to work each day, and he himself was sometimes confused by the new signs marking bike lanes.

He wanted to know whether the new paths were working for cyclists, for motorists, or neither.

Cohoe said there are still major gaps, such as Pembina Highway. However, once the second rapid-transit phase is completed, and the cycling upgrades as part of the Pembina Underpass project are finished, it will give cyclists a safe trail to connect them all the way to the University of Manitoba.

He said another priority for cyclists right now is for the completion of the trail between Grant and Wilkes near Shaftesbury Boulevard.


Probe Research poll questions

Overall, how successful would you say these bike lanes, trails and paths have been in making travel around the city better for Winnipeg cyclists?

Very successful: 21 per cent

Somewhat successful: 50 per cent

Somewhat unsuccessful: 15 per cent

Very unsuccessful: six per cent

Overall, how successful would you say these bike lanes, trails and paths have been in making travel around the city better for Winnipeg motorists?

Very successful: nine per cent

Somewhat successful: 51 per cent

Somewhat unsuccessful: 20 per cent

Very unsuccessful: 13 per cent

The poll of 600 Winnipeg adults was conducted randomly by phone between Sept. 19 and Oct. 14. It is considered to be accurate within 4.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Winnipeg’s new Osborne Bridge great for cars, not so great for cyclists: activist

posted at October 26, 2012 22:03 (2 months ago)
October 26, 2012
Bernice Pontanilla

A Winnipeg cyclist is calling the new Osborne Street Bridge a missed opportunity.

On Friday, Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Greg Selinger officially opened the new $16.8 million bridge spanning the Assiniboine River just west of the Manitoba Legislature.

Mark Cohoe, executive director of Bike to the Future, said while there has been a “marked improvement” on some of the bridge’s features, such as a 1.8-metre shoulder on the roadway, cyclists will continue to find it difficult to navigate.

“It’s not a bicycle lane, so that’s a bit of a disappointment that we don’t have the full protection of a bicycle lane,” he said. “We don’t really consider this a completed project until we’re connecting south fully to Roslyn Road to make that connection … which will eventually have bicycle lanes on it connecting to Nassau.”

In a press release, the Manitoba and City of Winnipeg governments boast a separate accommodation for cyclists leading from the bridge to the Assiniboine Avenue-Granite Way half-signal crossing. It includes Winnipeg’s first dedicated bike signal and a widened transition for cyclists from the bridge to the roadway at the southwest corner.

“[It’s] one of the busiest bridges in Winnipeg and it’s very important that it be in good shape,” said Premier Greg Selinger during the ceremony, adding 40,000 vehicles travel on it each day.

Within the last year, there have been ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the Disraeli Bridges, the extension of the Chief Peguis Trail and now Osborne Bridge, said Mayor Sam Katz.

“This is extremely special,” said Katz, highlighting art designs by Eduardo Aquino and Karen Shanski that are featured on the new bridge.

“Access for pedestrians and cyclists as well as putting the artwork in it, I think, makes it really, really special … This does connect us to one of the treasures of the city, Osborne Village.”

Cohoe said he’d like to see “a little more effort” put into connecting the existing transportation facilities and see a plan move forward.

“And to see rather than just a painted lane that leads you into a sidewalk, I’d rather see something that leads me to that next facility where I’m going to feel safe,” he added.

The original Osborne Street Bridge was built in 1882 and reconstructed in 1977.

Copenhagen shows bicycles can improve cities and their citizens

posted at October 01, 2012 10:10 (3 months ago)
October 01, 2012
Brent Bellamy

Home to inspiring modern architecture, set within a dense and vibrant urban context, the most significant impression any visitor has of the Scandinavian capital is an overwhelming presence of bicycles.

In Copenhagen, 37 per cent of the population ride their bikes to work every day. With a vast, integrated system of separated lanes and dedicated lights, rush-hour traffic can often be heavier for cyclists than motorists. The system is so safe only 15 per cent of Danes choose to wear a helmet.

During a recent architectural pilgrimage to the Nordic city, I was lucky enough to visit prominent Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl. Having written several influential books on the design of livable cities, he has been instrumental in establishing Copenhagen’s bike culture. In our discussion, Gehl lamented the lack of cycling infrastructure in most Canadian cities and cited the significant social and economic benefits it can have. He referred to a study commissioned by the mayor of Copenhagen indicating that when taking all factors into account, every kilometre ridden on a bike saves Danish society 25 cents and every kilometre travelled by car costs them 16 cents.

In Winnipeg, the first steps toward implementation of an active transportation network have largely been focused on encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, but expanding on Gehl’s business case for an urban cycling infrastructure might be a valuable strategy to galvanize government and public support for its continued development.

The most easily quantifiable economic impact of active transportation is realized through individual savings. Car ownership is the second-greatest expense in a typical Canadian household, costing on average $7,500 annually, per vehicle. When alternate transportation options are provided, costs such as fuel, parking and maintenance can be greatly reduced. If a household is able to eliminate one car, these savings can be substantial.

Developers across Canada are realizing more compact, walkable neighbourhoods that are integrated into an overall urban active-transportation network are seen to provide a higher quality of life, are more desirable and as a result command greater property values and tax revenue.

Cities that struggle with infrastructure-funding deficits can look to an improved cycling network as a means of reducing some of that pressure on local government. A small shift in vehicle use can have a disproportionate impact on the need for increased road construction. According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, by decreasing the number of cars on a high volume urban street by only three per cent, peak rush hour congestion can be reduced by nearly 30 per cent. With the cost of road construction being more than 10 times that of segregated bike lanes, significant economic savings can be realized by enticing more commuters to choose alternate means of transportation.

Implementation of an active transportation network has shown to be an effective government policy for targeting employment growth. Bike-lane construction is labour-intensive rather than equipment- and material-intensive. A study done in Baltimore revealed that for every dollar invested in developing segregated bike lanes, more than twice as many jobs were created when compared to road construction.

An active-transportation network can also be good for business. When compared to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians spend more money in local and small retail establishments. Healthier employees can decrease absenteeism and improve job satisfaction, while reducing the burden on our health-care system.

Cyclists contribute to the creation of an active street culture, which improves neighbourhood vibrancy and safety, in turn promoting increased spending and economic growth. As urban quality improves, the livability and public image of the city as a whole is enhanced, becoming more attractive to investment, tourism and immigration.

The cost of implementing an urban active-transportation network is not unattainable when weighed against these economic benefits. It is estimated the City of Portland, considered the most bike-friendly municipality in North America, where six per cent of commuters are cyclists (under two per cent in Winnipeg), could replace its entire existing cycling infrastructure for only $60 million.

That represents the cost of widening less than two kilometres of Kenaston Boulevard.

Winnipeg will likely never be Copenhagen, but its urban structure makes it a favourable candidate for an effective cycling network. With 72 per cent of the population living with 10 kilometres of downtown and a highly centralized workforce, the median commute is only 6.1 kilometres, a much shorter distance than in other Canadian cities.

There is a pervasive attitude in Winnipeg that our harsh winters make these economic benefits less attainable and investment in active transportation less valuable. When speaking with Jan Gehl, I asked him how he would respond to that criticism. He replied by saying in Canada, we focus so much on being protected on the bad days it often keeps us from taking full advantage of many good days. He wants us to shift our priority and look at the glass as being half full, recommending we take care of the 250 good days first and then find a balance for the others.

He makes a good point.

Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2012 B5

CBC Information Radio’s Downtown Cycling discussion at Stella’s Cafe

posted at September 26, 2012 01:05 (3 months ago)
September 20, 2012
CBC Manitoba
CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM

CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM CBC Manitoba

During the week of September 17 to 21, CBC Radio One’s Information Radio weekday morning show (89.3 FM / 990 AM from 5:30 to 8:30 AM) featured active transportation on their The Next Big Thing series. On the Thursday, host Marcy Markusa was at Stella’s Cafe to discuss Downtown Cycling with City politicians/staff and cyclists (including BttF’s Anders Swanson and Charles Feaver).

Part 1 (9:30 audio)
Part 2 (9:00 audio)
Part 3 (6:30 audio)

City finds pathways to cycling: Minneapolis warming up to winter riding

posted at September 10, 2012 22:58 (3 months ago)
September 10, 2012
Jen Skerritt

Think it’s futile to build up a massive cycling network because of frosty winter temperatures?

One of Winnipeg’s U.S. neighbours has proven a bit of snow and sub-zero winds don’t mean a city can’t be a top cycling spot.

Minneapolis is at the forefront of urban cycling and is among a handful of North American cities considered leaders in building a network of paths that encourage recreational and commuter travel. About 3.5 per cent of Minneapolis residents bike to work, and the city is on track to increase that to seven per cent in the next two years.

The midwestern city now has twice as many bikeways as it did just a few years ago, with a total of 257 kilometres of pathways — a distance that would stretch from Winnipeg to Riding Mountain National Park.

Shaun Murphy, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian co-ordinator, attributes the success to a combination of factors: an influx of federal grants, active citizen advocates, and local politicians and government workers who want to take cues from European cities with a culture that encourages cycling as a mode of transportation.

Murphy said the reason countries such as the Netherlands have such a large number of cyclists is because cities have made it a safe and convenient way to get around. They have blue bike lanes so motorists can easily see cyclists, bike lights to direct them, separate lanes, and great signage to help cyclists get from point A to point B.

If streets aren’t safe or if cycling is a hassle, Murphy said, the odds are residents aren’t interested.

“If you haven’t engineered your streets right, people aren’t going to do it,” he said.

A century ago, cycling was popular along Minneapolis’ many parks, which loop around the city. Murphy said the paths were later torn out to make room for vehicles, then reinstalled in the park system in the 1960s. The city started to install on-street bike lanes in the 1970s and plan a commuter network between the university and downtown.

The movement led to a push to convert abandoned railway lines into paths to connect across the city. The result was the Midtown Greenway, a nine-kilometre path that acts as a freeway for pedestrians and bikes, since it is completely separate from vehicle traffic.

Murphy said the greenway is now used by about 4,000 cyclists daily, and it fully connects with other cycling paths.

Murphy is the city’s point man for tracking road projects through the bureaucracy and spotting opportunities for increasing cycling lanes, including during construction projects. If he catches wind of a road project, lanes can be painted for “virtually no cost,” since the painting trucks have to go out and paint new road lines anyway.

The city is also taking pointers from European cities, which have figured out how to get motorists and cyclists to share the road. Murphy said the city has started to experiment with taking out lanes for cars to give cyclists more room. Signs then direct cars to share the road with cyclists.

While about half of all city cyclists do not ride their bikes during winter months, Murphy said cyclists have told him they’re starting to see more people braving the cold. Minneapolis works to have all bicycle trails plowed within 24 hours of a snowfall, he said.

“We’re seeing that change in our numbers and hearing anecdotal stories from people who say, ‘Oh, maybe I should ride my bike. It’s not that far,’ ” he said. “It’s definitely making an impact.”


Successful cycling cities

Places in North America where policies have led to a big jump in urban cycling:


What they’ve got: The most bike parking per capita in North America and a cost-sharing fund to encourage businesses to erect bike racks. An extensive network of off-street paths act as a backbone for the city’s cycling network.

What helped boost ridership: $25 million in federal funds helped Minneapolis build upon its existing cycling facilities.


What they’ve got: Access to bike facilities within three to six blocks anywhere in the city, an extensive network of bike boulevards and priority lanes for cyclists

What helped boost ridership: Regulations stipulate new or reconstructed roads must include bike facilities.

San Francisco

What they’ve got: More bike stations than anywhere else in North America, robust bike training and education programs, and an extensive road-based bike network.

What helped boost ridership: Strong cycling advocacy. San Fran was the birthplace of Critical Mass rides.


What they’ve got: North America’s largest network of cycle tracks and one of the most extensive off-street path networks.

What helped boost ridership: Montreal’s BIXI bike-sharing system is the largest of its kind on the continent, with more than 5,000 bikes that people can rent at depots.


What they’ve got: The most extensive bike boulevard network in North America, and the city is considered a leader in traffic-calming initiatives to reduce conflict between motorists and cyclists at intersections.

What helped boost ridership: The city has extensive bike-training programs for all ages.

— source: Bicycling Renaissance in North America: John Pucher, Rutgers University

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2012 B1

Bike rider’s heaven

Winnipeg Free Press, Letter to the Editor, September 12, 2012

Thank you for Jen Skerritt’s Sept. 10 article, Minneapolis warming up to winter riding. It was a pleasure to experience the revival of cycling in Minneapolis first-hand. Checking into a downtown hotel, we were asked if we’d like our bikes held in a locked baggage check room or if we would like to keep them in our room. No one batted an eye as we wheeled bikes through the lobby and up the elevator.

After a meeting in St. Paul and an unsatisfactory experience with expressway travel back to Minneapolis, the following day I biked from downtown Minneapolis to St. Paul. Travelling the 26 kilometres to and from my business meeting, mostly on bike lanes with reasonable separation from cars, made the trips time-efficient and pleasant. Half of it was on the University of Minnesota transit corridor, which is only for buses and bikes.

Racks for hundreds of bikes on the Nicollet Mall made shopping by bike easy. Going out to eat was easy with a fast, safe and scenic route to evening dining, where we could eat on a patio overlooking the Mississippi River and our bikes.

To see more of the city, we cycled a big loop covering much of northern Minneapolis and St. Paul, including the Cedar Lake Trail, the Grand Rounds Trail and the Saint Anthony Parkway. With an extensive biking network that effectively separates cyclists and motorists, more winter cycling makes sense in Minneapolis.

I cycle-commute in Winnipeg all winter, and it is usually a pleasure. In bad weather, it is an exciting challenge. (Of course, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.) After a serious snowfall, it is unreasonable to have bike trails here cleared within 24 hours, as Minneapolis aims to do, but the City of Winnipeg usually plows the Churchill bike trail, which I use, within a couple of days. Last winter, bike paths in Assiniboine Park were immaculately cleaned the morning after a snowstorm.

So don’t sell Winnipeg’s winter cycling options short. Where bike routes are separate from motorized traffic and the trails are maintained, it is already a viable option in Winnipeg.

Dan Prowse Winnipeg

Taking a look at Winnipeg’s active-transportation network

posted at September 08, 2012 22:26 (4 months ago)
September 08, 2012
Jen Skerritt

It’s been two years since a $20.4-million federal stimulus program helped kickstart Winnipeg’s active-transportation network and build more than 100 km of lanes, pathways and track in record speed. The good news is, Winnipeg has made major gains and has caught up to some Canadian cities to make the bicycle an option for getting around.

The not so-good-news is cycling can still be tricky — and sometimes even scary — on trouble spots such as bridges or underpasses.

Cyclists Tom McMahon and Jeremy Hull took the Free Press on a spin of some downtown routes that can pose challenges to cyclists who want to commute.

They say Winnipeg still needs more bike infrastructure and to educate motorists and cyclists on how to share the road.

4 minute video with BttF’s Tom McMahon & Jeremy Hull

The city has made major gains in active transportation, but there are still some big holes in the network

Tom McMahon hops on his bicycle every day to make the trek from his Riverview home to his downtown law practice.

It’s something he’s done for the better part of a decade, and his commute to The Forks is fairly simple, thanks to a river trail that allows him to avoid traffic on busy streets.

But every day for nine years, McMahon has encountered the same problem: a south Winnipeg bike path that stops dead in its tracks with no warning. There isn’t even any signage directing cyclists where to go. The same route starts again four blocks later.

It’s one of many holes in Winnipeg’s cycling network, McMahon said, which make it difficult for cyclists to find their way around.

“It’s a city-wide problem. I get frustrated every day,” he said. “It drives me a little bit crazy.”

It’s been two years since a $20.4-million federal stimulus program helped kick-start Winnipeg’s active-transportation network. Thanks to the cash, more than 100 kilometres of lanes, pathways and tracks were built in record speed. The good news is, Winnipeg has made major gains in making the bicycle a viable option for getting around.

There are more people using bicycles to commute and for recreation than ever before. The city has more paths for cyclists and pedestrians than cities such as Regina and Halifax — and Winnipeg now has 35 km of on-street bike lanes.

The not-so-good news is cycling can still be tricky — and sometimes scary — on trouble spots such as bridges or underpasses.

Cycling advocates say the death of Victoria Nelson, who was struck and killed riding her bike near the underpass at Main Street and Higgins Avenue in May, and the death of a 68-year-old cyclist near York Avenue and Main Street Aug. 29 is proof problems still exist and more needs to be done to accommodate cyclists on the road.

Next year, the city plans to start work on an active-transportation strategy — a specific plan that will set out what needs to be done to reduce conflicts between cars and cyclists, improve connections between existing paths, and encourage more residents to walk or hop on a bike.

Transportation manager Luis Escobar said Winnipeg cycling is still in its infancy and the city needs to figure out where it needs to focus its efforts in the coming years.

“We have to step back a little bit and say we addressed the immediate needs and now we need to start thinking strategically,” he said, noting the city does not have a long-term active-transportation plan. “We’ve got to go back and ask, ‘what else do we need to do?’ ”

In 2010, Winnipeg decided to spend five times as much money on active-transportation corridors as it had been thanks to an influx of federal stimulus cash. The goal was to add 102 kilometres of bike and pedestrian routes to the existing network within 18 months in order to catch up to some of the active-transportation progress being made elsewhere in the country.

Despite initial opposition to some projects, most notably the Assiniboine Avenue bikeway, most projects were completed and more Winnipeggers are using the new paths to get around. Recent statistics compiled by advocacy group Bike to the Future estimate there are close to 13,000 people travelling by bike in and out of downtown most days.

The city has continued to focus on how to build its pedestrian and cycling network. This year, Winnipeg beefed up its snow-clearing budget to clear more snow from active-transportation routes and encourage more people to use the trails for recreation and to commute during the winter.

Escobar said the department tries to incorporate the needs of pedestrians and cyclists into every major road project. If there isn’t a sidewalk, they build one. If there’s no room for cyclists, they try to accommodate them.

Right now, Winnipeg is working to connect two existing active-transportation paths by creating buffered bike lanes between Crescent and Plaza drives on Pembina Highway.

“I think right now we’ve caught up to many other cities that are a similar size,” Escobar said.

But there is still more work to do.

Most Winnipeggers still rely on their cars to get around, and tension exists between cyclists and motorists.

Jino Distasio, director of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said the city needs to determine where bike infrastructure fits into its other priorities, such as fixing crummy roads riddled with potholes and investing in rapid transit. Distasio said cycling has evolved and is not just a “niche thing for hipster kids.” Its popularity continues to grow and in order for motorists and cyclists to share the road safely, Winnipeg needs to make capital investments in its infrastructure and educate road users, he said.

“I think a lot of it comes back to motorist education,” Distasio said. “Even the most experienced (cyclist) will share tales of being clipped by a mirror or screamed at by an angry motorist who doesn’t want to share the road.”

Jason Carter, head of Manitoba’s Cycling Association, said he got lost earlier this summer trying to find bike routes to travel from north Main Street to downtown. Routes aren’t clearly marked, he said, and far too often cyclists ride on the sidewalk or in the middle of the lane because they feel unsafe or there’s not enough room for them on the streets.

That, in turn, upsets motorists.

McMahon, who is the co-chair of Bike to the Future, said he tries to avoid riding alongside cars as much as he can. He said some motorists try to squeeze by cyclists in the same lane, and many motorists do not understand how to use sharrows — a shared lane for cyclists and motorists.

“If I’m really feeling nervous there are times I will take the sidewalk,” he said. “It’s scary when somebody tries to share the lane with you.”

McMahon said Winnipeg should follow the lead of cities such as Montreal and Minneapolis and do more to connect routes and promote cycling, particularly for those who can’t afford a car. He said building up the on-street cycling infrastructure could reduce road spending in the long-run, since there will be fewer vehicles and less wear-and-tear on city streets.

It’s something other Canadian cities have been moving toward.

Last year, Ottawa became the first Ontario city to create segregated bike lanes downtown. In just one year, the lanes have seen more than 406,000 trips.

Vancouver has made planning a bike ride much like planning a bus ride: insert your starting point and destination online, and the city’s website will map the way. Riders can choose their own adventure: the shortest route or the one with the least pollution? Tree-lined path or the one with the fewest hills?

Tom Thivener, the head of Calgary’s cycling program, said downtown Calgary has 130,000 workers and no on-street bikeways. The brave take the lane, he said, while others avoid cycling altogether. He said U.S. cities are further ahead in building on-street infrastructure. This gets more people on bikes since they feel safe.

“You don’t see the results right away, but once you start implementing a well-designed network and bikeways on the street, you start to make it really easy for people to get on a bike,” he said.


Transportation manager Luis Escobar says cycling in Winnipeg is in its infancy. ‘We’ve got to go back and ask, “What else do we need to do?”‘ (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Archives)

Bike-ology 101
A snapshot of active-transportation lingo:

Bike lane: A painted lane on a street for cyclists.

Bike paths/multi-use pathways: Separate paths designed for pedestrians and cyclists which are not part of the roadway.

Sharrow: A lane shared by both cars and cyclists. Typically, sharrows are created in wider curb lanes and a bicycle is stenciled on the street to show motorists it’s a shared lane.

Bicycle track: Facilities designed for cycling which are separate from vehicle traffic, such as the Assiniboine Avenue bikeway.

Bike boulevard: Green and white signs mark bicycle routes. These are mostly found on wider, residential streets.


On-street bike lanes: 35 km

Multi-use pathways: 181 km

Bike paths: 4km

Bicycle track: 2km

Sharrows: 37km

Bike boulevards: 56km

The plan: To start work on an active-transportation master plan in 2013 which will help guide how Winnipeg builds upon its existing network of paths and trails.


On-street bike lanes: 48 km

Multi-use pathways: 150 km

The plan: To build 500 km of on-street pathways over the next 20 years. In the short-term, that means the city plans to build an additional 15 km of on-street lanes this year and an additional 35 km of on-street bike paths by the end of 2014.


On-street bike lanes: 50 km

Multi-use pathways: 700 km

Signage: 400 km on residential streets

The plan: Calgary recently hired a full-time cycling coordinator to focus on building up commuter paths in the downtown. The city plans to spend $20 million over the next three years.


On-street bike lanes: 11.4 km

Multi-use pathways: 35 km

The plan: The city is in the midst of developing a cycling master plan, as part of its long-term transportation strategy.


On-street bike lanes: 130 km

Multi-use pathways: 140 km

Paved shoulders: 20 km

Sharrows: 3 km

Signage: 185 km on lower-volume streets

The plan: The city plans to continue spending $1 million a year expanding its cycling network.


On-street bike lanes: 113 km

Multi-use paths: 286 km

Signed routes on residential streets: 147 km

Sharrows: 9 km

The plan: Toronto plans to spend close to $88 million over the next 10 years on its cycling infrastructure. The funding will help double its bikeway network to a total of 1,132.2 km.


On-street bike lanes: 63 km

Multi-use pathways: 86 km

Sharrows: 9.7 km

The plan: By the end of this year, Montreal will grow its 560 km network of paths and trails to 600 km of lanes, pathways and trails. The city plans to spend about $10 million a year in the next decade to continue to build its network.


On-street bike lanes: 210 km

Multi-use pathways: 341 km

Paved shoulders: 140 km

The plan: Ottawa has nearly doubled its cycling network since 2000 and plans to spend a total of $18.5 million on cycling between now and 2014 to continue to increase on-road facilities. Over the next three years, the city plans to provide an additional 70 km of bike lanes and paved shoulders.


Bike lanes (including sharrows): 87 km

Multi-use paths: 246 km

The plan: The city is in the midst of doing a review of their active transportation plan, and is looking to increase the number of designated bike lanes.

Two wheels good, four wheels also good

posted at September 03, 2012 21:00 (4 months ago)
September 02, 2012
Bartley Kives

Eight simple rules to help motorists, cyclists get along

As most motorists and cyclists in this city are aware, a car-bike collision at the intersection of Main Street and York Avenue on Wednesday left one person dead.

The cyclist became the seventh to die in Winnipeg since 2009. The night before the accident, I issued what seemed like a harmless tweet:

“Dear #Winnipeg cyclists: I respect and admire you. But when you ride on the sidewalk, you risk becoming a hood ornament. Please don’t.”

I’m certainly not prescient and I don’t believe the cyclist killed by the Wednesday collision was on a sidewalk. But since tweets live on forever and fatalities are no joke, I feel compelled to try to say something constructive about car-bike coexistence in this city.

As a motorist and occasional cyclist, I see Winnipeg’s roads from both perspectives. I do not believe, as some cyclists suggest, this city is overly hostile to bicycles. I also do not believe, as some politicians have attempted to claim, this city is among the best for commuter cycling.

I also do not believe, as some motorists maintain, too much has been done to benefit bikes.

Rather, Winnipeg is like the majority of cities in car-reliant North America: there are places where it’s great to ride and places where it’s freaking horrifying to be in traffic on a bike. Motorists can be intolerant to bikes and cyclists can ride in a dangerous and provocative manner.

But the vast majority of Winnipeggers in cars and on bikes follow the rules, on streets that have benefited from an infusion of at least $28 million worth of commuter-cycling and recreational bike-path infrastructure over the past four years.

In other words, there’s no basis for setting up a dichotomy between motorists and cyclists, as many Winnipeggers who drive cars also ride bikes and vice versa. There’s also no rational basis for complaining Winnipeg spends too much on active-transportation infrastructure when annual financial infusions into bike lanes and paths remain an order of magnitude below what’s invested in roads and bridges capable of supporting the mass of cars and trucks.

For a variety of reasons, more Winnipeggers now choose to commute to work or school on bikes than they did in decades past. Given the benefits — improved fitness, cost savings, a smaller environmental footprint and for some people, convenience — this trend is likely to continue. It may even accelerate if milder winters become the norm.

In the meantime, there are a few simple things motorists and cyclists can do to reduce the potential for car-bike conflict. Most are common sense, but some may seem counterintuitive.

Four ways to improve road safety if you’re on a bike:

1. Don’t ride on the sidewalk.

With the exception of several new, extra-wide paths designed for pedestrians and cyclists to shared — most built along new regional, suburban roads — there is no place for bikes on sidewalks. This is not just because of the potential for collisions with pedestrians, but because cars making right-hand turns can easily kill you.

A motorist who looks left and right before making a right-hand turn can not see or hear a fast-moving bicycle coming up behind their vehicle. As a result, riding on the sidewalk is the easiest way to ensure you will run into a car.

2. Observe traffic lights and stop signs.

Yes, there are many places in Winnipeg where it’s frustrating to ride. But that does not give you the licence to run a red light or blow a stop sign.

The traffic circles on many residential streets were installed two years ago not to enrage motorists, but to reduce the number of the stop-start sequences cyclists despise. If one of these routes is not convenient, you still must observe the rules of the road.

Failing to do so only annoys motorists and can make them resent sharing the road with you — and that frustration can lead to road-rage incidents.

3. In traffic, take up as much of the lane as you can.

When there are few cars around, feel free to hug the curb. But in traffic, it’s actually much safer to ride as if you are a car and create a big bubble of space around you.

Hugging the curb in traffic encourages motorists to attempt to slide by you. And that move could result in side-swipes.

The corollary is you should never slide by cars yourself, as that, too, is unsafe. It also freaks out people in cars.

4. Wear your damned helmet.

Wearing a helmet doesn’t just improve your chances of surviving an impact. It shows motorists you are serious about road safety and therefore goes a long way in promoting goodwill between cyclists and people in cars.

Four ways to improve road safety if you’re in a car:

1. Treat bicycles as other vehicles.

Even though a bicycle is smaller than a car, it warrants an entire lane worth of space. Never try to slide past a cyclist, even when the bike in front of you is slowing you down.

Speeding up to the next red light is not worth the risk of a side-swipe collision.

2. Stay out of bike lanes

Those painted lines on the road aren’t intended to be pretty. They’re designed to give cyclists room on busy downtown streets — and keep them away from your car.

There are times when you will have to cut across dedicated bike lanes, but driving over them is rude and dangerous, as cyclists will not expect you to be there.

3. Shoulder-check before you change lanes.

Yes, you’re always supposed to do this. But some motorists don’t shoulder-check when they do not believe other vehicles are around.

Since bikes are small and quiet, they’re easy to miss on the road, especially at night. So make sure you always look over your shoulder, at all times.

4. Don’t use your vehicle as a weapon.

Again, this goes without saying. Driving aggressively to shoo bikes out of the way is stupid, dangerous and illegal. Deliberately striking a cyclist can result in a multitude of charges, including assault.

If a cyclist is riding poorly, a simple honk should suffice. That horn is there for a reason — feel free to use it, even in overly polite Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2012 A1

Second bike fatality this year prompts calls for review

posted at August 31, 2012 08:34 (4 months ago)
August 31, 2012
Jan Skerritt

A cyclist navigates traffic on Portage Avenue. Cyclists say drivers often squeeze them out of traffic. Police say drivers and cyclists both need to be aware they share the road.

The death of a 68-year-old man has sparked calls for a review of all cycling fatalities to improve road safety.

On Wednesday, a cyclist and car collided near York Avenue and Main Street. The cyclist was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died. Police said early indications show the man was not wearing a helmet.

He’s the second cyclist killed on city streets this year. Thirty-five-year-old Victoria Nelson was killed on May 23 when she collided with a vehicle and fell into the path of a semi-trailer at Main Street and Higgins Avenue.

Since 2009, seven cyclists have died on Winnipeg roads.

Bike to the Future co-chairman Tom McMahon said Ontario’s chief coroner recently reviewed all cycling deaths and issued recommendations to improve public safety. He said a similar review in Manitoba could identify what caused the accidents, and whether things such as extending the paved shoulder or adding separated bike lanes could prevent injuries and deaths.

“I think it is useful and timely and important for the appropriate authority — whoever that may be — to examine what is happening. Not just fatalities but also serious injuries,” McMahon said.

On average, two cyclists were killed every year from 2005 to 2010 in Manitoba. Another 220 were hurt, Manitoba Public Insurance said.

At the same time, more Winnipeggers are travelling by bike. Recent statistics compiled by Bike to the Future estimate there are close to 13,000 people travelling by bike in and out of downtown on a given day — about 47 per cent more people than in 2011.

Winnipeg police central traffic unit Staff Sgt. Rob Riffel said the number of fatal collisions involving cyclists has remained steady in the past few years. He said motorists and cyclists need to be aware they both have to share the road since anyone on a bike is likely to be seriously hurt during a collision.

“It’s just people being careless at inopportune times,” Riffel said. “When you pit a cyclist against a vehicle, the vehicle is going to win.”

City of Winnipeg officials said in a statement they wait for police to complete an investigation to see if any traffic-related factors contributed to a fatal collision. If so, city officials will follow up to see what improvements can be made.

For example, the city changed the pedestrian corridor at Osborne Street at Wardlaw Avenue following a number of collisions.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said the public insurer has partnered with local cycling groups to educate cyclists on how to make themselves visible to vehicles, the importance of helmet use and existing traffic laws. Smiley said MPI will host workshops to train cyclists on how to avoid road hazards.

He said motorists have to be patient and not squeeze by cyclists. In turn, he said cyclists have to know how to keep themselves safe.

“We know in many situations some cyclists may not be that road savvy or anticipate a potentially dangerous situation,” Smiley said.

Earlier this year, the province introduced legislation that requires children under 18 to wear helmets. Adults are still exempt, but some avid cyclists such as Winnipeg Cycling Club member Henry Shorr believes that should change since head injuries can be “catastrophic.”

The group plans rides within Winnipeg and outside the city, and mandates that everyone on the rides wear a helmet, Shorr said. He said some bike lanes end suddenly and much of their rides end up being on city streets since the path system is not well-developed.

“I think the city needs to do a better job of building bike paths and room for dedicated lanes for cyclists,” Shorr said.

McMahon said motorists need to be better educated about what to do when they encounter a cyclist on the road or see special markings for bike lanes. He said many drivers still squeeze by cyclists instead of changing lanes, and other jurisdictions have stipulated vehicles need to give cyclists at least one metre of space when passing.

“I think we all need (safety) reminders,” McMahon said. “The cyclist has a right to be on the road and feel safe.”


Drivers ‘cut you off on purpose’

Jason Marshall has been in his share of bike-car collisions as a bike courier. He’s been hit five times in the last 10 years and sports his latest wound on his left knee, where a car sideswiped him last week.

“Drivers in Winnipeg are definitely worse than in other cities,” he said, having been a bike courier in Regina and Calgary as well. “Drivers are really rude and disrespectful to cyclists. They don’t pay attention. They’ll cut you off on purpose.”

Marshall said bike paths, such as the one in front of his Assiniboine Avenue apartment, help make cycling safer, but he said more respect and attention needs to be paid to cyclists.

“It could happen to anyone. It could happen to me,” he said about Wednesday’s crash.

Marshall has broken his collar bone, arm and wrist from his many bike-car collisions.

He said signalling is important to stay out of harm’s way and also anticipating what’s going to happen long before it does.

“I look five car lengths ahead of me to see what’s going on,” he said. Cyclists sound off on safety

How safe do you feel as a cyclist in Winnipeg? We put the question to Twitter readers. Here’s a sample of their replies:

alysonshane: Safer than I used to, but motorists are still really aggressive toward cyclists, especially outside downtown.

littlesrule: My hubby was hit by car while biking on Pembina. Received multiple broken bones.

palmerfritschy: As a commuter cyclist I’ve been struck by five cars but I’ve never felt unsafe. Eye contact with drivers is paramount.

mykaelsopher: Much safer cycling downtown now versus five years ago. Drivers respect bike lanes way more than feckless “share the road” signs.

samuelevan: Depends where. Wolseley is a cycling culture, so it’s more expected, ergo safer. Portage Avenue can be an absolute nightmare.

CBoho: On designated bike paths or lanes, I feel safe. On routes like Pembina, Marion, Osborne, not too safe.

jsadowski2001: I do my best to take off road trails as much as possible. Cycling on the road is stressful and not enjoyable.

HammieMB: I cycled down Portage once and it scared the crap out of me.

The number of cyclists killed on city streets, Winnipeg Police Service statistics show

2 in 2012 (as of Aug. 30)

2 in 2011, one serious injury

2 in 2010

1 in 2009

0 in 2008

Cycling group pushes for road safety education following fatality

CTV.ca story, which includes a 2:17 video

Winnipeg police continue to investigate a crash that claimed the life of a 68-year-old cyclist.

Emergency crews were called to the area of Main Street and York Avenue on Wednesday for the collision. A male cyclist was rushed to hospital in critical condition, but later died from injuries.

The fatality is the second one of its kind in three months.

In May, cyclist Violet Nelson died in a crash on Higgins Avenue. Investigators said she was riding alongside a car when the two collided and the impact sent her into the path of a semi-trailer.

Biking advocates said Wednesday’s collision at Main and York is a reminder for both cyclists and motorists.

“We all hope it’s going to be the last, but it’s probably not going to be the last,” said Curt Hull from the group Bike to the Future.

He said it’s time for both cyclists and motorists to educate themselves on road safety.

“We have improvements in infrastructure, but until we have improvements in education that teaches motorists and cyclist how to behave towards each other, things aren’t going to improve very much,” said Hull.

He said Winnipeg’s new active transportation strategy is making it easier for cyclists but the city still has a long way to go.

Since 2007, the group has seen a 64 per cent increase in the number of bike commuters, rising to around 12,000 per day.

Manitoba Public Insurance is also working with cycling groups to make the road safer for cyclists. It offers safety courses to teach riders hand signals and the rules of the road.

MPI said drivers also need to be aware.

“Motorists need to share the road with cyclists. They are entitled to be on the road. They need their space and motorists need to make room for them,” said Brian Smiley from MPI.

Winnipeg police are asking anyone with information on Wednesday’s collision at Main and York to call investigators at 204-986-6271.

Read more: http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/cycling-group-pushes-for-road-safety-education-following-fatality-1.937056#ixzz258C09RuY

More Manitoba cyclists getting hit by vehicles


A growing number of cyclists are getting injured from collisions with vehicles, according to Manitoba Public Insurance numbers obtained by CBC News.

The public auto insurer’s statistics show that between 2008 and 2010, the number of reported incidents involving injured cyclists in the province rose from 142 to 219.

The cyclists’ injuries ranged from scrapes and broken bones to brain injuries. Six deaths were reported.

“It’s frightening out there right now. I’ve never seen so many close calls,” said Brian Burke, who owns Olympia Cycle and Ski on St. Mary’s Road in Winnipeg.

This week, a 68-year-old cyclist died following a collision with a vehicle on York Avenue and Main Street in the city’s downtown.

Burke said more of his store’s customers have reported getting hit, and his staff have been repairing more bicycles that have been damaged in collisions.

A study released last month by Bike to the Future found that nearly 13,000 people are commuting by bicycle in Winnipeg on a daily basis this year.

That figure is up by 47 per cent compared to last year, and up 64 per cent since 2007, according to the non-profit cycling advocacy group.

While there have been more cyclists on Winnipeg streets lately, Burke said that has created more tension between motorists and cyclists.

He said that tension is evidenced “by how close they’re coming, by the fingers you get as they drive by, by them yelling at you … by them throwing tins of pop at you.” Driver-training and cyclists

Meanwhile, an advocate for cycling is calling for changes to the driver education program and the addition of bicycle safety.

Dave Elmore, from Bike to the Future, said he believes teaching new drivers how to interact with cyclists would be a good start.

“There should be much more as well in the driver education program so that young drivers are learning how to interact properly with cyclists,” he said.

Winnipeg cyclist mad with $111 fine for riding on sidewalk

posted at August 12, 2012 14:24 (4 months ago)
August 08, 2012

A Winnipeg cyclist says he is angry after being ticketed for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk of the Osborne Street bridge. Daniel Vermeulen says the $111 ticket he got this week for cycling on the sidewalk over the Osborne Street bridge seems ‘absurdly high.’ (CBC)Daniel Vermeulen says the $111 ticket he got this week for cycling on the sidewalk over the Osborne Street bridge seems ‘absurdly high.’ (CBC)

“It’s quite high — absurdly high, if you ask me,” Daniel Vermeulen said of the $111 ticket he received from police cadets on Tuesday, during his commute home from work, for cycling on the sidewalk.

Vermeulen said he crosses the bridge several times a day on his bike, but he feels riding on the roadway during busy traffic periods is too dangerous.

“The bridge is very narrow, and there’s lots of construction,” he told CBC News Wednesday.

“During rush hour, the traffic’s insane. Everyone’s rushing to get home.”

The Osborne Street bridge has been a construction site over the past year, as both sides of the span undergo rehabilitation work. Police issued warning

Winnipeg police issued an advisory last week, warning cyclists that riding on the sidewalk poses a safety risk to pedestrians, so they must dismount their bicycles and walk them around “problem areas” such as narrow roadways.

“Police will be conducting enforcement to ensure that all vehicles and cyclists comply with the Highway Traffic Act and related regulations,” states the advisory from July 31.

But motorist Myron Knodel says he thinks cyclists should stay on the sidewalks because they pose a hazard to drivers when they’re on the road.

“They [cyclists] should yield to pedestrians, though, and make sure that they alert them when they pass,” Knodel said.

“But as far as giving tickets for just being on the sidewalk, I think that’s going a little far.”

As for Vermeulen, he said he will pay the ticket but he still won’t ride on the road over the Osborne Street bridge, opting instead to walk his bicycle on the sidewalk.

(This story also includes a two-minute video report.)

We want to ride our bicycles

posted at August 12, 2012 01:19 (4 months ago)
August 08, 2012
Marlo Campbell

Commuter cycling in Winnipeg is on the rise — inspiring a growth in cycling-related services and (slowly) changing public attitudes about transportation options

If you’ve noticed more cyclists on Winnipeg’s streets this year, you’re not alone.

A recent count of city bicycle traffic conducted by Bike to the Future, a volunteer-run organization working to promote cycling as a means of transportation, found the number of people riding bikes in 2012 increased by an estimated 47% compared to last year.

Bike to the Future has been conducting annual spring counts since 2007. During selected morning and afternoon weekday rush hours in April, May and June, it stations volunteers at various locations around Winnipeg — particularly routes in and out of downtown and “choke points” such as bridges and underpasses which cyclists can’t avoid — in order to document commuter traffic levels and other trends.

The group has now completed 381 such counts at 70 locations; this year, 70 counts were conducted at 22 locations. They included the Sherbrook-Maryland Bridges, the Midtown Bridge, Assiniboine Avenue, Dakota Street at Bishop Grandin Boulevard, Bruce Avenue at Overdale Street, University Crescent, the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge and the Assiniboine Park Footbridge.

BTTF volunteer Jeremy Hull manages the annual counts and analyzes the data collected, controlling for weather, time of day and time of month.

He acknowledges the increase in ridership is dramatic. Less clear are the reasons behind the spike — although one possible explanation is that Winnipeg’s landscape has recently become more cycling-friendly.

In 2010, an unprecedented $20.4 million was spent on upgrades to the city’s active-transportation network; 35 new projects in total which added 70 kilometres of on-road infrastructure and 30 km of new paths to the city’s 275 km of existing routes.

“Where there have been separated bike lanes, in particular, that seems to be very popular,” Hull says. “Where there’s multi-user paths, those seem to be popular or gaining in popularity. Where there’s an obvious barrier like a big underpass with a narrow sidewalk and no bike lane, you don’t see the increases. So I’m assuming that the increases are happening because there’s more people cycling because there’s more good facilities.”

BTTF’s report notes the number of cyclists increased on Assiniboine Avenue, one half of which is now blocked completely to vehicle traffic; other locations with improved infrastructure that saw a corresponding increase in cycling traffic were Stradbrook Avenue and Nassau Street, Grosvenor Avenue, and the river trail to The Forks. Such improvements were not reflected in the 2011 spring bike count numbers (which actually found commuter cycling decrease by 20% from 2010, another reason this year’s increase appears so dramatic), but Hull suggests it simply may have taken people some time to figure out the new routes.

In addition to traffic volume, BTTF volunteers also took note of the number of cyclists riding on sidewalks. Cycling on sidewalks is illegal in Manitoba but many people still do — 52% of cyclists were observed riding on the sidewalk this year, although whether they did or not varied greatly depending on the location, with the highest percentage happening on major arteries, bridges and underpasses.

Helmet usage was also documented; 67% of commuter cyclists wore helmets (more women than men), a figure that has been slowly increasing.

Helmet use was the subject of much discussion earlier this year, prompted by the Manitoba government’s musing about implementing mandatory helmet laws for all citizens — something that’s been done in other provinces. In May, the provincial government introduced somewhat softer legislation, mandating helmets only for riders under the age of 18.

Hull says sidewalk riding and helmet usage relate to continued personal safety concerns of people riding bikes.

“What you see is that a higher percentage of people are wearing helmets among the road users than the sidewalks,” he says.

“People are sorting themselves out a little bit by their comfort level, by their feelings about safety and about whether they’re serious, daily commuters or more causal cyclists.”

Certainly, safety concerns are valid. Talk to most cyclists and you’ll hear stories about near misses while riding in traffic — and when accidents do happen, the consequences can be fatal, as Winnipeggers were reminded of this May when 35-year-old Violet Nelson was killed while riding her bike on Higgins Avenue. Nelson was an experienced commuter cycler who had taught road safety to young girls.

Improved facilities aren’t the only factor driving the apparent public interest in cycling as a means of transportation.

Arguably, increased media attention on this issue can be traced to the summer of 2006, when a series of Critical Mass bike rides through Winnipeg’s downtown rush hours prompted a rash of news reports about the palpable friction between bike riders and car drivers (as well as several opinion columns which were openly hostile towards cyclists). In the wake of the public interest spurred on by the media scrutiny came the formation of cycling advocacy groups — Bike to the Future among them — which have subsequently worked to improve conditions on the ground, both through lobbying governments and engaging with citizens.

Combine several years of activism and outreach with heightened public awareness about the environmental, financial and health benefits of cycling, and it’s no surprise more people are starting to use bikes to get where they need to go.

In turn, the growing popularity of cycling in Winnipeg over the past several years has triggered an explosion of local cycling-related activities and services — everything from the active-transportation-themed festival Ciclovia (the fourth annual event takes place this year on Sept. 9) to Bike to Work Day (which has been held every June since 2008) to the opening of increasing numbers of community bike shops offering refurbished parts and free instruction on DIY repairs.

Amanda San Filippo is the coordinator of Bicycle Valet Winnipeg, a portable bike-parking service that was founded in 2010.

“An event books us, we pedal down our equipment and set it up and there’s a perimeter, and we have a number of volunteers and staff that supervise the equipment,” she explains.

Offered free of charge to cyclists, she says the valet works like a coat check at a bar. “We give you a ticket with a number, you take the number and we park the bike for you, and then basically you go do whatever you need to do and we sit there.”

Currently a project of BTTF (the plan is to grow it into a stand-alone organization), Bicycle Valet Winnipeg has been used by small street festivals and Canada Day at The Forks, and can be found at Gate 6 at every Bomber game.

A Winnipegger who just moved back home from Southern Ontario this past February, San Filippo says she was hired on to help market the fledgling service. So far, it’s been an easy task.

“I’m not really contacting anyone — everyone’s contacting me,” she says. “Word has definitely gotten out and people just love it.”

Less easy, San Filippo says, has been re-acclimatizing to Winnipeg’s continued adversarial car-verses-bike culture — especially after experiencing cities in which different modes of transportation are embraced, not pitted against each other.

“It was a little bit of a shock, coming back and realizing that this is just not an overly cyclist-friendly community,” she admits.

Indeed, though a lot has changed with respect to cycling in Winnipeg, there’s still work to be done, particularly with respect to people’s attitudes; spend some time in the online-comments section of any news article on anything cycling-related or visit any cycling-themed local blog and that much becomes clear.

Hull chalks up the ongoing conflict to competition for space on the road.

“We’re sharing streets,” he says. “And even though more cyclists should mean less cars on the road, and cyclists take less room than cars, still, there’s more and more people around doing both.”

Nonetheless, as BTTF’s counts demonstrate, commuter cycling is catching on — and as it has, the collective mindset of Winnipeggers is starting to catch up.

“I think that competition’s going to continue to be there, but I think we’re gradually becoming more mature about how we see it, more sophisticated,” Hull says.

“These are both legitimate forms of transportation and we just have to see how we can make it work.”

To read Bike to the Future’s full 2012 report on commuter cycling in Winnipeg, click here.

Cycling by the numbers

Highlights from Bike to the Future’s 2012 report on commuter cycling in Winnipeg:

• Average estimated number of daily cyclists travelling in and out of downtown Winnipeg over 24 hours on a typical weekday in May or June: 12,435

• Estimated total number of commuter cyclists in Winnipeg: 13,000

• Increase in the number of commuter cyclists in 2012 compared to 2011: 47%

• Increase in the number of commuter cyclists since 2007: 64%

• Highest count recorded at Osborne Bridge during a two-hour period, 2007-2012: 405

• Lowest count recorded at Osborne Bridge during a two-hour period, 2007-2012: 39

• Percentage change in the number of commuter cyclists on Assiniboine Avenue and Hargrave Street (2012 compared to 2011): 140.1%

• Percentage change in the number of commuter cyclists on Grosvenor Avenue at Harrow Street (2012 compared to 2011): 154.5%

• Percentage change in the number of commuter cyclists on the Osborne underpass (2012 compared to 2011): -9.8%

• Percentage change in the number of commuter cyclists on the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge (2012 compared to 2011): -18.4%

• Percentage of cyclists who ride on the sidewalks when on bridges or underpasses: 60%

• Percentage of cyclists who ride on the sidewalks when on secondary streets: 26%

• Percentage of cyclists who wore helmets in 2012: 67%

• Percentage of cyclists who wore helmets in 2009: 52%

• Estimated percentage of female commuter cyclists (2009-2012): 28%

• Estimated percentage of male commuter cyclists (2009-2012): 72%

• Percentage of female cyclists who wore helmets in 2012: 72%

• Percentage of male cyclists who wore helmets in 2012: 62%

• Percentage of cyclists wearing helmets while riding on roads (2012): 81%

• Percentage of cyclists wearing helmets while riding on sidewalks (2012): 59%

— Compiled by Marlo Campbell

Winnipeg cycling surge raises safety concerns

posted at July 31, 2012 00:01 (5 months ago)
July 31, 2012

More Winnipeggers are commuting by bicycle this summer, but some remain concerned about how the influx of cyclists can share the city’s streets safely with motorists.

A new study by Bike to the Future has found that nearly 13,000 people are commuting by bicycle in Winnipeg on a daily basis this year.

That figure is up by 47 per cent compared to last year, and up 64 per cent since the non-profit advocacy group began conducting bicycle counts in 2007.

The City of Winnipeg says it has been working on addressing concerns by those who get nervous about cycling in traffic — it has added more bicycle paths in the past five years, and crews have started building buffered bike lanes on Pembina Highway.

Meanwhile, motorists gave mixed reactions to news that there are more cyclists sharing the road with them.

(This story also includes a two-minute video report.)

University of Manitoba engineering students rebuild bikes for disadvantaged kids

posted at July 27, 2012 00:32 (5 months ago)
July 27, 2012
Lauren Parsons

Nine Winnipeg kids were given newly rebuilt bicycles Friday morning, as part of a volunteer initiative from the University of Manitoba’s Institute of Transportation Engineers Student Chapter.

The U of M ITE Bike Build Project began in fall 2011 when Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub donated 20 broken down bicycles to the group – the group of between 10 to15 people have since been rebuilding the bikes in the U of M’s ‘bike dungeon,’ under the guidance of faculty advisor, Dr. Jeannette Montufar.

“We wanted to make sure the bikes were going to youths of families who wouldn’t necessarily have the means to buy a bike themselves, and we wanted them to be kids who were in the neighbourhood,” said Rebecca Peterniak, vice president of ITE, who said the nine kids selected are from Manitoba Housing apartments in Fort Richmond.

Manitoba Public Insurance sponsored the project with $1,000 for new bike parts and locks, and the Injury Prevention Centre of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority donated 20 new helmets.

At the workshop, kids were fitted to their bikes – to make sure the seat, handle bars, and helmet fits properly – and learned proper bike maintenance, safe riding skills, and how to map out routes.

“I never see anyone – kids or adults – wearing helmets, and we wanted to teach kids about road safety to hopefully prevent injuries or fatalities,” said Peterniak. “We’re also teaching maintenance to encourage the longevity of their bikes.” Each participant received a new bike, helmet, lock, a customized Winnipeg Cycling Map, a lanyard for the lock key, and a water bottle.

The kids and volunteers were excited Friday morning while each personalized bike and kid visited the workshop stations and rode their new bikes for the first time.

CTV Morning News

(4 minute video)

UofManitoba ITE Bike Build project

Construction begins on Pembina Highway bike lane

posted at July 23, 2012 22:44 (5 months ago)
July 23, 2012

Winnipeg cyclists will soon have a buffered bike lane on Pembina Highway.

Construction on the new separated lane running northbound between Crescent and Plaza Drive in Winnipeg began Monday.

Geoff Heath used to cycle on Pembina every day on his way to university. He calls this stretch of road a death trap for cyclists and insists that fixing this one section is not enough.

“While this separated lane is like a great improvement, the lack of connectivity is, I think, quite an issue; something that ideally will be addressed sooner rather than later,” Heath said. “Maybe this is just a piecemeal solution.”

Heath added that the worst spots on Pembina that need to be fixed are through Jubilee Underpass into Osborne Village.

“It’s not a bad start,” Heath said. “I’d love to see Jubilee Underpass addressed, and going over Bishop Grandin… and cloverleaf there can also be a bit messy.”

Work to begin on Pembina bike lanes

Winnipeg Free Press July 20, 2012

Winnipeg is set to begin construction on Pembina Highway bike lanes that will connect to the Bishop Grandin greenway.

On Monday, city crews will start the four-month project, which will see buffered bike lanes added to the curb lane between Crescent and Plaza drives. In a statement, city officials said this is the only feasible route to connect two existing active-transportation paths. The properties on the east side of Pembina Highway back onto the river, and west of Pembina is an industrial area where no residential streets connect Chevrier Boulevard to Bishop Grandin.

When complete, this portion of Pembina Highway will accommodate three lanes of traffic, a buffered bike lane and enhanced bus stops designed for articulated buses.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2012 A6

New bike lanes to be built on Pembina Highway

Winnipeg Free Press July 19, 2012

Winnipeg is set to begin construction on Pembina Highway bike lanes that will connect to the Bishop Grandin greenway.

On Monday, city crews will start the four-month project, which will see buffered bike lanes added to the curb lane between Crescent and Plaza Drives. In a statement, city officials said this is the only feasible route to connect two existing active transportation paths. The properties on the east side of Pembina Highway back onto the river, and west of Pembina is an industrial area where no residential streets connect Chevrier Boulevard to Bishop Grandin.

When complete, this portion of Pembina Highway will accommodate three lanes of traffic, a buffered bike lane and enhanced bus stops designed for articulated buses.

Construction to begin on Pembina Highway Buffered Bike Lanes Project

Project the first-of-its-kind in Winnipeg’s Active Transportation network

City of Winnipeg July 19, 2012

Beginning the week of July 23, 2012, the City of Winnipeg will begin constructing buffered bikes lanes on Pembina Highway between Crescent and Plaza Drives as part of a rehabilitation project.

Over the next four months, the northbound lanes of Pembina Highway will be rehabilitated and buffered bike lanes will be added next to the curb lane on both the northbound and southbound directions. These buffered bike lanes will connect the Bishop Grandin Greenway and the bike route along Crescent Drive.

This section of Pembina Highway is unique on the Active Transportation network, as it is the only feasible route to connect two existing Active Transportation facilities. Normally, adjacent streets with lower traffic volumes would be used for establishing Active Transportation routes. However, the properties on the east side of this section of Pembina Highway back onto the Red River and west of this section is an industrial area where there are no residential streets connecting Chevrier Boulevard to Bishop Grandin Boulevard.

When complete, this portion of Pembina Highway will accommodate three traffic lanes, a buffered bike lane and enhanced bus stops designed to accommodate larger articulated buses and improved delineation for transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists.

This project is another step in applying the Council-adopted Transportation Master Plan as part of OurWinnipeg. These documents outline the vision in which the City should grow in the next 25 years and specifically how the transportation system is to provide mobility options to all Winnipeggers.

(The City’s website page includes illustrations.)

Pembina Highway to get bicycle lanes

cbc.ca — May 24, 2012

Construction set to begin in July

One of Winnipeg’s busiest streets, Pembina Highway, is about to get a bicycle-friendly makeover.

The City of Winnipeg will begin construction in July of dedicated cycling lanes northbound and southbound on Pembina between Chevrier Boulevard and Plaza Drive.

“They’re going to narrow the median, move the vehicles over, and so we’ll have the sidewalk, we’ll have a bike lane, and then we’ll have the same number of lanes for traffic,” Janice Lukes of the Winnipeg Trails Association told CBC News Thursday.

“There won’t be any reduction in traffic, no reduction in parking,” she added.

Lukes said she’s not sure when construction of the lanes will be completed, but she said it’s a priority given the new Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium that is currently being built at the University of Manitoba.

The city is also looking at ways to expand the Pembina Highway underpass to accommodate cyclists as well as add an extra lane of vehicular traffic.

Audio interview of Janice Lukes by CBC Radio One’s Larry Updike on Up To Speed — 5:14

MPI launches new bicycle safety campaign

posted at July 08, 2012 14:41 (6 months ago)
July 06, 2012

Manitoba Public Insurance is launching a new program to educate motorists and cyclists about road safety and the obligation to share the road safely.

Active Transportation (AT) Plan is a three-year program focused on safety for cyclists and pedestrians and raises cycling awareness for drivers.

The ‘Cycling Champion’ program, under the AT Plan, aims to enhance cycling safety programs geared towards children and adults.

All materials to do a presentation are provided at no charge by MPI.

For more information or to register for a workshop, people can call Manitoba Public Insurance Road Safety at 204-985-8737.

MPI’s news release (more info)

Duff Roblin Parkway Trail running along floodway opens

posted at July 04, 2012 06:52 (6 months ago)
July 03, 2012

A 52-kilometre trail along the floodway, named for the brains behind Duff’s ditch, officially opened today.

The Duff Roblin Parkway Trail runs the entire length of the floodway, from Lockport to St. Norbert and includes a new pedestrian bridge across Highway 59 and a floating bridge across the floodway.

Much of the trail has been open for months but the floating bridge completing the trail was just completed last week. Premier Greg Selinger opened the trail Tuesday in Birds Hill Provincial Park, just in time for Folk Fest.

Selinger said the trail is part of a larger network of trails, including the Trans Canada Trail, that promote active living and transportation.

The trail is mostly gravel, with some paved sections through Birds Hill.

CTV News (1:11 video)

Province of Manitoba news release

Background info with a map

Active transport plan unveiled

posted at June 22, 2012 12:13 (6 months ago)
June 23, 2012
Larry Kusch

There was more tolerance and respect on city streets Friday between motorists and cyclists — and the province’s local government minister would like to see that happen more than one day a year.

The well-publicized Bike to Work Day saw thousands of Winnipeggers don helmets and pedal to their jobs. By all accounts, riders and drivers got along on the way to work, despite all the extra two-wheeled traffic.

Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux chose the day to unveil a three-year active transportation action plan he hopes will help lead to a permanent increase in cycling.

It includes pledges of funding and technical support to municipalities to develop active transportation infrastructure and efforts to promote more understanding between cyclists and drivers.

“I’m personally very concerned with improving awareness of motorists so that the tragic collisions we’ve seen recently can be avoided,” Lemieux said at a press conference. “We need to find better ways of balancing the needs and rights of all users of roadways (so they) get to their destinations safely and feel secure while they’re doing so.”

Lemieux, who lives outside the city, said he was impressed with the consideration he witnessed between motorists and cyclists as he drove in to work on Friday.

He said the government is working on ways to ease tensions between the two groups since “active transportation is only going to increase.”

The program he announced Friday was lean on specifics and lacked a dollar figure. Lemieux said initiatives will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months as the province consults further with stakeholders. He also said the province would press hard for the funding of active transportation improvements under a new Building Canada capital projects fund (involving all three levels of government), which is expected to be unveiled in a couple of years.

In the spring sitting of the legislature, the Selinger government passed legislation giving municipalities more authority to set rules governing bicycle traffic within their boundaries. That is expected to set the stage for future active transportation improvements.

Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said his group supported the legislation and hopes future active transportation infrastructure spending will help promote local tourism.

“Each community has something unique they want to showcase. So this gives another opportunity for people to come to these communities and see what’s outside the city of Winnipeg,” he said Friday.

Janice Lukes, who chairs the province’s Active Transportation Advisory Group, called Lemieux’s announcement a good start. She applauded the fact the province has appointed an active transportation co-ordinator — Vicky Reaney. But Lukes would have liked to have seen a funding commitment.

“I’m still challenged by the fact that there’s over $500 million spent on roadways this year and we haven’t heard a dedicated amount… put into active transportation,” she said.

Meanwhile, Anika Terton, who bikes to work between April and October, said Friday the key to improved cycling safety is simply getting more people out riding bikes, whether they use them to get to work or not.

“I felt safer today because there were more cyclists on the road, and I felt there was more respect because there were more cyclists on the road,” she said.

“I think if you cycle and drive your car, you respect cyclists more when you’re in your car.”


Manitoba’s active transportation plan

— Develop design guidelines for active transportation infrastructure.

— Provide new funding and technical support to help municipalities integrate AT planning with other land use and transportation planning and development.

— Launch a new online portal with AT resources and an inventory of cycling routes across the province.

— Work to complete the Borders to Beaches section of the Trans Canada Trail (from the Ontario border to Grand Beach).

— Construct a new AT overpass at the north Perimeter Highway to extend the popular Northeast Pioneers Greenway, which runs along Gateway Road.

— Work with Manitoba Public Insurance to raise awareness of safety issues concerning cyclists and pedestrians.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2012 B2

Additional local media:

Greater Strides: Taking Action on Active Transportation.

Province Launches Three-Year Action Plan On Active Transportation (the Province’s news release)

  • Note: The “Provincial AT Coordinator/Community Liaison” is Vicky Reaney, who has a masters degree in City Planning, and who was a director of BttF from 2009 to 2011.

The Province’s Active Transportation page

Stolen bikes not on police radar

posted at June 16, 2012 11:58 (6 months ago)
June 14, 2012
Gordon Sincair Jr

Another opportunity lost to catch a bicycle thief in city

Some questions have been raised this week as a result of something that happened to one of the thousands of people who have their bikes stolen each year in this city.

The questions are these:

How much does the Winnipeg Police Service really care about finding bike thieves? And how much does it really care about finding and returning your bike? The questions were raised — to a level just shy of a scream — after Rejean Robert, a 33-year-old Fort Rouge resident contacted the Free Press about the theft of two bikes last Saturday afternoon; a $700 mountain bike he rode to work and a $600 model belonging to his fiancée. Initially, the police response appeared positive. Within a few hours, two patrol officers took a statement from a witness.

Actually, the witness had done more than just watch, he took photos, and then followed the thieves for six blocks to a walk-up apartment block on Corydon Avenue near Confusion Corner, where he saw them take the bikes. Rejean thought, given that kind of lead, police would follow it. And fast.

But they didn’t.

So the next day, Rejean and his fiancée, Brenda, decided to follow the lead themselves, right to that apartment block on Corydon.

With the help of the caretaker, they not only found Brenda’s bike, but a large stash of other bikes and bike parts in a basement locker and second-floor apartment. All of which suggested they had stumbled on a stolen-bike ring that was operating a chop shop out of the building.

I wrote about all of this on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, police, who had assigned detectives to the case on Monday, had executed a search warrant at the apartment block.

By that time, the bikes were gone.

But police arrested one suspect there and another the next day downtown, both of whom were charged with possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000. They’re still looking for a third suspect.

The arrests make police — or at least these officers — look better.

Except the police service had known for weeks that a bike ring was at work in the area, and according to what the caretaker told Rejean, they had been alerted more than once about the suspicious goings-on at the Corydon apartment.

But police hadn’t responded.

What’s even more disturbing is this doesn’t appear to be an isolated case.

Ruth Smith owns a 16-suite apartment block on St. Mary’s Road, and when she read about Rejean’s experience, she sent me an email.

Late last month, Ruth said she discovered 12 bikes and assorted bike parts stashed under a basement stairwell in her building. So she took it upon herself to investigate, much like the witness did in last weekend’s case.

“I proceeded to phone and talk directly to every tenant in the 16-suite block,” Ruth wrote.

Fifteen of the tenants told her none of the bikes belonged to them. But when Tenant 16 didn’t get back to her, Ruth decided to record all the bike serial numbers and call police.

But when she called police, they brushed her off.

“They said they wouldn’t come to check as there was no proof of illegal activity.”

There’s more.

“When I offered to record the serial numbers, they said I could but someone could just say they found them. Basically, they said, never mind.”

The next day, Tenant 16 was spotted removing the 12 bikes and bike parts from the basement. Later, he would tell Ruth he took the bikes to his brother’s place. On hearing that, Ruth called police again, and again got the brush-off. He could be repairing friends’ bikes or buying and selling bikes, police told her.

“And they had no reason to investigate.”

We all know there are lot of good cops doing a lot of good work, and there’s a never-ending load of work to do. I also know it’s not uncommon for general-patrol officers to find bikes, run their serial numbers and then stuff them in their trunks and return them to their owners.

But then there’s what appears to be institutional apathy about bike theft, as if it doesn’t matter. Police don’t even track stolen bikes as a separate theft category, leaving the city to estimate reported cases at 3,000 annually, which means there are probably another 3,000 stolen that go unreported. On a national scale, the number is more like 200,000, which amounts to losses in the tens of millions of dollars.

Of this much I can assure you: If it were a bank being robbed at that rate, police wouldn’t be telling citizens such as Ruth Smith that their tip didn’t matter. But we’re not talking about banks, we’re talking about bikes.

Big wheels, versus little ones.

And that’s just the way the world goes around.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2012 B1

Why police didn’t bust bike thieves?

Everyone can relax now.

Well, maybe not everyone.

Winnipeg police want you to know they are hot on the trail of what appears to be a ring of bike thieves.

Although they didn’t appreciate my writing about the case Tuesday, the suggestion being that by alerting the thieves, I’ve made finding them more difficult.

More difficult?

Let’s just do a little backtracking here. Back to around noon last Saturday when four locked bikes were stolen from under an apartment fire escape in Fort Rouge. As it turns out, there are a lot more than four bikes involved in this investigation.

And a lot more at stake for police.

That’s because of what happened after the four bikes were stolen and what a couple of patrol officers did — and didn’t do — about it.

What they did was respond promptly later that Saturday afternoon to the apartment of Rejean Robert and Brenda Harder, who were without their two bikes.

Police responded because a witness had reported what he’d seen.

The witness, a 32-year-old neighbour, not only saw what happened, he took photographs of the thieves in action and then followed two members of what appears to be a stolen-bike ring and chop-shop operation.

The witness not only tracked the thieves to a walk-up apartment on Corydon Avenue near Confusion Corner, he recovered one of the four bikes and prevented another bike from being stolen by interrupting the theft in progress.

Pretty impressive.

But it was tracking them to the apartment that would turn out to be the big score. Because, the next day, using a lead provided by his good neighbour the witness, Robert went to the apartment block and recovered his fiancée’s bike.

By that time, his bike — the one he used to get to work — was long gone.

It was the block’s caretaker who first led Robert to a basement locker full of bikes and bike parts and then took him upstairs where the caretaker knocked on a door behind which were more bikes and bike parts.

Why would Robert put himself at risk like that?

Because of what the two patrol officers didn’t do after they responded to his home to take a report on Saturday.

The officers didn’t go to the apartment block on Corydon where the witness saw the thieves take their stolen bikes, one worth $700 and the other about $600.

It was the patrol officer not following the lead to the apartment block on Corydon that outraged Robert and prompted him to contact the Free Press.

“I told them I had the address,” Robert recalled Wednesday when we spoke again.

“And what they told me was they can’t go knocking on doors.”


That’s also what Winnipeg Police Service public information officer Const. Jason Michalyshen suggested to me when we spoke earlier this week, although he put it slightly differently.

He said police can’t go kicking in doors, at least not without a search warrant.

“There’s a process we have to follow.”

He said he understands the victim’s frustration, but sometimes police can’t act as quickly as they’d like to.

“We can’t snap our fingers,” is how Michalyshen put it.

All true, but not totally true.

When I spoke to a former senior Winnipeg police officer, he said if the patrol officers had driven the six blocks from the scene of the theft to the Corydon apartment, they could have secured the scene and sought a search warrant.

So, why didn’t they go?

Michalyshen said he didn’t know.

I asked him something else.

According to Robert, the caretaker said he had reported suspicious activity at the apartment to police more than once, prior to last weekend.

But police hadn’t responded.

I asked Michalyshen if he could verify that.

He said he couldn’t.

What he could tell me, though, was that prior to last weekend, police in District 6 had been aware there had been a rash of stolen bikes in the Fort Rouge area.

And beyond.

Last month, Gord’s Ski & Bike on Donald Street had been hit by professional thieves three times for a total of eight bikes, including a couple worth $8,000 each.

And by Tuesday, when the column appeared, Robert quickly learned he wasn’t alone because of Facebook messages from others in the neighbourhood who’d had bikes stolen.

Were the two patrol officers aware there had been a rash of stolen bikes in the area?

Michalyshen said he didn’t know.

What the WPS spokesman could tell me about how police handled the case was this:

The officers in charge of the patrol officers who took Robert’s report on Saturday are “very pleased” with the thoroughness of their work.

And, police made no mistakes.

But then, when do they ever? Or at least, ever admit they did?

But we should give the last words to the victim. Words that cut through all the police we-don’t-knows, to what Rejean Robert knows:

“We had a witness, pictures, an address… what more do they need to help protect the property of citizens?”



3,000 — estimated number of bikes reported stolen annually in Winnipeg.

1,500 — estimated number of bikes recovered annually.

10-12 — percentage of recovered bikes returned to owners in Winnipeg.

100,000 — estimated number of stolen bikes reported stolen annually in Canada. 200,000 — estimated total number of bikes stolen annually across Canada.

Sources: City of Winnipeg, TD Insurance

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2012 B1

Chop shop but no cop

Bike thieves’ pictures and address seem insufficient for police

What would you do?

I mean, what would you do if someone stole your $700 mountain bike — and your fiancée’s $600 model — and you called police with the kind of lead you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to follow.

But then you got the feeling police weren’t interested in following it.

Well, I’ll tell you what 33-year-old Rejean Robert did.

It was Saturday, just after the lunch hour, when Rejean’s soon-to-be wife Brenda Harder saw the note posted on the front door of their Fort Rouge apartment block.

The note had been left by a neighbour who, about an hour earlier, had seen two thieves make off with four bikes that had been locked under an apartment fire escape.

The witness, who could be the poster boy for Neighbourhood Watch, contacted police and took photographs of the thieves pulling off one of the most common and frustrating Winnipeg crimes. Not only that, but he made like a cop and trailed them in his vehicle and watched as they hauled the bikes to a walk-up apartment on Corydon.

Minus one of the bikes, which he found stashed in the bush and returned to the owner.

But that’s only part of the story.

While patrol officers responded that same afternoon, Rejean and Brenda were taken aback by what one of the officers told them.

“They said it was very unlikely they were going to recover our bikes,” Rejean recalled Monday morning.

Police had a witness who had given them a statement. Plus photographs of the crime in progress. And the nearby address where the bikes had been taken.

But that didn’t seem to be enough to track down their bikes the same day.

“That basically told me they weren’t going to go and look,” Rejean said. “I didn’t know what to do at that point.”

By late Sunday afternoon, a day later, he’d had enough of waiting for the police to do nothing.

So he and Brenda paid a visit to the apartment block on Corydon where their bikes had last been seen.

As luck would have it, the apartment caretaker was working outside.

Rejean told the caretaker why they were there and showed him the photos their neighbour had taken of the theft.

The caretaker recognized the people in the photographs right away.

Rejean said the caretaker told them there was what amounts to a bicycle chop shop being run out of the one of the apartments in the block he looks after, and he had reported it to police more than once.

But they didn’t respond.

Rejean asked the caretaker if police had stopped by that weekend to investigate their complaint.

“He said they never came by.”

Then the caretaker invited them into the block to see what he would have shown police if they had contacted him.

It was a basement storage locker packed with bikes and bike parts.

The caretaker asked Rejean if he wanted to see if their bikes were there.

Rejean said yes. Brenda said no.

“She was too scared to go up.”

Rejean was nervous, too.

He didn’t know if they had a gun or a knife, or what would happen.

But since the caretaker was with him, Rejean climbed the stairs.

There, propped up in the hall, Rejean spotted what he recognized right away as Brenda’s bike.

The caretaker knocked on the door.

And when a young man opened the door, there were more bike parts and more bikes, but nothing that resembled his.

The young man in the apartment said he had paid $50 for it, so it was his.

By that time, hearing the dispute in progress, Brenda had joined them.

The guy in the apartment was demanding to see their purchase receipt for the bike he’d just bought. Rejean and Brenda said they wanted to see his.

And then Rejean and Brenda called his bluff.

They suggested they call police and the cops could resolve it.

At which point the dispute over the bike was resolved, because the guy with all the bikes and bike parts wanted nothing to do with police.

What he didn’t know, though, is apparently the police didn’t want anything to do with the guy in the apartment, either.

Police didn’t return repeated requests for comment on Monday.

But late Monday afternoon, Rejean called to say he had just received a text from the neighbour who witnessed the crime in progress, took the photos and followed the thieves. He had been contacted by police, and a detective was coming to see him.

To take notes, no doubt.

Which is what I did when I finally reached the poster boy for Neighbourhood Watch Monday. And he said this:

“I did what I hope any neighbour would do.”


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2012 B1

Closing gaps in Winnipeg’s bike network

posted at June 12, 2012 22:32 (6 months ago)
June 11, 2012
Colin Fast

Winnipeg has made a lot of progress as a cycling city in recent years.

New multi-use trails have been built, on-street bike lanes have been painted, more bike parking has been added, and bike routes are even plowed in the winter.

It’s no surprise that making it easier to get around town has boosted interest in cycling.

While the two-wheel crowd is enjoying the new infrastructure, there are still several holes in the system that can make it confusing and dangerous to get from one pathway to another.

Take the example of a group of cyclists trying to make their way from River Heights to the new rapid-transit line. They head east on the pathway along Taylor Avenue, make a right on to Harrow, and then …

“OHMYGOD! That’s Pembina! We’re all going to die!“

You see, to your average cyclist, Pembina Highway is like Kryptonite: You avoid it at all costs, because eventually it will kill you.

At this particular juncture, our cyclists have two choices: White-knuckle it under the rail bridge and the Jubilee overpass, or ride up the embankment of the rail bridge, jump over the tracks, then scramble across traffic onto the overpass.

Obviously, neither option is particularly safe.

This is why local cycling advocates call this “the Pembina Gap,” and have identified it as one of the critical missing links in Winnipeg’s cycling network.

Yet when the city released concepts for an overhaul of the Pembina underpass recently, only one of three designs included a safe, direct way for cyclists or pedestrians to get across the street.

It’s this gap in transportation planning that disappoints Janice Lukes of the Winnipeg Trails Association, who has been pushing the city to improve connections between different pathways.

“We’ve built a lot of multi-use trails and on-street infrastructure in the past few years, and there’s more and more people wanting to use them,” she says.

“So we need to fill the gaps now, purely from a safety perspective.”

In addition to the Pembina Gap, Lukes points to other problem areas along Osborne Street, St. Mary’s Road and throughout northwest Winnipeg.

She says bridges are bad chokepoints for bike traffic, and wonders why the Osborne Bridge rehabilitation didn’t include a separated bike lane.

However, there are some encouraging signs.

New pedestrian/cycling bridges over the Red River and the Perimeter will allow people to ride all the way from The Forks to Birds Hill Park on dedicated trails within five years.

And the city begins construction next month on what Lukes calls “the Holy Grail of bike infrastructure” in Winnipeg: A bike lane that separates cyclists from traffic by using bollards along several blocks of Pembina Highway.

“This is by far the most important piece of the puzzle,” says Lukes, who hopes the new bike lane can be a model for other high-traffic roadways, like Portage Avenue.

“The safety it’s going to provide for users is incredible, and we know that improving safety is essential to getting more cyclists on the road.”

Local NDP members want increased funding for bike lanes and trails

posted at June 03, 2012 17:55 (7 months ago)
June 03, 2012
Larry Kusch

Manitoba New Democrats want the province to step up funding for bicycle lanes and trails to promote a healthier population and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As their three-day convention wound up on Sunday, party members passed a comprehensive active transportation policy that would assure long-term funding to municipalities. The policy would also ensure that a dedicated percentage of future road building costs be earmarked for active transportation.

Mark Cohoe, a delegate from Fort Garry-Riverview constituency, noted that while the government is spending $586 million on roads this year, it’s devoting less money to active transportation than it did last year because of the expiration of some programs that have not been renewed.

Cohoe, who sat on a provincial active transportation advisory group last year that produced more than 20 recommendations, said more people would ride their bikes if they felt they could do it safely hence the need for a greater investment in bike lanes.

He noted that traffic counts at Winnipeg’s Maryland Bridge, which has relatively generous bike lanes, show an 11 per cent year-over-year increase in cycling traffic.

“If you build it, they do come,” he told delegates.

The party policy adopted today encourages the government to work with school divisions to introduce a comprehensive multi-year cycling skills curriculum for school-aged children.

The policy also calls for the establishment of a provincial director or commissioner of active transportation.

The motion, which is not binding on the government, is one of dozens passed at the NDP’s three-day convention, which featured an address Saturday by federal leader Thomas Mulcair.

A highly anticipated resolution recommending that the provincial sales tax be raised by one percentage point and the proceeds used to repair municipal infrastructure was deferred.


My life as a cyclist

posted at May 28, 2012 21:35 (7 months ago)
May 27, 2012
Amanda San Filippo

I expected conservative attitudes when I returned to Winnipeg, but driver disdain was a shocker

I recently came home to Winnipeg after a five-year hiatus.

I knew moving back to this city I’d be dealing with typical Winnipeg conservatism. We’ve always been slow to evolve. Coupled with the fact the typical North American city has been designed around the automobile, I was prepared for a slight regression in cycling culture and, consequently, less tolerant drivers.

What I was not prepared for was the actual disdain so many drivers seem to have for cyclists, to the point where my life has intentionally been put at risk. For these reasons, I often pick and choose when to follow the rules. Let me explain:

I arrive at a stop sign. I slow down, but don’t come to a complete stop, because I’ll hold traffic up too much. A driver yells at me: “It’s called a stop sign for a reason!” as he gently rolls through the stop sign himself. Wanting to avoid another outburst, I decide to come to a complete stop at the next intersection. The driver behind me grows impatient and decides to pull up beside me. I arrived at the intersection before the car approaching the intersection to my left, but the car that pulled up beside me arrived after. Since it is my turn to go, I proceed cautiously, only to have the driver to my left flip me off, because he had to stop in the middle of the intersection to let me go.

This doubling-up (bike and car in the same lane) is especially common when making left turns. I can’t clear an intersection as quickly as a car. If I am not commanding my lane, drivers will often drive up beside me to try to clear the intersection before me. This can be dangerous because I have to get from the left curb on one side of the intersection to the right curb on the other. If the car doubles up, and there are other cars behind it, I become sandwiched between the vehicles that should have been behind me and the oncoming traffic.

But when I do try to command my lane, I am often met with anger. I am reminded of one incident when a young woman in an SUV started yelling. Rarely can I make out a person’s words when they are in their car. Naturally, I turned to make sure I was not in any danger. Her turn signal appeared just as I looked behind me. I didn’t notice it right away. This infuriated her even more, at which point she stepped on the gas and squealed her tires, nearly knocking me off my bike.

I wish I could say these were isolated incidents. They are not. I am met with this type of impatience, belligerence and often danger, every day. I’ll often cycle on the sidewalks, risking a heftier fine than the average speeding ticket. I’m left wondering if this city really does care more about the almighty dollar than the safety of its citizens.

It’s not all bad, though. If cycling were really so bad, I wouldn’t do it. I’ve designed some coping mechanisms. For one, I couple an obnoxiously large helmet with an airheaded smile. People seem less inclined to yell at you if they think you’re missing a few screws. I am also overly courteous to drivers who are respectful of me, even when they are visibly irritated. I often wave and thank them for their patience. Generally, they smile back. You’d be surprised how much a smile from a stranger can make a person forget their annoyance.

I try to de-escalate where I can. Last month, I was biking down River Avenue. The parked cars were lined up leading up to Osborne Street. If I stayed in the curb lane, I risked having someone open their door in my face. This happens more often than one would think. So, I biked in the next lane. On this particular day, a car started honking while approaching me from behind. This is particularly dangerous, as the sudden sound of a horn startles a cyclist, causing them to lose balance or instinctively swerve into another lane. My partner, who was cycling in front of me, approached the driver at a red light, and asked why he had honked at me. The driver quickly became defensive and told us to meet him in the parking lot up ahead. He came out of his car, fists clenched, threw his hat to the ground and said: “What’s your problem? You looked pretty far out in your lane there. You wanna fight, buddy?” This isn’t the first time a driver has threatened to fight us, simply for asking them why they were yelling. My partner informed him we weren’t looking to fight. We explained to him we were simply trying to avoid opening car doors. He looked at us begrudgingly, fists still clenched, and huffed: “I’m just really having a bad day. I’m sorry I took it out on you,” and stomped off. I thought, “Well, it’s a start.”

Amanda San Filippo is the coordinator for Bicycle Valet Winnipeg, and is such an avid cyclist, she decided to sell her car.

Confessions of a Winnipeg sidewalk cyclist

Winnipeg Free Press by Sarah Whiteford

I am a criminal, and the offence of cycling on the sidewalk in Winnipeg could land me a fine of $110. But the alternative of cycling along the very busy and far-too-narrow thoroughfare of St. Mary’s Road during my daily commute seems far more risky.

Most of the 12-kilometre route lacks any form of cycling-friendly infrastructure, with no dedicated paths or bike lanes and only a few short sections of diamond lanes.

Several times I have attempted cycling on the road, jostling for position among the multitude of cars during the morning and evening rush hours. While the aggressive and belligerent drivers are no picnic, much more frightening are those drivers who fail to notice you are there.

Manitoba Healthy Living states on its website that, on average, 150 cyclists are hospitalized or killed every year in the province.

This week in Winnipeg, cyclist Violet Nelson fell victim to that statistic when her bicycle collided with a vehicle, throwing her into the path of a semi-trailer.

While the details of that accident are not known, what has been demonstrated by research is cycling safety is correlated with having the transportation infrastructure for cycling.

Anne Harris, an epidemiologist and investigator with the Bicyclists’ Injuries and the Cycling Environment Study at the University of British Columbia, states “More and more, we’re seeing evidence that dedicated cycling infrastructure on roads, separated from motor vehicles, protects cyclists from injuries.”

In contrast to dedicated cycling lanes or tracks, cycling on the sidewalk does pose a high risk for injury.

Vehicles at intersections frequently do not look for fast-moving traffic on sidewalks.

Sidewalks are multi-purpose trails and may be used by a variety of persons, including pedestrians, in-line skaters and those using motorized scooters. In order to minimize the risk to others and myself during my commute, I leave very early in the morning when the sidewalks are relatively free from traffic.

My bicycle is outfitted with many forms of safety equipment, including a bell, front and rear lights and additional reflective tape.

I generally go much slower on the sidewalks, moving onto the grass when passing pedestrians and reducing my speed as I approach each intersection.

While occasionally a pedestrian will object to my presence on the sidewalk, most give me a wave or wish me a good day as I swerve past.

But when I do come across one of my fellow cyclists who is braving the morning commute on the road, I hang my head in shame, feeling as though I am somehow letting down the side.

The City of Winnipeg has announced that in July it will begin construction of a dedicated cycling lane along Pembina Highway.

And while the city also has many existing cycling paths along major arteries, such as Bishop Grandin Boulevard, the infrastructure for the many cyclists who commute downtown each day is still woefully lacking.

So, until this infrastructure improves, I am afraid I will likely continue my life of crime by cycling on the sidewalk.

Sarah Whiteford is a policy manager for the provincial government.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2012 A19

Cyclist killed on Higgins Avenue was passionate mentor, volunteer

posted at May 26, 2012 06:51 (7 months ago)
May 25, 2012
Mary Agnes Welch

A longtime North End volunteer who died Wednesday in a bike accident was an expert cyclist who always followed safety rules.

Violet Nelson taught dozens of neighbourhood girls proper road safety and organized a 15-kilometre bike-a-thon when she ran the North End’s aboriginal Girl Guides program.

“She biked for transportation. She didn’t like the idea of driving a vehicle,” said her mother, also named Violet Nelson. “She didn’t like the pollution.”

At the time of the accident, the mother of two was cycling the few blocks from her work as the finance manager of a cutting-edge art gallery to the Native Women’s Transition Centre, where she planned to join two of the province’s most powerful politicians for a news conference.

Nelson, who chaired the NWTC’s volunteer board, worked for years on a new halfway house for former female inmates. Premier Greg Selinger and St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover were on hand Wednesday to open the 15-unit lodge meant to help offenders get back on their feet and reunite with their children.

“She was always late,” her mom said with a small laugh. “But I knew something was wrong when she didn’t show up. That was a very important project to her.”

In a short interview, Lucille Bruce, executive director of the NWTC, said staff was in shock over Nelson’s death.

Nelson was cycling westbound on Higgins, just past Main Street, when she was in collision with a westbound vehicle in the curb lane. The collision threw her under the wheels of a semi-trailer, also travelling westbound, in the median lane. The driver of the semi wasn’t aware that he had run over Nelson and continued on. He was later contacted by police.

Nelson, known as Vie to all her friends, leaves behind two young children — an 11-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son.

“Her life revolved around them,” her mother said.

She was very fit and sporty and had a wall full of trophies, her mom added.

She suffered from dyslexia and dropped out of school a few credits into her Grade 9 year. But she was a whiz with numbers and later taught herself all kinds of administrative skills. Most recently, she was the finance manager at the Graffiti Gallery on Higgins Avenue.

Nelson was an avid volunteer from the time she was in grade school at Faraday School in the North End, where she also routinely stuck up for her brother when he got picked on. As a teen, she spent nine months as a Katimavik youth volunteer in Quebec. Later, when she was on staff at the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, she founded the aboriginal Girl Guides, recruiting and training the leaders and designing the curriculum for a program that quickly spread into several low-income neighbourhoods. It was through the Guides that she offered bike riding and safety lessons, and organized the bike-a-thon.

“She was a very passionate woman. She’d come into the room and she’d light up the room,” her mom said. “She knew how to get people doing things.”

A wake is planned for Wednesday at Thunderbird House, likely beginning at 6 p.m. A formal service will follow Thursday at 11 a.m. at Thunderbird House.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2012 B1

Cyclist killed in crash was chair of women’s centre

CBC News

The cyclist killed by a semi-trailer in Winnipeg on Wednesday was the board chair of the Native Women’s Transition Centre (NWTC).

Violet Nelson, 35, was struck while she was riding to an event to celebrate the grand opening of Kihiw Iskewock (Eagle Women) Lodge, which will provide transitional housing for aboriginal women exiting correctional facilities. Police secure the scene of the fatal crash in the 200 block of Higgins Avenue on Wednesday.Police secure the scene of the fatal crash in the 200 block of Higgins Avenue on Wednesday. (Ron Dhaliwal/CBC)

Nelson, who was scheduled to speak at the event, was quoted in a news release issued in advance.

Lucille Bruce, executive director of the NWTC, confirmed to CBC News that the organization’s board chair was killed.

“We’re just really in shock,” Bruce said Thursday.

“We are just trying to cope with the loss of her, and it’s very difficult at this time.”

Nelson was riding on Higgins Avenue, just west of Main Street, shortly before 11 a.m. when she collided with a car then fell into the path of a semi-trailer.

Bruce said Nelson was highly committed to helping vulnerable aboriginal women.

“She was incredibly committed to this organization and put hours and hours of volunteer work. We’re just so saddened by this tragedy and we’ll miss her,” she said.

Cyclist killed in collision on Higgins identified

Winnipeg Free Press

A female cyclist who was killed in a collision on Higgins Avenue late Wednesday morning has been identified as Violet Nelson, chair of the Native Women’s Transition Centre in Winnipeg.

Nelson was 35.

“We’re all in shock over this tragedy,” said Lucille Bruce, executive director of the NWTC, in a short interview with the Free Press.

She declined to discuss Nelson’s death further.

Nelson was heading to the grand opening of the Kihiw Iskewock Lodge about 11 a.m. when the bicycle she was riding was in collision with a vehicle and she fell into the path of a semi-trailer. She died at the scene.

She was also on staff with the Graffiti Gallery on Higgins Avenue.

Female cyclist dies on Higgins after falling into semi’s path

Winnipeg Free Press

A 35-year-old cyclist was killed in Winnipeg Wednesday morning when she collided with a vehicle and fell into the path of a semi-trailer.

Police said the woman on the bicycle and a vehicle collided while both were travelling west on Higgins Avenue just west of Main Street around 11 am.

The collision caused the cyclist to fall into the path of a semi-trailer that was also headed west.

The driver of the first vehicle remained on the scene, but the truck’s driver was unaware of the incident and continued westbound. Investigators later located the semi and driver.

The cyclist’s family was notified of her death and police said her name would not be released.

Higgins Avenue was closed between King and Main streets for most of the afternoon.

Police said their investigation is ongoing.

Investigators didn’t say if anyone would face charges.

Manitoba proposes helmet law for young cyclists

posted at May 24, 2012 08:41 (7 months ago)
May 23, 2012
The Canadian Press

Manitoba children and teenagers will soon be required to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

The NDP government tabled legislation Wednesday that would require anyone under 18 to don a helmet while cycling. The law will not cover adults, at least not initially.

“We decided as a first step to work with people under 18 and focus on them,” said Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau.

“We’re going to then monitor it and see how we can proceed in the future.”

The legislation mirrors existing laws in Ontario and other provinces, but stops short of laws in Nova Scotia and British Columbia that cover adults as well.

Parents of kids who break the law could be fined, but Rondeau said the aim of the law is to educate people more than penalize them.

Much like seat belt laws did with driving, Rondeau is hoping the helmet law will convince people that wearing a helmet is integral to riding a bike.

Physicians in Manitoba and other groups started pushing for the helmet law years ago, saying it would reduce the number of head injuries suffered by cyclists.

Dr. Patrick McDonald, a Winnipeg pediatric neurosurgeon, said the law should cover adults, too.

“There’s nothing more protective about an adult’s skull and brain versus a 17-year-old’s. When your head hits the concrete … the impact is the same,” he said Wednesday.

McDonald has seen the damage first-hand.

“Where helmets often make the biggest difference is if you literally just fall off your bike and your head hits the road. It’s not necessarily a high-velocity injury but I’ve seen people die from just that kind of a fall.”

McDonald said he treats at least one person a year who suffered severe head injuries while cycling without a helmet.

Every time, he has written a letter to Rondeau and the premier’s office, urging them to pass a helmet law.

The proposed law is a turnaround for the NDP. The government did not support private members’ bills that were put forward by the Liberals four times over the past decade.

In 2010, researchers at the University of Manitoba and the University of Ottawa released a study that said cyclists were much more likely to wear helmets in provinces with helmet laws.

Usage topped 80 per cent in Nova Scotia, while only one-quarter of Manitoba cyclists wore helmets, the study said.

Wear those bike helmets, kids

NDP introduces law making headgear mandatory for those under 18

Winnipeg Free Press, Larry Kusch

After refusing for years to mandate the use of bicycle helmets, the Manitoba NDP relented with legislation that will require cyclists under the age of 18 to don protective headgear.

Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau, who introduced the legislation on Wednesday, said the government’s approach was to rely first on public education and programs that provided free or inexpensive helmets to preschool and school-age children. Those programs saw 80,000 helmets distributed to kids over the past half-dozen years, he said.

Introducing a bike-helmet law was “the next logical step,” Rondeau said Wednesday.

“The amendments introduced today are a critical step forward in protecting our children and young cyclists and preventing serious injuries and fatalities,” Rondeau said.

Anke Sinclair, a mother of two boys, Mehru, 9, and Yannick, 3, said her children use helmets.

“I think it’s a safety issue. I think if they do fall — whatever the cause — I think it will protect their heads,” she said.

Sinclair said she thinks there needs to be more education for motorists around cyclists.

“Me, as a cyclist, I see that some motorists don’t really know what to do with me,” said Sinclair.

She said she’s spoken to other people who want to ride their bikes more, but “do not feel safe.”

Sinclair also said it’s very important to improve bike lanes in the city.

Rondeau told reporters he doesn’t expect police will be handing out many tickets once the bill is passed and proclaimed. He did not indicate when the new law would take effect.

“We’re not going to have a lot of cops chasing kids — ever,” Rondeau said, noting that in jurisdictions with similar legislation “very, very few tickets are given out.”

What the government is counting on, he said, is once a law is in effect, folks will understand it and obey it. “The major goal is to get people to know the law.”

Manitoba is one of only four provinces without some kind of bicycle-helmet law. Several jurisdictions, such as Alberta and Ontario, have had laws in place for a decade or more, while four provinces require all cyclists wear helmets.

In provinces where child bicycle-helmet use is mandatory, compliance rates are 80 per cent or more. The usage rate in Manitoba sits at 42 per cent among children.

The Manitoba Liberals have beat the drum for a bike-helmet law since 2006, but every time one of its members introduced a private member’s bill touting a bike law, it was shot down by the ruling NDP. Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard said he was “very pleased that the government at last has listened” to his party and introduced the legislation. But he said it should have applied to adults as well as children.

A Winnipeg pediatric neurosurgeon agreed. “There’s nothing more protective about an adult’s skull and brain versus a 17-year-old’s. When your head hits the concrete… the impact is the same,” Dr. Patrick McDonald told The Canadian Press.

Rondeau didn’t rule out expanding the helmet law to cover adults, but he said for now the government was content to apply it only to kids. He said children are less-experienced riders and prone to “the most risky behaviours” on a bicycle. “We’ll monitor (the legislation) to see if we have to go further in the next little while.”

Charles Feaver, a spokesman for the Winnipeg cycling group Bike to the Future, said he is disappointed the government isn’t doing more to protect cyclists. He noted his organization is split on whether bike-helmet use should be legislated.

The province should be doing more to promote cycling as a healthy form of transportation and to educate motorists and cyclists on road safety, he said. Right now, many people are discouraged from riding their bikes because of safety fears.

“We’d much rather they (the government) spent an effort on making cycling safer rather than protecting us from our own crashes,” Feaver said.

In some countries, such as Holland and Denmark, bike usage is much higher and injury rates are lower because of better laws, bike infrastructure and education, he said.

“In this legislation, government is telling Manitobans: ‘Our roads are dangerous for cyclists, so wear a helmet to protect yourself.’ This is a Band-Aid solution,” Feaver said.

Will Belford, a mechanic/owner at Natural Cycle on Albert Street, said there are “many different aspects” of safety on the road.

“As it stands right now, for Winnipeggers, it is still dangerous,” he said. “Given the complexity of the situation, helmets for minors… would not be a mistake in my mind. Children are certainly at most risk because they have the least experience riding on roads, and that’s really where most of the accidents happen.”

— with files from Gabrielle Giroday


Cycling injuries (2005-2009)

An average of 165 cycling-related injuries requiring hospitalization occurred each year in Manitoba between 2005 and 2009, the most recent period for which statistics are available. Forty-five per cent of these injuries involved children.

An average of 22 people per year were hospitalized for cycling-related head injuries during that time. About half were children.

13 people, including one child, died as a result of cycling mishaps between 2005 and 2009.

— source: Province of Manitoba

What’s proposed:

All Manitobans under 18 years of age would be required to wear a proper helmet when riding a bicycle.

Exemptions would be made on religious grounds. Kids riding on private property would also be exempt.

Children under age 14 would not be prosecuted for failing to wear a helmet, but their parents would face fines of up to $50.

Provision would be made for alternatives to fines for a first offence; those alternative penalties are still to be decided.

Kids riding as passengers on a bike or being towed by a bicycle would also be required to wear a helmet.

Helmet safety tips

Buy a helmet that is approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) for use while riding a bicycle.

Replace a helmet that’s got a crack in it, since it might not offer maximum protection.

Ensure the helmet fits properly and is adjusted regularly.

— source: Safety Services Manitoba (formerly Manitoba Safety Council)

Mandatory bike helmet legislation coming for young riders

CTV Winnipeg

Updated: Wed May. 23 2012 15:52:00


The province is proposing to make bike helmets mandatory for cyclists under the age of 18.

New legislation was introduced on Wednesday aimed at improving biking safety for minors.

“In the event of a crash, bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of death and serious head injury by as much as 90 per cent,” said Jim Rondeau, minister of Healthy Living, in a media release. “Unfortunately, recent studies show that many children and youth are still not wearing helmets. Our legislation sends the message that helmets are an important part of bike safety.”

Officials say 347 children were hospitalized for biking injuries between 2005 and 2009. In addition, 54 kids were taken to hospital for head injuries sustained while cycling.

Rondeau says helmet use went up in other provinces after similar laws were introduced.

The minister says those youth caught without helmets could face a modest fine or some equivalent. Public consultations will take place to determine penalties. However, there will be some exceptions, like on religious grounds.

Over the past six years, more than 73,000 helmets have been purchased through the province’s Low Cost Bike Helmet Initiative.

Helmets are mandatory for those under 18 in Ontario and Alberta. Nova Scotia, British Columbia and others require people of all ages to wear helmets.

According to statistics provided by Doctors Manitoba, the provincial medical association, bike helmet laws reduce the amount of head injuries requiring hospitalization by up to 45 per cent.

— with files from The Canadian Press

Video (2:06)

City cyclists deserve more respect

posted at May 24, 2012 08:14 (7 months ago)
May 23, 2012
Arny Hjaltadottir

Spring is here and everyone is out biking, including me. As soon as the weather turns nice I bike everywhere. It is good exercise, gives a different view of the city and a cheap way to get around.

I like to have a destination when I go biking so during the warmer months I bike to the grocery store and haul my loot home in a basket over my back fender. Visiting friends and family on the bike is also a great way to get exercise and save on gas. This year has been great for biking around town as the weather has been very pleasant all of March and April. I started biking early in March.

On weekends I meet with friends for a bike ride in or around Assiniboine Park. Sometimes we take one of the many bike trails in Winnipeg. It is a great time for sharing information with friends as well as meeting new ones. You never know who you might run into on the trails. Watching the trees and bushes spring to life and hearing the birds sing and the frogs in the creeks is a wondrous experience.

Biking on the streets can sometimes be another matter. I often bike on the sidewalk as I don’t like being in traffic. Some drivers can be very ignorant and I have had some incidents that made me wonder if the drivers were blind. One time I was biking down a residential street in the West End and as I passed a car parked on the wrong side of the street I was almost run over by a driver who proceeded to drive on my side of the street, which was the wrong side for him. I barely escaped being hit by going as close to the curb as possible and scraped my leg pretty badly in the process. I was furious to say the least.

Sometimes pedestrians can be pretty ignorant. More than once, I have been biking down a street and a pedestrian walked right in front of me as if I wasn’t there. Luckily for them and myself I have pretty good reflexes and am able to stop quickly. However this is very frustrating and can be dangerous. I sure would like people to be more respectful of us cyclists. If I bike on the sidewalk I always make sure that I respect the pedestrians and warn them of the fact that I am coming, especially when I am behind them.

Arny Hjaltadottir is a West End-based writer.

Proposed Amendments to Highway Traffic Act Would Support More Active Transportation

posted at May 16, 2012 17:12 (7 months ago)
May 16, 2012
Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux

Municipalities Could Set Bylaws On How Cyclists Use Roadways

Proposed amendments would expand the Highway Traffic Act to boost forms of active transportation and help create designated bicycle pathways on existing roads, said Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux after introducing the legislation.

“The proposals will amend the act’s definition of traffic to include bicycles,” said Lemieux. “It means municipalities would have the power to make bylaws that regulate bicycle traffic and adapt the bylaws to the specific needs of their communities, and that will mean more routes for cyclists.”

Commuter cycling is largely an urban activity and the proposed changes would give municipalities a larger role in managing the flow of traffic on their streets and in their neighbourhoods, Lemieux said. Municipal governments are often best positioned to assess routes and areas where integrating bicycles with motor vehicles is appropriate, he added.

The minister said the proposed amendments are part of the Manitoba government’s ongoing commitment to support healthy living and a cleaner environment. The proposed changes have been developed in response to the growing number of Manitobans who are choosing bicycles over gas-powered vehicles.

“The environmental benefits of this trend are enormous and we want to support and encourage the use of bicycles across the province,” Lemieux said. “We think this proposed legislation will open an important dialogue between motorists and cyclists and increase mutual respect for everyone who operates a vehicle on public roads.”

More information on the proposed amendments is available at http://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-1/index.php.

Changes favour pedal-pushers

Bill loosens law for bikes on roads

Winnipeg Free Press, Larry Kusch

The province plans to make it easier for municipalities to create designated bike lanes for cyclists.

On Wednesday, the Selinger government proposed several changes to the Highway Traffic Act, amending the law’s definition of traffic to include bicycles.

Bicyclists have always been allowed to use roadways and will still have that right under the proposed amendments.

But under the current act, municipalities can only create shared bike lanes on roads where bikes share the roadway with buses. Under the proposed legislation, municipalities would be able to create bike lanes on roadways even if buses don’t travel that route.

Also under the current act, bicycles are not allowed to use the shoulders of highways even if they are paved. A proposed change would permit bikes on highway shoulders.

“Municipalities are asking for a way to address cycle traffic and bike lanes and so on within their municipal boundaries,” Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux told reporters. “This will give them the bylaw-making authority to do that.”

Lemieux said the changes were developed in response to the growing number of Manitobans who choose bicycles as transportation over gas-powered vehicles.

He said the proposed legislation would not give municipalities power to set new rules for cyclists or impose or adjust fines. That would remain under provincial authority.

One proposed change would specify cyclists must ride single file on highways unless passing another bike.

Winnipeg’s cycling community responded positively to the proposals.

Tim Woodcock, owner of Woodcock Cycle Works, said the changes would make it considerably safer for cyclists to get around.

“There are a lot of cyclists who would love to ride more, but they’re not comfortable riding on the roads the way they’re designed and with the cars being so close,” he said.

Don Ellison, who commutes 40 kilometres every day on his bike, said the changes would raise awareness among motorists that cyclists have the right to use the road.

Commuting cyclists seek routes that include a maximum of bike paths and a minimum of roadways, Ellison said.

“We need bicycle routes that cut right through the city and come from all the different boroughs. That’s how you get people riding for transportation, by getting them off the main drags.”

— with files from Geoff Kirbyson


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2012 A3

Elmwood students spin their wheels

posted at April 28, 2012 08:31 (8 months ago)
April 25, 2012
Adrian Alleyne

The term cycling has taken on a whole new meaning at Elmwood High School.

For the past two years students at the Grade 7 to 12 school have taken part in Community Youth Cycling Leadership Education, or CYCLE.

The program offers participants an opportunity rebuild two bikes — one for themselves and another for someone else in the community.

The program was conceived of by members of the River East Neighbourhood Network’s In Motion Committee, and is offered three times a week for eight weeks.

Up to 12 students take part in each session, working in teams of two at six different work stations.

Last year a number of the refurbished bikes went to Habitat for Humanity families, while this year most of them will go to the school’s phys-ed department.

Grade 8 student Anthony Muzyka said he originally joined the program to get a new bike but has gained so much more from it than that.

“My bike got stolen and I needed a new bike, so I thought I would check the group out,” he said.

“Now I’m going to be able to fix up the other three bikes I have and give them to friends.”

Kyler Dmytruk, a Grade 9 student at the school, said taking part in the after-school program was a good decision.

“It’s fun, I’m glad I did it,” Dmytruk said. “I can take care of my bike more now that I took the class.”

Program co-ordinator John Anderson said one of the most rewarding aspects of the program has been seeing students who have gone through it return to offer a hand.

“It’s been great, and it’s nice to have students come back to help because they have the experience,” he said.

Anderson said the program wouldn’t be possible without the support of The Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub, or WRENCH, a non-profit organization that makes bike repair and maintenance accessible to the public.

“WRENCH provides us with bikes, otherwise you have to figure out how to get bikes,” he said.

“You could get them off the street, but that’s not really a reliable source.”

Grade 8 student Daniel Okenko said he was never much of a joiner when it came to school programs, but CYCLE seemed like a good fit.

“I learned a lot about bikes. Before this I didn’t know how to fix a bike but now I can,” Okenko said.

“I think I’ll take part in other groups now.”

To celebrate the program a CYCLE carnival will be held Sat., May 12 at the YMCA-YWCA located at 454 Kimberly Ave. from 1 to 3 p.m. The event will include a bike repair station and a bike draw.

For more information call Kirsti at 668-8140.

facebook.com/TheHeraldWpg Twitter: HeraldWPG


Dangerizing cycling with mandatory helmets?

posted at April 13, 2012 15:28 (8 months ago)
April 11, 2012
Bruce Owen

No decision has been made yet to make it illegal for cyclists to ride without a helmet.

That’s according to Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau, when I recently asked him if the province will soon introduce legislation making bike helmets mandatory.

“I don’t know,” Rondeau said.

However, he did add that the province is looking closely at what more it can do to get more cyclists protecting their noggins.

But getting police to hand out tickets as one way is not something the Selinger government is too eager to do, at this point anyway, he said.

Rondeau also said the province has been successful through education and incentives in almost doubling the number of cyclists who wear a helmet, from around 20 per cent a couple years ago to more than 40 per cent now.

Rondeau added he recently met with doctors who told him about two dozen serious head injuries could be prevented each year by simple use of a bike helmet.

That reduction could save the health care system millions of dollars in treatment, he said, explaining many serious bike wipeouts aren’t during mountain bike races, but run-of-the-mill spills that could happen to anyone at anytime riding down a street or sidewalk.

Rondeau said the province is also aware of what the European Cyclists’ Federation has to say about mandatory helmet use.

The ECF has had an ongoing campaign against helmet laws because they say such laws portrary cycling as abnormally dangerous. It also says its data shows helmets provide no net protective effect.

Helmets may provide some benefit to a certain kind of rider, such as a young child or off-road rider, but overall they offer little protection other than from minor knocks and bumps.

The ECF says countries that have mandatory helmet laws, like Australia, have not seen a reduction in head injuries. The other risk of mandatory helmets laws is that it can reduce the number of people who cycle.

Rondeau also said the province doesn’t want to bring in a mandatory helmet law that penalizes low income people — the guy who cycles to work because he has to, but can’t afford a helmet.

Right now, Manitoba is one of the few provinces that currently allows people to ride bikes without a helmet. Ontario and Alberta require protection for people under 18, while Nova Scotia, British Columbia and others require both children and adults to wear helmets.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba and the University of Ottawa said in a 2010 study that said cyclists were much more likely to wear helmets in provinces where the headgear is mandatory.

A bill on helmet use, and new incentives to wear one, may come as early as the spring legislature session, which starts April 17.

It could be just one of the roughly 50 bills the NDP plan to introduce over the next two months.

BttF’s response to the Province’s thoughts about cycling safety (mandatory helmet legislation)

posted at March 20, 2012 09:36 (9 months ago)
March 20, 2012
Bike to the Future

On Monday March 19, news items reported that Provincial Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau was seriously considering introducing mandatory helmet legislation.

Bike to the Future has responded by sending the following letter to the Province and the Winnipeg Free Press.

Yesterday’s Free Press states that the Manitoba Government is seriously considering making it a law to wear bicycle helmets. It remains to be seen whether this will happen or what the details might be. Bike to the Future has neither formally called for nor opposed calls for mandatory helmet legislation.

Bike to the Future knows that a person who hits their head (in any context) will be safer if they are wearing a helmet than those who do not. Wearing a bike helmet is an important way for cyclists to take responsibility for their own safety, as is wearing bright clothes during daytime, reflective clothes at night, and ensuring there is a front and back light on bicycles.

At the same time, Bike to the Future is aware that some people are concerned that mandatory bike helmet laws could have the effect of discouraging potential cyclists, could imply that bicycling is inherently dangerous and something to be afraid of, could impose extra costs on low-income cyclists, and that most jurisdictions have not enacted such a law. It is interesting to bicycle in European countries where many thousands of cyclists ride happily and safely without helmets every day. We suspect that making the roads and bike paths safer for cyclists is the best way to promote cyclists’ safety, although it does not need to be an either/or discussion.

Bike to the Future notes that while the Government of Manitoba publicly muses about imposing new laws on cyclists, it makes no such public statements about other ways to protect the safety of cyclists, and to promote the health benefits of cycling.

Bike to the Future asks if the Provincial Government is concerned about public health in relation to cycling, what is the Province doing to promote more cycling by more people more often? Getting more people cycling more often is one of the best, least expensive ways to improve public health. Instead it appears that the Province’s focus is limited to considering ways to impose tickets on cyclists.

Bike to the Future asks if the Province of Manitoba is concerned about public health and safety for cyclists, then:

  • What is the Province doing to create more bike paths to keep cyclists away from motor vehicles?
  • Will the Province adopt a formal policy requiring it to analyze opportunities and impacts for active transportation associated with every new infrastructure project (such as CentrePort)?
  • Will the Province amend the Highway Traffic Act to define what passing at a “safe distance” means? Twenty jurisdictions in North America have enacted legislation to define a safe distance as being at least one metre (three feet) away from the cyclist.
  • Will the Province amend the Highway Traffic Act to expressly require motorists to take cyclists into account and drive with due caution, care and attention when around cyclists? There is an express requirement in the Act for cyclists and pedestrians to take with due caution, care and attention when entering, crossing or proceeding into traffic but no similar express requirement for motorists in relation to cyclists.
  • Will the Province amend the Highway Traffic Act to clarify that the requirement of riding as close to the curb as practicable allows cyclists to ride a safe distance away from the curb (at least one metre from the curb) and to allow the cyclist to ride in a manner that makes the cyclist visible and predictable for motorists (rather than weaving towards and away from the curb as hazards, including parked cars, present themselves)?
  • Will the Province make it mandatory that driver education courses include a segment on driving in proximity to cyclists?
  • What is the Province doing to promote reduced speed limits (30 km/hr) on residential streets, bike boulevards, designated bike routes, or routes for school children to take to school?
  • Will the Province announce concrete action to implement the June 2011 report of the Provincial Active Transportation Advisory Group: Greater Strides: Taking Action on Active Transportation?

The Government of Manitoba must not make the mistake of framing the question of public health and cycling as being limited to bike helmets. There are other ways to promote public health and cycling which potentially will have much greater impact.

Bike to the Future is very pleased to read that the Government of Manitoba is concerned about the safety of cyclists. We ask our Government to take a full look at what legislative, policy, and infrastructure changes may be desirable to promote greater public health and safe cycling on Manitoba streets and roads.

Tom McMahon
Bike to the Future, Co-chair

Active transport to connect east and west

posted at February 14, 2012 05:36 (10 months ago)
February 13, 2012
Jeremy Gregoire

On Feb. 9 the University of Manitoba hosted a public session about an active transportation river crossing that will provide a direct connection between Fort Garry and St Vital.

The pedestrian and cycle crossing will go over the Red River and enter Fort Garry near the U of M. During the session the City of Winnipeg and MMM Group Limited provided professional consulting about the project.

The U of M – St Vital active transportation project was initiated by the city and consists of a conceptual design study to identify viable options, locations and assess public opinion for a pedestrian and cycle crossing. A similar session was held Feb. 8 at the Dakota community centre in St Vital.

“The City of Winnipeg is studying the feasibility of providing an active transportation crossing,” said Kenn Rosin, project manager of the study for the City of Winnipeg.

“Optional possibilities and structure technology types need to be developed and evaluated,” Rosin added. In the two interactive sessions the public viewed display boards about the study and people were asked to provide answers to different questions regarding how they see the project and what impact it has on their daily life. They were also asked to fill out surveys.

Luis Escobar, a representative from the City of Winnipeg, said there has been good feedback from the public on the project thus far.

He said people are interested in seeing the project move forward and are happy to be asked for their input. “I believe approximately 200 to 300 persons attended the session on Feb. 8, I hope we will get the same attendance today,” said Escobar.

Professionals from the city, MMM and Bike to the Future helped explain different options to the public. Mark Cohoe, manager of Bike to the Future and consultant for the project, said that many people have asked questions about how to get to the future crossing as a cyclist and what is the best solution to go from St Vital to the University.

Colleen Plumton, professor in the faculty of kinesiology and recreation management, said she thinks the project is an excellent idea because it is important that there are more connections to the U of M.

“In terms of pedways and active transportation we are far behind the times, we are far behind larger centres in Canada,” Plumton said.

Plumton said she supports any project that improves active transportation in the city.

Neil Johnson, a citizen of St. Vital, said the session was informative.

“I think [it] is important to be aware of what’s going on in the neighbourhood, particularly in matters that can really impact the liveability of the neighbourhood and I want to make sure that my opinion was being heard,” he said.

The consultants will analyse the information from the sessions and see if some options are more acceptable to the public.

Once the decision is made the city will provide a report in June.

South Winnipeg river crossing concerns raised

posted at February 10, 2012 09:19 (11 months ago)
February 09, 2012

Some residents of Winnipeg’s south St. Vital neighbourhood say they are worried about the possible location of a foot bridge or gondola across the Red River.

The city is eyeing several potential sites for an active transportation crossing that would connect south St. Vital to Fort Garry.

About 200 people who attended a public meeting on Wednesday evening learned that city officials are looking at three different pedestrian and cyclist bridge proposals, as well as a proposal for a gondola.

“We don’t have the money set aside yet, so let’s hear from the public,” St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes told CBC News at the meeting.

“I’ve heard everything from ‘This is the worst idea ever’ and ‘We don’t have the money’ to ‘This is great.'”

Some residents said they are concerned about one potential location, from St. Amant to the University of Manitoba, especially given the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ new stadium is set to open on the university campus later this year.

“We don’t want to see our neighbourhood become a parking lot on game day for Bomber games,” said resident Stephen Johns.

Kelly Hunter, whose 11-year-old daughter lives at St. Amant — a residential facility for Manitobans with autism and developmental disabilities — said he worries about University of Manitoba students using the area as a parking lot.

“She needs the level of care that they can provide, but we don’t need an extra parking issue on top of all the other things we’re trying to deal with,” he said.

Another public meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening at the University of Manitoba.

City officials are expected to present council with the public’s input about the river crossing proposals by the spring.

BttF note:

There is also an online survey.

Bike to the Future has published an analysis of the 5 possible locations in terms of bicycle connectivity and active transportation network opportunities.

Bridging the gap between suburbs

posted at February 06, 2012 08:49 (11 months ago)
February 06, 2012
Jen Skerritt

Red River pedestrian crossing discussed

Winnipeg is set to reignite talks about a decades-old idea to create a new pedestrian bridge across the Red River.

This week, a firm hired by the city will hold public consultations on possible ways to create a pedestrian bridge or aerial tramway to connect the University of Manitoba with St. Vital.

While the idea of linking the campus to the other side of the Red River has been discussed for years, the city has never moved ahead with a concrete plan.

MMM Group project planner Misty Carson said they have come up with five proposed locations where the two sides of the river can connect, including possible links at King’s Park, Henteleff Park and near the U of M law school.

Carson said the firm is in the process of finalizing cost estimates for each option at each location, which it hopes to present at the community meetings.

Right now, Carson said two options — a pedestrian bridge and an aerial tramway — are up for discussion.

“We’re very much at the beginning of understanding public favour and interest for something like this,” Carson said.

The notion of connecting the U of M campus with St. Vital last gained traction in 2007. A Winnipeg Transit report suggested it would cost about $3 million to build a 250-metre cable connection between the U of M and Henteleff Tree Nursery. At the time, a pedestrian bridge was estimated to cost between $12 million and $15 million.

The idea failed to get the go-ahead at council’s public works committee.

This time around, St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel said he’d like to see the preliminary ideas focus on crossings that are doable and won’t infringe on riverbank stability, soil or floodway operations.

He said he suspects public feedback could be a “mixed bag,” with residents and students who support the active transportation link and others who are resistant to change.

However, he said he’s interested in exploring the idea of some kind of pedestrian connection between the two sides.

“I want to see what comes back out of this and see if we can get it focused,” Swandel said.

“What I don’t like is jumping too far in too early, which is why we’ve got to get some feedback on this.”

U of M officials aren’t sure what impact — if any — such a proposal would have on concerns about game-day traffic at the new stadium.

Michelle Richard, director of campus planning, said it hasn’t been considered as part of the game-day planning process. However, she said it would be an opportunity for the campus to connect with other parts of the community.

“Our focus would be on finding ways to create linkages from the university and the broader community,” she said. “This is a real opportunity to make those connections.”

City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Tammy Melesko said public feedback will be used to draft a report that outlines locations along the Red River where a pedestrian link could be built.

Council’s public works committee will review the report, which will contain cost estimates for each location, should the project move ahead.

Some residents have already raised concerns.

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said Winnipeggers on his side of the river have expressed concern that a community garden group uses the green space at one of the proposed connections north of the U of M.

Mayes said other homeowners worry people will park their cars and walk to the new football stadium on game days.

Mayes said he’s interested in looking at beefing up the pedestrian connection on Bishop Grandin Boulevard to make it easier for people to travel on bike and on foot.

“It would benefit some people in St. Vital, but on the other hand, there seems to be a lot of opposition, even without considering the cost,” Mayes said.


Also see the public consultations here and here, which includes Bike to the Future’s thorough analysis (PDF) of the 5 crossing locations from the perspective of bicycling connectivity and active transportation network opportunities.

Pedestrian bridge closer to reality

posted at January 25, 2012 07:23 (11 months ago)
January 04, 2012
Arielle Godbout

Foot and cycle crossing would connect St. Vital, University of Manitoba

The city is working with a consulting firm to explore connecting St. Vital and the University of Manitoba via a pedestrian and cycling bridge over the Red River.

Public consultations will be held in the new year, according to a city spokesperson. Dates and locations for the consultations have yet to be determined.

Newly-elected Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said the bridge was a hot campaign topic during the fall byelection among residents living near St. Amant and Minnetonka School — both of which have been identified as possible sites for the crossing.

He said city bureaucrats have since told him money for a conceptual design study for the bridge was set aside in 2009 and the city hired MMM Group this past July to undertake that study.

No funding has been earmarked to actually build a bridge, Mayes added.

The city and MMM Group created a public advisory committee in September to invite feedback from community stakeholders — including the University of Manitoba, Louis Riel School Division, St. Amant, Henteleff Park Foundation, Bike to the Future and the Winnipeg Trails Association.

St. Norbert resident Janice Lukes, who sits on the advisory committee for Winnipeg Trails, said while a pedestrian bridge has been discussed for years, the new football stadium at the university has added some excitement to the project.

Lukes said the design study is not only exploring possible locations for the bridge, but also determining its feasibility.

“The location, if you’re looking at the area between the University of Manitoba and St. Vital, has a lot of bank instability,” she explained, adding gondolas are another idea being discussed.

Lukes said a pedestrian bridge could reduce congestion along Bishop Grandin Boulevard, which connects southwest and southeast Winnipeg.

“Taking the bus takes hours. It’s ridiculous,” she said, adding people already use the frozen river as a shortcut during the winter.

According to the agenda of the advisory committee’s last meeting, MMM Group has identified five possible bridge locations in St. Vital — St. Amant, Minnetonka School, Henteleff Park, across the river from the former Southwood Golf and Country Club in Fort Garry, and across the river from King’s Park in Fort Richmond.

A report from the chair of the advisory committee notes the University of Manitoba is open to connecting the bridge to its agricultural areas across from St. Amant and Minnetonka School.

Mayes said residents near those two sites have been vocal about their concerns.

“I don’t blame them. They have issues about everything from traffic, to green space, to what is this going to mean for the community gardens,” he said.

Most of the traffic concerns are related to game days at the new football stadium, he added.

“Yes, it’s only 10 times a year probably, but people are going to say, ‘I don’t want all that traffic coming in and then people walking over’,” Mayes said.

Mayes said while he supports the bridge in theory, he wants to ensure residents know about the public consultations.

“I want to have their input on this before it goes any further,” he said.

“There’s no money in the budget to build a bridge, but with the stadium going in there, this is more than just blue-sky thinking.”

Representatives of the University of Manitoba and MMM Group could not be reached for comment.


Proposed footbridge worries St. Vital residents


Some people in Winnipeg’s South St. Vital neighbourhood don’t want a proposed footbridge over the Red River linking them to the University of Manitoba campus.

They fear their neighbourhood will become a free parking lot for football fans and concert goers heading to the new Blue Bomber stadium that will open later this year on the campus.

However, the city wants to extend the active transportation corridor for pedestrians and cyclists and views the bridge as an ideal way.

Pedestrian bridge over Winnipeg’s Red River: Good or bad idea? (6:29 audio)

Winnipeg bike-building marathon exceeds goal

posted at December 18, 2011 19:21 (about 1 year ago)
December 18, 2011
CBC Winnipeg local news

Volunteers refurbish 220 bicycles for children in need

Volunteer mechanics in Winnipeg have exceeded their goal of fixing up 150 bicycles for children in need as part of a 24-hour bicycle-building marathon.

Members of Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH) had been rebuilding children’s bicycles from donated and salvaged bikes and parts since 6 p.m. on Saturday, as part of the Cycle of Giving marathon.

The volunteers refurbished a grand total of 220 bicycles — well above their target of 150 — as the marathon wound down at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday, WRENCH board member Pat Krawec told CBC News.

“It’s one of the most fantastic sights I have ever seen with my own eyes,” Krawec said earlier in the afternoon, comparing the marathon action to Santa’s workshop.

The like-new bicycles will be provided to various organizations that will give them to children who may otherwise not have their own bikes.

Krawec said WRENCH still needs monetary donations to buy locks and lights for the bicycles, as well as to support bicycle programs in the community.

Good people working for a good cause

Cycle of Giving — a 24-hour kids’ bike-building marathon and fundraiser — will help make the season brighter for Winnipeg kids in need

Uptown magazine
December 15, 2011
by Marlo Campbell

Local bike mechanics and other volunteers will be doing their best elf impersonations this weekend when they join forces to fix up salvaged and donated bicycles that will then be given, free of charge, to Winnipeg kids in need.

Cycle of Giving is a 24-hour kids’ bike-building marathon that begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17, and runs until 6 p.m. the following day. Taking place at the Atomic Centre, a multi-purpose artist-run space located at 167 Logan Ave., the event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Winnipeg Repair, Education and Cycling Hub (aka the W.R.E.N.C.H.), a non-profit community bike shop that opened this past summer.

Operating out of the basement of the City of Winnipeg’s Animal Services building (1057 Logan Ave.), the W.R.E.N.C.H. offers open-shop drop-in sessions and runs free bicycle-repair and build-your-own-bike workshops — many of them geared towards youth who live in inner-city neighbourhoods and may not otherwise have the opportunity to own a bike of their own. It also supports the nine community bike shops already running throughout the city by training adult volunteers and managing the distribution of bikes that are recovered from the Brady Road Landfill’s diversion program.

The goal of the Cycle of Giving event is to build 150 bikes — 15 each for 10 local organizations that offer services for children. They include: the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, Rossbrook House, the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, Osborne House, N.E.E.D.S. Inc., the Nor ’West Co-op Community Health Centre, Art City, the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation and the Family Centre.

“Right now we have about 170 bikes that we’ve culled from the community bike shops and from the bike compound at Brady Landfill, but we will need at least 270 bikes to put out 150 good bikes,” explains W.R.E.N.C.H. board member Pat Krawec, noting that not all bikes received can be refurbished; those beyond repair are stripped to their parts, which then are used to make other bikes roadworthy.

To accomplish their ambitious target, Cycle of Giving organizers are requesting donations of bicycles meant for children aged two to eight; the kind with eight-inch to 20-inch wheels. Bikes can be dropped off during shop hours at the W.R.E.N.C.H., the Bike Dump (631 Main St., behind the Red Road Lodge), or at the Atomic Centre on the day of the event.

Monetary donations are also being requested; they can be made at any Assinboine Credit Union or online at thewrench.ca. Krawec says the hope is to raise a minimum of $15,000, $5,000 of which will be used to purchase locks and lights that will be distributed to kids for free through community bike shops to help keep them safe at night and protect their new possessions from being stolen. The other $10,000 (hopefully) raised will be used to expand the W.R.E.N.C.H.’s programming into other Winnipeg communities.

Krawec says 27 “magic mechanics” have already signed up to participate in the event, including a couple that have pledged to work non-stop for the entire 24 hours. (Rest assured, however, that quality-control mechanics will be onsite to ensure the safety of all bikes built.)

“They are the heroes,” Krawec says of the men and women who will be volunteering their time, adding that the event is also an opportunity for community bike shop mechanics from around Winnipeg to connect with each other and be recognized for the valuable work they do all year round.

“They are the athletes of this event. They are the people who, with their mad skills, are going to work around the clock to spread as much joy as humanly possible, so it’s a nice chance to also highlight these people’s skills and spirit.”

Winnipeggers who want to join in the Cycle of Giving — including those who want to volunteer in a non-mechanical way — can sign up to participate and get more information at cog@thewrench.ca or by calling 296-3389.

Cycle of Giving – Making New Bikes From Old

CBC Radio One’s Information Radio program on December 5: Interview with Pat Krawec (8 minute audio)

Smart Trips video

posted at November 24, 2011 16:29 (about 1 year ago)
November 24, 2011
Sustainable South Osborne

The four stories shared in this video reflect the choices made by South Osborne residents in considering alternative travel methods. Led by a conscious desire to reduce their carbon emissions, the personal profiles featured in this 7 minute video offer anecdotes and inspiration while highlighting a number of community-led programs supporting greener living.


Where will transportation take us? Winnipeg’s new Transportation Master Plan gets mixed reviews

posted at November 21, 2011 11:02 (about 1 year ago)
November 17, 2011
Anne Thomas

The City of Winnipeg’s proposed Transportation Master Plan lays out progressive goals, but not everyone is sure it can deliver the efficient and sustainable transportation system it says Winnipeg needs.

The 20-year blueprint aims to develop an integrated network of transportation options to deal with Winnipeg’s growing population and the need for more efficient and sustainable transportation. It identifies four new rapid transit corridors, a traffic circle inside the Perimeter Highway, $2 billion in road upgrades and an outline of active transportation routes.

Jino Distasio, director of the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies, finds the rapid transit aspect disappointing, because there is no commitment to a choice of bus or rail or to an exact route to the University of Manitoba.

“The plan, for the most part, recasts the same things that we’ve known for a long time

  • that we really don’t have a firm plan, or a firm sense of how we’re going to pay for this,” he said.

“They’ve talked about all the good things that need to be talked about. But there’s really nothing overly new,” he added. “At some point we just need to make a decision.”

Rapid transit has been a stumbling block in Winnipeg for decades, he said.

“We just keep talking and talking and talking,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. We’ve built three kilometres in 60 years of thinking.”

Luis Escobar, the city’s transportation manager, said the choice of rapid transit technology depends on demand.

“Right now, the portion that we’re building is bus rapid transit, and we’re building it in a way that can be upgraded to light rail,” he said.

The bus option will meet current needs, he added, but rail could be needed if future demand is high enough.

As to how projects will be financed, the plan recommends looking at existing documents and studies on securing funding, rather than spending more money repeating research, Escobar said.

Parts of the plan impressed Janice Lukes of Winnipeg Trails Association.

“The enabling strategies are brilliant. Everything we wanted to see and hear,” she said.

However, she found maps and cost estimates less developed for active transportation routes compared to road plans.

Escobar said road needs and costs are detailed because they already had a lot of information available. The active transportation network is relatively new, so there is a lot of catching up to do, he said.

Lukes said the plan doesn’t consider how increased trucking traffic from the Centreport development will affect active transportation.

“People think Centreport is just happening out in St. James,” she said. “Well, planes may land out there, but trucks just don’t land there, they’ve got to get there somehow. How do you have a livable city when you’re also becoming a global multi-modal transportation hub?”

Mark Cohoe from Bike to the Future said the organization is happy to see the city develop a plan, especially one that integrates transportation with land use planning, and moves toward more sustainability.

But his organization still has its concerns.

“When we look at the budget (for active transportation), where the rubber hits the road, it’s not necessarily there,” he said.

Bike to the Future has been calling for $8 million per year to tackle barriers such as bridges and underpasses throughout the city. The eventual goal should be a low-stress bikeway within 400 metres of all residential, commercial and industrial sites, Cohoe said.

“We cannot say we need $8 million or $10 million for active transportation without knowing exactly what it is we need to do,” said Escobar.

*We* know exactly what it is we need to do, and $8 million per year barely does it.

All About Biking: the UofWinnipeg Uniter’s Cycling Issue

posted at October 27, 2011 23:13 (about 1 year ago)
October 27, 2011

Volume 66 Issue 9 (2011-Oct-27) of the University of Winnipeg’s Uniter newspaper (PDF) is subtitled All About Biking: the Uniter’s Cycling Issue. Eight cycling stories appear in it … on pages 3 (BttF’s Curt Hull is quoted), 9, 10, 16 (an interview with BttF’s Dave Elmore), 17, and 18.

Streets safer for cycles, police say

posted at September 02, 2011 15:19 (about 1 year ago)
September 02, 2011
CBC news

The number of bicycle-vehicle crashes in Winnipeg has declined almost 40 per cent this year from last.

Police say there are fewer bicycle-vehicle accidents in 2011.Police say there are fewer bicycle-vehicle accidents in 2011.

Police believe there are several reasons why the numbers are down: good weather over the past few months and more bike trails.

Dave Elmore of the group Bike to the Future likes the trend. “That’s fantastic. I mean if we’re seeing fewer accidents then we’re seeing fewer injuries and hopefully that’s something that we can build upon.”

Elmore said the city still needs safer routes for cyclists especially along bridges and he is calling for a school program to teach children how to ride safely on city streets.

Groups push for active transportation

posted at August 31, 2011 15:48 (about 1 year ago)
August 30, 2011
Matt Preprost

Centreport hub should include trails, pathways

A group of west Winnipeg businesses and organizations are joining forces to pressure officials to make active transportation a part of the development of CentrePort Canada.

Current plans for the project don’t include the community’s active transportation needs and that is threatening to cut off pedestrian connectivity between several communities, according to Janice Lukes of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

“If the province, feds and the city are moving us towards this global multi-modal transportation hub, we need to consider active transportation,” Lukes said. “But they’re not looking at it in the big picture.”

The Red River Exhibition, Assiniboia Downs and the MTS Iceplex in St. James, as well as Friends of the Harte Trail in Charleswood and Adrenaline Adventures and the Headingley Grand Trunk Trail in Headingley have partnered with the Winnipeg Trails Association to lobby for some form of active transportation strategy in the area.

They contend the redevelopment of portions of the Perimeter Highway will threaten existing trail developments from connecting to each other, like the Harte Trail and the Headingley Grand Trunk Trail.

They would like to see studies and analysis conducted to see how to incorporate a trail system and pedestrian crossings to keep the neighbourhoods connected.

“It’s frustrating. You work for years to build these trail systems and hope the government sees the big picture, and when they don’t it’s disheartening,” Lukes said. “We don’t want to be riding on cloverleafs with semis but give us something.”

Lukes pointed to the construction of the Red River Floodway in which there were four studies done on recreation.

Officials with CentrePort Canada said creating an active transportation network isn’t mandated in their legislation, which focuses on business development.

“We understand the desire to have more bike paths, to have more trails,” said Riva Harrison, executive director of communications for CentrePort, adding that recreational areas like the Little Mountain Sportsplex and Prairie Dog Central won’t be displaced.

Harrison said CentrePort is supportive of building recreational areas around CentrePort, but that CentrePort won’t lead the development.

“Our mandate is to increase trade via transportation. I think there’s no question that we’re supportive of the idea that some trails or recreation can be incorporated into the land use plan, but obviously it has to be carefully done because it’s a truck-oriented expressway.”

The province said in a statement it’s too early in CentrePort’s development to define specific AT plans.

“Active transportation routes will be explored as the more detailed development plans associated with CentrePort Canada evolve,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Garth Rogerson, CEO of the Red River Ex, said plans are in the works to develop trails on the Ex grounds and that he would like them to connect into a bigger network, especially along Portage Avenue. Rogerson said he’s noticed school children walking alongside the road and under the Perimeter Highway overpass to get to the park.

“There’s a lot of development going on in Headingley and west of the Perimeter,” he said. “It’s conceivable that the city will just continue to expand beyond Headingley and we need to start thinking now before we build too many things.

“Let’s at least plan for it now so we don’t get caught 20 years from now saying we should have put paths in. Don’t just plan for cars — plan for bicycles and people as well. That’s what we’re pushing for.”

Valets ease cyclists’ worries — Group seeking bike-minders‏

posted at August 29, 2011 13:55 (about 1 year ago)
August 29, 2011
Erin Madden

As an avid cyclist, David Wieser knew he wanted to get involved in making Winnipeg a more bicycle-friendly community. So, while away on a tour of duty in Afghanistan as a member of the Canadian Forces, he spent his free time establishing Bicycle Valet Winnipeg.

The program operates like a coat check at large community events such as Winnipeg Blue Bomber games, street festivals and the Red River Exhibition.

Cyclists can “check” their bicycles with Valet volunteers who watch over them, free of charge, until they return to retrieve them.

Wieser launched the initiative upon his return home from Afghanistan last summer, and the program has served cyclists at nearly 40 events in and around Winnipeg since then.

Wieser, a master corporal with the military, said he’s been pleased with the initial success of Bicycle Valet Winnipeg but he’s convinced there is still room for growth. But any future success will have to come through the hard work of new volunteers, however, as Wieser was transferred from Winnipeg to Petawawa, Ont., earlier this month.

Marissa Steindel, 25, is one of the volunteers who are looking to grow the program. She started volunteering about three months ago after learning about it online. She initially signed up to volunteer at one event, but quickly committed to lend a hand at more.

“I was so excited when I saw it — it just made so much sense,” said Steindel, a draftsperson at MacDon Industries. “One of the biggest deterrents to cycling in the city is knowing if there is a safe place to leave your bike and if it will still be there when you come back to it. Also, if you’re carrying a bunch of gear with you and you’re going to events, it’s a pain to have to bring it around with you. When I saw Bicycle Valet, I decided I had to support it.”

Fellow volunteer Sandeep Dhariwal shares that sentiment. She moved to Winnipeg last winter and took up cycling for the first time in her life. Within weeks, she was hooked. A volunteer with Bicycle Valet for the past three months, she said she quickly saw the importance of the program in the community.

“I volunteered (at my first event) and it was amazing. It was at Kids’ Fest and seeing all these families come out — families transporting their kids on these carriages — it was just so inspiring,” said Dhariwal, a 29-year-old facilitator with an inner-city youth mentoring program. “For me, volunteering with Bicycle Valet is about the culture and the people you meet and their mindset and how they see the world.”

She said it’s a great opportunity for people looking to meet new people — both the clients and the fellow volunteers — and for those who want to explore the city.

“A big thing is exposure to these events. We chill out on our breaks — we get to go and see the events and often partake.

“It’s a really good way for volunteers, especially those who are new to the city like I was, to see the city highlights.”

Wieser said he hopes to see the number of events and volunteers continue to grow. He said cyclists have embraced the initiative, as have the approximately 20 volunteers who have donated their time over the first year. He adds that before leaving the city, through the support of sponsors, he was able to hire a part-time staff member to ensure the program’s ongoing success, co-ordinating volunteers and events.

“I’m very happy that it will continue on in my absence and when I come back to Winnipeg, I look forward to seeing it bigger and better.”

If you would like more information, or would like to become a Bicycle Valet volunteer, please email volunteer@bicyclevaletwinnipeg.ca. You can also learn more online at bicyclevaletwinnipeg.ca.

Bike trip was a ride to remember

posted at August 24, 2011 19:43 (about 1 year ago)
August 24, 2011
Jim Timlick

It sounded like an assignment most reporters would jump at — spend a glorious summer day outdoors, checking out the sights and sounds of Winnipeg.

There was just one catch: it would have to be done by bicycle. As an avid cyclist, I practically leapt at the opportunity. I had been itching to check out the city’s growing network of active-transportation trails for some time. The fact that I could do it on company time — and with my boss’s blessing — made it an even more appealing proposition.

The pathway along Bishop Grandin Boulevard provided a safe route and picturesque scenery.

• • •

My first order of business is choosing a destination for my ride and determining a route. I live in the West End and regularly bike to Assiniboine Park, The Forks, Point Douglas and St. Boniface with my partner, Carol. I determine I want to check out a different part of town this time.

I decide on River Park South for several reasons: I’ve never ridden there by bike before; I’ll pass through three neighbourhoods serviced by three different Canstar community newspapers (the Metro, Sou’wester and Lance); and I have a cousin who lives in the area who I can call in case I run into any trouble (literally or figuratively) while en route to his place.

Plotting my route turns out to be more trouble than I expected. I had hoped to use the city’s website.

Unfortunately, the map is so large, it made planning a route online difficult. I ultimately visit a cycling shop to pick up a printed version of the map.

Thankfully the map is easily understandable. A legend in the bottom left corner shows me all of the different types of paths available — paved and unpaved multi-use paths, painted bike lanes, shoulder bikeways — as well as the amount of traffic on roads where there are no bike paths.

• • •

The Tuesday morning of my ride arrives. I awake at about 7 a.m., jump in the shower and quickly get dressed.

I check out the day’s forecast one last time. It’s 19 C as I prepare to leave my house with a high of 27 C and moderate winds forecast for later in the day.

• • •

My journey begins by taking the train bridge over Portage Avenue to Academy Road. From there I journey down Lindsay Street to Taylor Avenue where I get onto an active-transportation trail.

By 9:15 I have made it to Waverley Street near McGillivray Boulevard. So far, so good, I think. The only challenge at this point is avoiding the goose droppings my fine feathered friends had left behind.

• • •

I hit my first figurative bump in the road around 10 a.m. I had misread the city’s cycling map and discover there is no paved path along Waverley between McGillivray and Bishop Grandin Boulevard.

I can either detour up McGillivray to Kenaston Boulevard and then Bishop Grandin or press on along Waverley. I decide to take the most direct route and carry on.

• • •

A short time later I arrive on the Bishop Grandin Greenway. My initial reaction: Wow. I had read about it and driven by it numerous times, but it isn’t until I was actually on the path that I realize what a hidden gem it is.

• • •

My idyllic reverie is interrupted a short time later as I approach Pembina Highway. The pathway comes to a sudden stop just below the Pembina overpass and I can’t find an alternate route.

Thankfully, I spot a fellow cyclist who points out a shortcut across Pembina that allows me to continue on along the Greenway. I can’t remember the guy’s name but he has my eternal gratitude.

• • •

Around 11 a.m. I reach St. Vital Centre and turn onto another paved pathway along Dakota Street.

I decide to take a short break when I spot a mother and her three kids passing in the other direction. I’m curious to hear what she has to say about the pathway.

“It’s great,” says Sally Dunston. “We can ride our bikes up and down here and the kids don’t have to ride on the road. It’s a lot safer for us. We use it to go to school, the library, the community club.”

That conversation gets me thinking about some recent statistics. A total of 29 Winnipeggers have died on city streets in car crashes in the past 18 months, 18 of them either pedestrians or cyclists.

The millions of dollars spent on active transportation suddenly seems like a sound investment.

• • •

Twenty minutes later I pull into the driveway of my cousin’s River Park South home. After consuming copious amounts of water and enjoying a much-needed lunch (thanks, cuz!), I begin my journey home.

I pray that I’ll have the wind at my back. Alas, my prayers are not answered. The wind is gusting up to 37 km/h and the temperature is now hovering around 27 C according to my phone app. It’s going to be a long ride.

• • •

Despite a wind that occasionally makes me feel like I’m being pushed backwards, the ride home is mostly uneventful. Many of the pedestrians and cyclists I pass along Bishop Grandin smile or wave at me. I’m not sure if they’re just being friendly or grateful that they have the wind at their backs.

• • •

It’s about 3:30 p.m. and my legs are starting to feel like limp spaghetti. Still, I’m encouraged by the fact that I seem to be travelling nearly as fast as the traffic on Kenaston.

• • •

I pull up to my driveway at about 4:05 p.m. and home has never looked so good. I head indoors, peel off my sweat-soaked clothes and jump in the shower.

Later that I evening I check out Google Maps to see how many kilometres I logged during my cross-city trek. Google indicates I travelled about 45 km, although with a couple of detours I estimate the total to be close to 50.

While I’m among the first to complain about property taxes and the state of our roads, I have to give the city some credit for developing an active-transportation network. I was always envious of the trails in other cities when I visited them. I’m grateful that we now have some of our own.

Hopefully our network will continue to grow — and I will see even more passersby the next time I decide to swap four wheels for two.

Group’s cycling survey reveals some interesting results

posted at August 24, 2011 19:37 (about 1 year ago)
August 24, 2011
Marlo Campbell

“If you build it, they will come,” seems to be the theory underlying recent investments in local active-transportation infrastructure.

Last year saw an unprecedented $20.4 million was spent on upgrades to Winnipeg’s AT network — everything from improved signage and painted bike lanes to new multi-use pathways and those oh-so-controversial traffic-calming circles.

One assumes the goal of such investments is to encourage more citizens to cycle by making it safer and more convenient to do so — which begs the question: how do we know whether the improvements are having the desired effect?

The answer: count the number of Winnipeggers riding bikes.

Bike to the Future, a volunteer-run organization working to promote cycling as a means of transportation, has been doing exactly this for the past five years. Each spring, it stations people at various locations around the city during morning and afternoon rush hours to document the level of bicycle traffic. Because its focus is on commuter cycling, counts are limited to weekdays with special attention paid to routes in and out of downtown, particularly “choke points” (such as bridges) that cyclists can’t avoid.

Since 2007, volunteers have completed 312 counts at 86 locations. This year, they completed 96 counts at 45 locations — 21 of which formed a circle downtown, although counts were also done in Fort Garry near the University of Manitoba, in St. Vital at Dakota Street and Bishop Grandin Boulevard, in St. James at Overdale Street and Bruce Avenue, and in West Kildonan at Main Street and the Chief Peguis Trail.

The 2011 final report was released Aug. 12 and is available at biketothefuture.org. It estimates 5,600 Winnipeggers commute into downtown by bike on a typical spring weekday — but volunteers recorded other things, too. For example, 61% of cyclists were observed to be wearing helmets (more women than men), while, on average, 53% of cyclists rode illegally on sidewalks.

Jeremy Hull, the volunteer co-ordinator/manager of the annual count, says sidewalk riding depends a lot on location. Take the underpass on Pembina Highway near Jubilee Avenue, for example.

“People are very afraid of going through the underpass,” Hull says. “They’ll cross Pembina and take the sidewalk and then come back — at quite a bit of extra inconvenience to them, in some cases.”

This year’s most surprising finding is an apparent 20% decline in commuter cycling traffic from 2010 (although it should be noted that overall bike traffic has increased by an estimated 20% since 2007).

Hull suggests this could be explained by geography and Bike to the Future’s limited capacity.

“Maybe cycling is increasing in general, but maybe, because we’re counting at these places that haven’t been improved, like the bridges, we’re not capturing it. So maybe people are cycling more on those trails within Fort Rouge or within St. James or within other area of the city, but they’re not crossing the bridges; they’re taking short trips and doing things within their neighbourhoods, or going on some of the new trails that we just aren’t capturing.”

Hull’s hypothesis begs another question: why is the city relying on volunteers to collect such important data? If it’s truly committed to developing Winnipeg’s AT network, shouldn’t it also be committed to documenting cycling trends in order to know where future investments are needed?

If you build it, they will come — but only if you build it right.

Marlo Campbell drives a car to work but cycles for fun. There’s no way in hell she’d ride her bike through the Pembina underpass.

Walking, cycling can be deadly

posted at August 22, 2011 05:29 (about 1 year ago)
August 20, 2011
Jen Skerritt

(See Anders Swanson’s comments after the Free Press story, and also see two Letters to the Editor at the bottom of this item.)

August 15, 2011

As more of us hike and bike, will death toll rise?

Pedestrians and cyclists have long been a major part of traffic deaths and injuries, Winnipeg police say, and there’s increasing cause for concern as more people take up walking or bike riding.

In the last 18 months, for instance, 29 people died on Winnipeg streets in car crashes, and 18 of them were pedestrians or cyclists.

Since 2007, 79 people have died on Winnipeg streets in vehicle collisions, including 36 pedestrians and cyclists.

So far this year, four pedestrians have been killed on Winnipeg roads. Of the 18 serious or fatal crashes that police investigated in 2011 to date, 11 involve pedestrians and two involve cyclists.

Active-transportation activist Anders Swanson said he’s worried society has collectively forgotten these deaths are preventable and lowering vehicle speed and investing in better infrastructure can help prevent them.

He said governments spend millions of dollars on research to prevent deaths caused by disease, but comparably spend very little on preventing road crashes.

“Here you have this one cause of death, which is basically preventable, and we’re not doing anything about it,” Swanson said.

Sometimes, accidents happen at intersections or pedestrian corridors. Other times, pedestrians are jaywalking, intoxicated or not paying attention.

Most years, Winnipeg Police Patrol Sgt. Damian Turner said, between 20 and 25 people die on Winnipeg roads, and a substantial portion of those deaths are people who were crossing the street or cycling. According to the latest police data, 140 pedestrians and 79 cyclists were injured on Winnipeg roads in 2009. Police are still reviewing data from last year.

“We’re concerned about the fact that pedestrians are being hit,” Turner said. “It is common. We’ve known for a number of years that a significant proportion of the fatalities we’re going to experience every year are going to be pedestrians.”

Turner said he’s seen cases where drivers do not see the pedestrian, including an instance on Portage Avenue where a bus driver did not see someone crossing. He also said he sees people every day who dart across the street after taking a quick look at the traffic and “just run for their lives.” A number of pedestrian fatalities in the city’s core area have involved intoxicated people, he said.

Unlike other cities, jaywalking is not illegal in Winnipeg so police do not hand out fines or tickets.

“Unfortunately, the only accountability is when they get smacked by a car and they’re killed or severely injured,” Turner said. “The result is that a driver who, a lot of the time is not at fault, suffers the trauma of knowing they’ve hit a pedestrian they really couldn’t control.”

Swanson, co-ordinator of One Green City, a volunteer project to create a network of safe cycling routes, said part of the problem is that the current road system was designed with cars in mind, not people, and it will take time and money to make streets safer. Last year, the city spent $24 million on bike-and-pedestrian upgrades to 35 routes. The overhaul was part of an infrastructure-stimulus program funded by all three levels of government.

Swanson said it’s a good starting point, but there’s still a long way to go.

“Since the car has caught on, we’ve invested almost exclusively on automobile infrastructure for decades. It’s going to take a big investment to make things safer,” he said.

High-volume intersections such as Portage and Main are designed to take pedestrians out of the mix, and the city keeps tabs on problem areas that may need a pedestrian crossing.

City road engineer Stephen Chapman said the city examines 10 years of collision data when concerns are raised about pedestrian safety.

The city looks at the volume of cars, the number of pedestrians and factors in any reported collisions to determine if engineering improvements could make the road safer.

While new roads are built with safety in mind, Chapman said Winnipeg has a lot of older areas that still need to be brought up to modern standards. Sometimes, he said, the city will put in a guard rail, widen a sidewalk, raise curbs and move a light stand back to address safety concerns.

“When you have a road that was designed years and years ago, it’s older and may not meet certain standards,” he said. “We try to bring it to those standards.”

Chapman said in recent years the intersections prone to the highest number of pedestrian crashes — including Portage Avenue and Langside Street and Osborne Street and Wardlaw Avenue– have had lights replaced by half-signals facing just one, not both, of the roadways. Often, he said, the width of the road can make it more difficult for pedestrians to cross and the city needs to make it clear who has the right of way.

Widening the streets to make it safer for pedestrians is tricky in older areas of the city. Winnipeg has narrow, old roads and dated bridges that make seriation safety upgrades difficult.

“We’re always working toward improving the pedestrian crossings in the city and concentrating our efforts on areas that are most problematic for collisions,” he said.

But those upgrades have to be done within a limited budget.

This year, the traffic engineering improvement program — which is responsible for intersection and road design improvements and pedestrian corridors — will spend a total of $1.95 million. Chapman said the branch prioritizes projects according to need, and works within their annual budget to get things done and move other projects up the list.

While Chapman said the good news is the city is in the midst of major road upgrades — including the Chief Peguis Trail extension — due to partnerships with other levels of government, the city’s infrastructure deficit is a daunting $3.8 billion.

Earlier this year, staff and parents from École River Heights asked council’s public works committee for a pedestrian crossing at Elm Street, where students get off the bus. In the last eight years, five students have been taken to the hospital after a vehicle struck them.

The committee agreed to move the existing pedestrian corridor from Oak Street to Elm Street, but decided against overhead flashing lights to alert drivers a student is crossing.

Parent council chairman Rod Miller said the city told him the crossing doesn’t meet the criteria to have flashing lights and 88 per cent of similarly requested projects are ahead on the city’s list. Miller said he doesn’t understand why the city will not take the extra step and eliminate any potential risk to students.

“It’s frustrating from where I sit,” he said. “If between now and the time the thing is done a kid gets hit and breaks a leg, what’s the cost? $100,000, $200,000 minimum, versus a $32,000 installation. Where’s the money better spent?”

Swanson said he would like to see citizens say “enough is enough” and demand Winnipeg strive for zero road fatalities. He said every Winnipegger needs to take responsibility and decide that people have the right to get from point A to point B safely.

“In an urban environment, I don’t see any reason for people to die unnecessarily,” Swanson said.


The numbers

2011: four deaths, (as of Aug. 2, 2011)
April 3: Redwood Avenue and Powers Street
April 13: Henderson Highway and Leighton Avenue
June 13: Main Street and Higgins Avenue
June 29: Pembina Highway and Dalhousie Drive (cyclist)

2010: 12 pedestrian deaths and two cyclist deaths
March 18: Taylor Avenue and Waverley Street
March 27: Main Street and Atlantic Avenue
April 11: Main Street and Machray Avenue
April 15: 1145 Dakota St.
June 17: Main Street and Jarvis Avenue (cyclist)
June 25: Manitoba Avenue and Charles Street (cyclist)
July 15: McPhillips Street and Templeton Avenue
Aug. 11: Portage Avenue and Raglan Road
Aug. 21: 1670 Portage Ave.
Oct. 25: Mountain Avenue and McGregor Street
Dec. 19: 446 Young St.
Dec. 20: Portage Avenue and Sherbrook Street
Dec. 23: McPhillips Street and Pacific Avenue
Dec. 24: Fife Street and Inkster Boulevard

2009: 1 cyclist death
July 4: Jefferson Avenue and Airlies Street (cyclist)

2008: six pedestrian deaths
Feb. 1: Kenaston Boulevard and Boulton Bay
Feb. 11: Grant Avenue and Lilac Street
June 7: Selkirk Avenue and Andrews Street
June 25: Donald Street and St. Mary Avenue
Sept. 26: Notre Dame Avenue and Spruce Street
Dec. 29: Isabel Street and Ross Avenue

2007: six pedestrians and three cyclists
March 23: Mountain Avenue and Kildarroch Street
May 23: McPhillips Street and Leila Avenue
July 24 – Burrows Avenue and McGregor Street (cyclist)
Sept. 14: St. Mary’s Road and Oakleigh Place
Sept. 28: Redonda Street and Gunn Road (cyclist)
Oct. 31 – Warsaw Avenue and Harrow Street (cyclist)
Nov. 6: Inkster Boulevard and Sinclair Street
Nov. 13: 1395 Grant Ave.
Dec. 6: Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway

— Source: Winnipeg Police Service

Comments by Anders Swanson:

This is an aspect of transportation that no one likes to talk about, but since it’s out there in the form of a media article, (and since I was extensively quoted), I wanted to follow up with some relevant facts.

I note that I am quoted in the article as calling these things “preventable”. Of course, I recognize that it is not always the case, as human error sometimes just happens. What I intended to convey to the reporter was that serious injury was preventable thorugh infrastructure design aimed at lower vehicle speeds, as it basically comes down to physics. mass X acceleration, etc. If you keep speeds low, good things happen. Period.

When I was referring to “diseases” I was referring to the fact that we, as humans, dedicate significant campaigns and $$$ going towards finding cures for diseases with no known cure (i.e. breast cancer, MS, etc), while at the same time have a nearly preventable “top ten” cause of death sitting right in front of us that we accept as “a fact of life”. It just doesn’t make sense.

I am often reminded of the following quote from the World Health Organization:

The relationship between speed and injury severity is particularly critical for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. For example, pedestrians have been shown to have a 90% chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30 km/h or below, but less than 50% chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact at 80 km/hr.

Some resources: This, this, this, this, and this.

This is why slower speeds around pedestrians is really the only solution, especially around schools and seniors centres and frankly anywhere else that we feel like having safe communities. I note in the Free Press article and comments, freeways and crosswalks are brought up as a way of keeping pedestrians safe from speeding cars. Don’t be fooled.

Crosswalks come in many forms, some good, some not so good.

What really needs to happen is to discourage overall automobile travel, especially travel at higher speeds, and to give priority to pedestrians as a rule. Unfortunately, rarely do we have the guts to make the seemingly unpopular decisions required.

Freeways. hmm. One way to eliminate pedestrians accidents is to simply eliminate pedestrians. However, it just pushes the problem elsewhere. We end up driving instead of walking, which is even more dangerous. We all end up going farther (and getting fatter), not safer. Think globally, walk locally, slow down. Better yet, don’t drive unless absolutely necessary.

Personal note: Sorry for taking the liberty to add to this. This is a sore spot for me, as my girlfriend was hit by a car a couple years ago (she’s OK) whilst doing absolutely nothing wrong (green light, walk signal, etc). She flew about 20 feet. When we reported it at the police station, they initial said there was nothing they could do and that, incredibly, the driver would have to report it (!!?) I am sure this is not the only story like this.

Anyway, just to note, safety is not normally my thing. I am not afraid of dying. Bring on the tigers, mudslides, random explosions, etc. I would simply rather it not be the result of someone switching Beyonce albums and not paying attention for a second. Accidents do happen, but slower design speeds mean that when they do, the results aren’t so gruesome. Anyway, it’s not about that. It’s about walkable, bikeable, enjoyable communities. Accidents happens, death happens. I just don’t understand why we insist, as humans, on doing it to ourselves.

Hopefully one of you will be able to do something about it.

Winnipeg Free Press, Letter of the day: Speed is biggest danger (Aug 18, 2011)

Re: Walking, cycling can be deadly (Aug 15).

Thank you to Jen Skerritt and the Free Press for raising this important public health issue. Motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) are the leading killer of children, teens and young adults in Canada.

As the article points out, this tragedy is magnified by the fact that there are a number of relatively simple interventions to reduce injury and death from MVCs. Speed more than any other factor predicts the chance of injury and death in a MVC. According to the World Health Organization:

An increase in speed of one kilometre per hour results in a three per cent higher risk of a crash involving injury and a four to five per cent increase in crashes that result in death. The likelihood of death is 20 times greater for a car occupant in a crash with an impact speed of 80 km/h compared with 30 km/h.

Pedestrians struck by a car travelling 30 km/h have a 90 per cent chance of survival, which drops to 50 per cent at 45 km/h. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact at 80 km/h.

Obeying posted speed limits and exercising due caution, along with sustained and visible enforcement and environmental controls such as speed bumps to encourage reduced speeds, can significantly reduce the risk of motor vehicle collisions that injure and kill.

Dr Michael Routledge Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

Winnipeg Free Press: Letters to the Editor, One step further (Aug 20, 2011)

Re: Mayor hopes to reduce speeds in school zones (Aug 17).

Mayor Sam Katz should be commended on his leadership in taking the initiative toward making our communities safer around schools. But why not take it one step further and reduce the speed limit to 30 kilometres per hour throughout residential neighbourhoods?

This would make the entire community safer for everyone, whether you are eight years old or 80. This is especially salient when one considers the World Health Organization statistic that “pedestrians have a 90 per cent chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30 km/h or below, but less than a 50 per cent chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h and almost no chance of surviving an impact at 80 km/h.”

Jackie Avent Winnipeg

Blazed by the trails

posted at August 15, 2011 20:52 (about 1 year ago)
August 15, 2011
Shamona Harnett

Winnipeg family thrilled to use city’s well-hidden network of off-the-beaten paths

Janice Lukes has flown to the most exotic places on Earth. And although the Winnipeg mother of three’s globetrotting days are over, her past travels can’t compete with the adventures she experiences every day in the unlikeliest of places — on her own city’s pathways.

Most citizens here don’t know much about the Winnipeg’s trails — hidden wilderness gems that meander through river-bottom forests, wind through open fields and snake along abandoned rail beds.

But Lukes, her husband and her sons — eight-year-old triplets — walk, cycle and play on many of them. And they’re always seeking out new ones.

Their latest fascination? The Yellow Ribbon Greenway Trail, a 5.5-kilometre stretch of pathway located in a remote section of St. James.

There’s lots to see on this trail, including an outdoor warplane museum and a creek full of frogs. But the best part of the trail for the family are the low-flying airplanes they get to see touching down at James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

“You can touch the fence where the runway is,” says Lukes, one of the city’s leading trail advocates and a member of the province’s Active Transportation Advisory Group. “You stand on the trail and you can see these fat-bellied planes come in and land. It’s fascinating. My kids were blown away by that. And I was blown away by it.”

Her voice inflects upwards when she talks about her latest trail discovery.

“It’s a really obscure location that no one would have gone to before because there was no road. There was nothing around it!”

Lukes says it was two decades ago when some forward- thinking city officials came up with the idea to build a trail system in Winnipeg — one whose legs would would eventually connect together. Then, the city had only scattered bits and pieces of trail that really didn’t go anywhere.

Today, trail advocates are closer than ever to realizing their dream of a Winnipeg full of people using their own physical power to get to from point A to point B along a connected trail system.

Wander onto city trails on a summer day and you can see walkers, runners, cyclists, in-line skaters, parents pushing their babies in strollers as well as people in wheelchairs. Some are commuting to a specific place.

Others are just enjoying a deep breath of nature.

To date, the Winnipeg Trails Association lists nearly 40 trails. Some are more connected than others.

In the last five years, Lukes says, more than $40 million has been spent on trails and cycling infrastructure around Winnipeg — $20 million just last year alone.

Of course, many would argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

But to Lukes, the health benefits are worth the price tag.

“If I don’t keep my kids mobile, what are they going to do?” says Lukes, the St. Norbert resident who has advocated for trails for nine years. “It’s so easy to turn the TV on. It’s so easy to let them sit in front of this stuff.

“I think what’s good about the trails are that (they are) free. You need a pair of runners. Trails fit people’s schedules and they fit people’s budgets. And they cost peanuts to build compared to the roadways.”

Here are the basics you need to know about Winnipeg’s trails. This is the first in a series of Healthy Living stories about our growing trail system:

What’s the purpose of Winnipeg’s trails?

Trail advocates want Winnipeggers walking, running, cycling, in-line skating, skipping and wandering down city trails. Ideally, the trails will help Winnipeggers become more active and, therefore, fitter. (According to a Active Transportation Advisory Group report, 55 per cent of Manitoba’s people are overweight or obese. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of Manitobans are considered inactive.

Trail proponents hope the trails’ increasing connectivity make them a viable, safe way for people to get from one neighbourhood to the other free from car traffic.

How many trails are in Winnipeg?

“It depends on what you define as a trail. There are many bits and pieces which are too small to have an official name,” says Lukes. The Winnipeg Trails Association has mapped out 38 city trails. Many trails are outfitted with signs that depict points of interest, etc.

How is the trail system organized?

In 1993, the city came up with the idea to divide the city into six parkways — essentially consisting of land along both sides of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The goal is to hook up the parkways to form a continuous trail system. This web of parkways joins one park to another. Trails mainly curve around the riverbanks and, when necessary, wind onto residential streets. The riverwalk at the Forks, for example is part of the North Winnipeg Parkway. It, like other trails in the city, is partially under water due to flooding.

There are also several community trails that are not part of the parkway system. These trails generally thrive thanks to the dedication of community volunteers who lobby on behalf of these neighbourhood trails.

Monkey trails are unofficial trails not sanctioned by the city. Adventurers tend to like these trails because they wind up and down along the edge of riverbanks. “You have to be a monkey to go on them,” explains Lukes.

What is the Trans Canada Trail?

A project the federal government touts as the world’s longest network of trails. Today, more than 15,500 kilometres worth of Trans Canada trail has been developed nationwide, 1,400 kilometres of which is in the wilds of rural Manitoba.

Is there a way for the city to profit from its trails?

Advocates say Winnipeg’s trails will attract tourists and lead to growth in the city’s economy. We may already be profiting from our trails, according to Brandon Bertram, an employee at Woodcock Cycle Works on St. Mary’s Road. He says he often rents bikes to visitors who seem more eager to explore city trails than Winnipeggers are. “They come in asking for good places to ride, that kind of thing. Not a whole lot of people from the city come in for that type of advice,” says Bertram.

How can you find out how to get to various Winnipeg trails?

Log onto the Winnipeg Trails Association website. It’s located at winnipegtrails.ca. The site contains maps and detailed information about city trails.

Follow Shamona on Twitter at Follow Shamona on Twitter at twitter.com/ShamonaHarnett.

Have an interesting idea you’d like Shamona to write about?
Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca

The W.R.E.N.C.H. in the works

posted at August 09, 2011 12:54 (about 1 year ago)
August 04, 2011
Marlo Campbel

The Winnipeg Repair, Education and Cycling Hub is here to support local community bike shops and the people who use them

Walk down the stairs of the City of Winnipeg’s Animal Services building on Logan Avenue and you’ll notice the smell of rubber tires before you can see anything. The tires belong to the dozens of bicycles you’ll find in the basement — some fully intact, hanging in rows; others disassembled into their parts, stored along the concrete walls and in bins throughout the room. In the middle of the space are eight workstations, each equipped with the tools needed to fix a bike or build one from scratch.

For just over a month now, this subterranean space has been home to the city’s newest community bike shop: the Winnipeg Repair, Education and Cycling Hub — aka the W.R.E.N.C.H.

The non-profit organization was born out of discussions between existing community bike shops — eight currently operate throughout Winnipeg, each run entirely by volunteers — local cycling organizations, schools, individuals with an interest in bikes and the City, which was keen to do something useful with the unclaimed abandoned and stolen bikes stored at Winnipeg’s Bicycle Recovery Section, also located in the Logan Avenue building.

Community bike shops teach bicycle repair skills at no cost in an effort to encourage people to use bikes as transportation — particularly those who might not have access to bikes or classes for a variety of reasons — money, language barriers and age to name a few.

What makes the W.R.E.N.C.H. different from, say, The Bike Dump on Main Street or the South Osborne Bike Hub on Kylemore Avenue, however, is its mandate — in addition to running workshops, its mission is to support other shops by training volunteers and managing the distribution of recovered, repaired bikes (including those dropped off for recycling at Brady Road Landfill). It also boasts two full-time, paid staff positions, currently filled by Geoff Heath and Cara Fisher.

Heath, 28, is the W.R.E.N.C.H.’s mechanical director. He has worked as volunteer at community bike shops in Winnipeg for five years, and has also worked in shops in New Orleans and Austin.

“I think the big difference about what me and Cara do and what’s happening at the other community bike shops is we have the time to do the record-keeping, we have time to write documents, we have time to do the daytime programming that the other shops aren’t able to do ’cause people are generally working during the day,” he explains. “We fill a different niche.”

The W.R.E.N.C.H. has already partnered with several schools, Art City, the Family Centre and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, hosting workshops on basic repair, maintenance and road-safety skills, train-the-trainer classes, bike art workshops and make-your-own-bike programs (kids who complete the six- to nine-week course get to keep the bikes they build and are provided with helmets, locks and on-road training). It also holds weekly, open-shop drop-ins at which anyone can stop by and work on their bikes independently — emphasis on the work.

“You can’t expect that you’d come here and get your fancy, high-end bike fixed at the snap of your fingers,” Heath says. “You’re going to be the one doing the work. We’re first and foremost an education centre.”

Cara Fisher, 36, moved to Winnipeg from Vancouver in August to become the W.R.E.N.C.H.’s program director. She says Winnipeg’s community-mindedness and DIY-approach to local cycling initiatives is unique.

“One of the reasons I was intrigued and drawn to Winnipeg is all the volunteer-run community bike shops — it’s definitely not something that happens in Vancouver,” she says.

That said, Fisher says it will take time and effort to change some Winnipeggers’ attitudes about cycling.

“The more people riding bikes, the more it becomes more mainstream, the more it’s accepted. The next step is just a long, hard battle of education around road safety,” she says.

The W.R.E.N.C.H. (located at 1057 Logan Ave.) is holding an open house on Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Everyone is welcome. For more information, go to thewrench.ca.

Relax, car culture, it’s gonna be OK

posted at August 08, 2011 12:44 (about 1 year ago)
August 07, 2011
David Connors

Let Bicycle Valet ease your parking pain

Winnipeg has a car culture. Members are guaranteed the right to drive all day, every day, anywhere they please and be assured of cheap, convenient, no-hassle parking when they get there.

It is a time-honored culture that has given rise to sprawling suburbs and streets full of single-occupant vehicles that often gather in mall parking lots to forage and, sometimes, to mate.

But this culture has recently come under attack. The new Blue Bombers stadium, which will seat 33,000 fans, will have only 7,100 available parking spaces.

Naturally, the culture is fighting back. Its very survival is at stake. Through community meeting, blogs and letters to the editor, this unprovoked attack has been condemned as a Parking Armageddon that will turn the streets around the U of M stadium site into our own version of the Gaza Strip.

Well, meet Bicycle Valet Winnipeg founder David Wieser, a gentle, easy-going man who just wants people to step back, take a deep breath, and repeat to themselves: It’s going to be OK.

He’s not a zealot. He owns a car. The day I interviewed him, he had driven his car from his home in the West End to his job at 17 Wing. He rides his bike as often as he can because he enjoys it and it saves him a ton of money — about $100 a month, he estimates.

He is determined, not to eradicate the car culture, but to help it adapt. And he is a very determined man.

When he was 19, he weighed 350 pounds. He can name the exact date that he decided that was going to change: June 21, 1991.

“I overheard my mom talking about how easily my dad could lose weight. I decided to see if I could do that, too. I skipped dinner, went to bed at 7 p.m., got up at 5 a.m. and walked for an hour.”

Wieser quietly did that every day for a year.

“I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. Then there were no expectations.” He fulfilled his own expectations, though, getting down to a fit 200 pounds.

He has applied that same determination to other projects over the years. And his latest project is Bicycle Valet Winnipeg.

Bomber fans entering Gate 6 at the old stadium have surely seen him and his crew checking in and keeping watch over racks full of bikes.

The 100-200 bikes corralled there mean 50 to 100 fewer cars are prowling around the stadium looking for a place where they can shell out 10 bucks for the privilege of parking.

And the best part is, Bicycle Valet doesn’t even use a motorized vehicle to get the racks to the stadium.

“They are hauled to sites on a bike trailer being pulled by a bike,” Wieser says.

It’s a pretty slick operation for a service whose first official event was just last year, for Bike to Work Day. Then, they used the same crowd control fencing as was used for the Queen’s visit to Winnipeg, but over the winter, Wieser built his own lighter, more portable racks out of EMT tubing. Each rack is about three metres long and can accommodate six to eight bikes. Wieser built 51 himself and bought six more for 57 in total meaning Bicycle Valet can accommodate more than 400 bikes at a big event.

So, how does that solve the parking problems at the new stadium?

Well, it doesn’t. Not by a long shot. Not by itself, anyway.

But Wieser has it all worked out. Suppose Mr. and/or Mrs. Bomber fan rediscover that they have a back seat in their vehicle and invite a couple of other fans to ride with them. Suddenly those 7,100 parking spaces can accommodate 28,400 fans. All we need are a few thousand bus riders and a few hundred bike riders, and we’re set.

It works in San Francisco. There were the same dire predictions of Parking Armageddon when AT&T Park was being planned. But it hasn’t worked out that way. More than half of the fans at a Giants game don’t drive there. In fact, it was watching a Bike to the Future video about San Francisco at streetfilms.org that inspired Wieser to start Bicycle Valet in Winnipeg.

“This is the best way to get to a game,” one two-wheeled fan gushes in the video. “You save 20 bucks and save 20 years off your life,” he adds, turning to show the slogan on the back of his T-Shirt: One Less Car.

That’s what Wieser wants to see in Winnipeg.

Yes, San Francisco is warmer than Winnipeg. Yes San Francisco has rapid transit. But a guy can dream, can’t he?

Besides, you don’t change a culture overnight. You do it one early morning walk at a time. You do it one less car at a time.

— By David Connors, a downtown dweller

Network of river trails, parks on agenda

posted at July 27, 2011 14:56 (about 1 year ago)
July 27, 2011
Jen Skerritt

PARTS of Winnipeg’s riverfront could one day be linked to neighbourhoods through a network of green trails and parks, with rapid transit extending to areas such as Point Douglas.

This fall, a task force struck to create a vision for what Point Douglas and other riverfront neighbourhoods could look like in the next 20 years will unveil its preliminary plans and start public consultations.

Jim August, chief executive officer of The Forks North Portage Partnership, is co-chairing the task force with city property director Deepak Joshi.

August said the idea is to create a long-term plan for pathways, greenways, and potential residential and commercial development in areas along Winnipeg’s waterfront. Point Douglas will be a key area, he said, since there is a lot opportunity for park space, housing and commercial development.

August said the preliminary plans will not identify specific sites that could be developed, since the idea is to get input from neighbourhood residents first. A more detailed plan will be put together over the winter, he said.

Consultation will begin in Point Douglas this fall, August said, and the task force will also consult with Waterfront Drive, north St. Boniface, Norwood, Armstrong Point and south Broadway.

“We do know there’s a great opportunity for park development in Point Douglas, there’s a good opportunity for some residential development, rapid transit is looking at going through there. It’s a great location, and it’s a beautiful area,” August said. “It’s been somewhat neglected for a number of years.”

August said the idea is to take a cue from The Forks and better link adjacent neighbourhoods with the riverfront.

Last week, Premier Greg Selinger confirmed the province asked the Forks North Portage Partnership to come up with specific ideas for developing a provincial park in Point Douglas. The province has contributed funds to the waterfront-planning process.

August said governments have made it clear public park space is a priority. Whether an area is designated a provincial park is up to the government, he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

The City of Winnipeg said the city is collaborating with North Forks to examine the idea of greenways.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2011 A4

Active transportation supporters want greenway included in road project

posted at July 13, 2011 16:14 (about 1 year ago)
July 13, 2011
Adrian Alleyne

Sigrun Bailey stands near the Perimeter Highway and Raleigh Street where she hopes an active transportation bridge will be constructed to help extend the Northeast Pioneers Greenway to Birds Hill Provincial Park.

Some local active transportation advocates want to see the Northeast Pioneers Greenway extended as part of a series of proposed roadway improvements near Lagimodiere Boulevard and the Perimeter Highway.

The provincial government has proposed making changes to the intersection to ease traffic congestion in the area.

Sigrun Bailey and Louise Balaban, co-chairs of the River East Neighbourhood Network – Trail Committee, said the improvements would be an ideal opportunity to extend the trail fur­ther north to Birds Hill Provincial Park.

The avid cyclists said what they would like to see is a bridge built that would allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Perimeter at Raleigh Street, similar to the one that was recently built near Birds Hill.

A bridge would allow individuals to travel uninterrupted along the greenway and connect to the Floodway Trail System that leads to Birds Hill.

“We’re trying to get a safe facility for non-motorized transportation,” said Bailey, who lives in North Kildonan. “It’s also a health issue, getting people active.”

The province’s plans include construction of a full interchange at the intersection at an estimated cost of $80 to $100 million.

“Basically we would be building an interchange that would allow motorists in all directions to go through that intersection of roadways without stopping,” said Don McRitchie, a spokesperson for Mani­toba Infrastructure and Transportation.

McRitchie cautioned that any extension of the greenway would have to be a shared initiative between the city and the Rural Municipality of East St. Paul.

Bailey said it would be a mistake not to include the active transit trail in the province’s plans.

“They’re not considering active transportation, which is ludicrous,” she said. “They’re forcing people to be in their cars.”

Balaban said the proposed bridge would make the intersection safer for both cyclists and pedestrians.

“You can’t ride your bike on the shoulder with semitrailers going by at 80 km/h,” said Balaban, an East Kildonan resident. “We need to have a trail all the way to Birds Hill.”

Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), said plans are already in place for the greenway to be extended to Glenway Avenue once the construction of Chief Peguis Trail is complete.

However, he said extending it to Birds Hill likely isn’t something the city could consider at this time. Bailey said she fears there might never be another opportunity to extend the greenway.

“They all say they’re for it, but I’m afraid it will slip between the cracks,” she said. “It’s a win-win for everybody, so everyone should chip in.”


See Also:
Bike to the Future Latest News Entry

BttF letter to MMM Group re public consultation on the PTH 59N – PTH 101 interchange functional design study — June 17, 2011

New bike and walking path to be constructed

posted at July 13, 2011 10:10 (about 1 year ago)
June 30, 2011
Staff Writer

The province will spend $720,000 for the construction of a new bike and walking path north of Shorehill Drive near Bishop Grandin Boulevard, the province said today.

The goal of the project is to create a safe point to Beaverhill Boulevard, Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux said. Construction on the Shorehill trail is to start this year.

Money for the Shorehill trail is part of the $1.5 million the province is spending on city bike paths in 2011. Overall, $6 million has been committed to city bike paths as part of the province’s five-year, $125-million investment in Winnipeg’s transportation infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges and bike paths.

Lemieux acknowledged the province’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee for its report, Greater Strides: Taking Action on Active Transportation. The report provides recommendations on expanding active transportation options for all Manitobans.

See Also:
Bike to the Future News Item
Greater Strides: Taking Action on Active Transportation (PDF)
Provincial News Release

Winnipeg’s war on bikes

posted at July 03, 2011 21:58 (about 1 year ago)
July 02, 2011
Jason Halstead
Winnipeg Sun

Road safety for cyclists a two-way street

It has to be a two-way street for respect on the roads between cyclists and motorists.

That’s the message from both bike and auto advocates who share the opinion it’s up to both types of road users to take a little more notice of one another.

With more and more cyclists on the road each year, motorists have to get used to the fact two-wheelers deserve adequate space. At the same time, cyclists must abide by the rules of the road and ride in a more predictable manner.

It’s a sure sign of the increasing popularity of cycling as a form of daily transportation that motorist advocacy group CAA recently launched roadside assistance Bike Assist program for members. CAA also just hosted the Changing Lanes conference in Vancouver last month to work on improving relations between drivers and cyclists on the road.

“It was kind of a breakthrough debate,” said CAA Manitoba’s public and government affairs manager Liz Peters of the conference.

Peters said the overwhelming concern CAA heard from cyclists at the conference was quite fundamental.

“They feel that motorists think they’re entitled to the road and cyclists aren’t,” Peters said.

As for a solution, motorist groups and bike advocates alike are stressing the need for better education and infrastructure improvements.

Peters said the educational aspect goes beyond pamphlets or advertising pushing helmet use or proper turning etiquette.

“There needs to be additional training so that when you’re learning how to drive a car you’re also learning how to ride a bike following the rules of the road, so you see it from both sides,” Peters said.

Peters said infrastructure is also key, especially the idea of “complete streets” which involve separate space for cars, bikes and pedestrians.

“So whatever you do, there’s a place for you,” she said.

While cycling advocacy group Bike to the Future is lobbying the province to legislate a one-metre buffer for bikers and pushing for better-integrated infrastructure, they also stress that pedallers are in need of better education.

Curt Hull, a co-chair of Bike To The Future who is also a cycling instructor with the Canadian Cycling Association’s CAN-BIKE road safety program, said there needs to be an official program for road cyclists similar to driver’s education.

“It’s not just posting something on a website, it should be skills training,” Hull said.

Hull said the keys to cyclist safety are visibility and predictability, meaning sticking to a path at the right side of the first driving lane — not weaving in an out of the parking lane — and signalling.

Anders Swanson, a bike mechanic and active transportation advocate, said most on the road seem to be getting the message.

“As a cyclist I find 99% of people are very respectful and very cautious,” Swanson said. “I feel pretty safe. There are a few bad apples on both sides and there always will be no matter what city you’re in.”

Gord’s Ski & Bike president and CEO Jean-Francois Ravenelle put the key to road respect in simple terms.

“If your sister was riding a bike, you would give her the three feet she needs to ride,” Ravenelle said. “She’s not trying to antagonize motorists or make a point, she’s just trying to ride a bike. I think there’s a small percentage of both (motorists and cyclists) who get so passive-aggressive when they’re on the road that they don’t realize if you give the other person a couple seconds they’ll be out of your way.”

Hull said he believes the level of understanding between motorists and cyclists is on the rise.

“Studies have shown that the more cyclists you get on the road, the more acceptance there is of cyclists on the road,” he said.

The timeline:

Sept. 2002: In one of the first local protests by leaderless cycle-activist group Critical Mass, Sunday cruise night traffic is snarled as about 75 cyclists block all lanes of Portage Avenue in the West End. The group would go on to stage many other rush-hour bike protests — several of which ended up with arrests and clashes with police — to promote pedaling over driving in the city.

Aug. 2006: After allegations of slowing down an emergency-bound ambulance and more clashes with police, things mellow out with the Critical Mass rides as cops begin escorting protesters as they do with other protest marches.

Sept. 2006: The push for a more bike-friendly Winnipeg goes more mainstream as former Olympic cyclist Lindsay Gauld and bike shop owner Scot Miller organize a mass ride from Assiniboine Park to city hall dubbed Strength and Participation in Numbers (SPIN) to encourage city politicians to boost bike infrastructure.

Nov. 2006: City hall seems to be getting the message that Winnipeg’s active transportation network is lacking as they announces plans for improved cycle routes. In 2006, the city’s active transportation budget is about $200,000.

July 2007: Ninety percent of respondents in a Manitoba survey say they support governments investing more in active transportation projects. Of 803 respondents, 7% were opposed to increased funding and the remainder were strongly opposed.

Spring 2010: The city hosts over a dozen open houses to lay out plans for its biggest-ever year of active transportation construction which tallied up to $20.5 million — funding shared evenly by all three levels of government. In the 2010, the city’s active transportation budget is about $1.75 million.

Fall 2010: While many Winnipeggers lauded city hall for boosting active transportation infrastructure, dedicated bike lanes and traffic calming circles prove too confusing for many and even become a civic election issue.

Feb. 2011: Cycle advocacy group Bike to the Future calls on the NDP government to legislate a one-metre buffer for bikes that motorists would have to respect.

April 2011: Cruz In Downtown, a celebration of classic cars that ran for 11 years, screeches to a halt as the Downtown BIZ decides to shift some of its small amount of annual cash support to other events, including Ciclovia, a celebration of bikes and pedestrians that takes over a part of Broadway in September.

May 2011: Winnipeg police target cyclists who fail to dismount on the Osborne Bridge. Many cyclists — and even pedestrians on the bridge — cried foul over the $111 tickets as construction work on the span has left it a snarled mess with little room for bikes.

By the numbers:

  • On average two cyclists are killed each year in Manitoba
  • About 160 cyclists are injured on roads in the province each year
  • In 2009 (the last year stats are compiled for), there were 287 claims involving bikes
  • The average cost of a bicycle claim (over a five-year period from 2005-2009) was $18,700. The high average stems from the fact in many cases cyclists ended up with broken limbs or were unable to work due to the severity of injuries.
  • Fifteen- to 19 year-olds are those most likely to be killed or injured on bikes
  • The June to September period is when most bicycle-vehicle collisions occur

Source: Manitoba Public Insurance

Stupid road behaviour:

Curt Hull, co-chair of Bike To The Future:

Cyclist: “Running through red lights really burns me. We work really hard to improve relations between cyclists and drivers and when I see that kind of behaviour, it puts all of us in a bad light. I have ridden after people who’ve done it several times to give them a little ‘advice’.” Driver: “I experienced one motorist who honked at me from blocks away and leaned on the horn the whole way as he approached. He was also screaming at me to get over to the right on a one-way street as I was trying to make a signalled left turn.”

Gord’s Ski & Bike president and CEO Jean-Francois Ravenelle:

Cyclist: “It has to be cyclists commuting in the winter after a snowstorm and fighting with traffic. It’s like Russian roulette. And riding a bike in traffic without a helmet. That is the dumbest possible thing you can do.” Driver: “Our biking group has had three instances of people in pickup trucks throwing beer bottles at us. But the most common thing is that many cars just refuse to give the right amount of space for bikes. I saw a guy in an SUV not shoulder check, drive a cyclist into the sidewalk so he falls over with his bike lodged under the vehicle. The guy then rolls down his window and goes, ‘Any damage to my vehicle?’”

CAA’s Liz Peters:

Driver: “Motorists opening their driver’s side doors without looking.” Cyclist: “Cycling on sidewalks is probably more dangerous than riding on the road in some instances, because every time you cross a street, there’s a big possibility for a collision.”

Rules of the road:

Motorists’ obligations:

  • Allowing a reasonable amount of space and respecting demarcated bike lanes or “sharrows”

Cyclists’ obligations:

  • Not driving in and out of traffic
  • Obeying traffic signals and signalling turns and stops
  • Only children’s bikes with a wheel diameter less than 41 cm are allowed on sidewalks

Source: Winnipeg Police Service

Sidewalk cycling ‘last resort’

This spring’s police ticketing clampdown on sidewalk cycling on the Osborne Bridge highlighted the type of area where conflict can easily be sparked between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Bottlenecks spots like bridges and underpasses can often leave all on the move feeling cramped for space.

Anders Swanson, a bike mechanic and active transportation advocate, said he believes sidewalk cycling is in most cases a last resort for bike riders and not simply a matter of flouting the law.

“Cyclists ride on sidewalks because they don’t feel safe on the road,” Swanson said. “When you see otherwise law-abiding citizens taking matters into their own hands doing what they feel they need to feel safe, that’s a symptom of infrastructure design problems. Any engineer or planner will tell you that.”

According to the law, only kids’ bikes are allowed to be ridden on sidewalks. All others must be walked and violators can face fines of over $100.

Swanson argues that what’s needed is infrastructure change and not a crackdown.

“If 50% of drivers are doing something wrong at an intersection, traffic engineers will take a hard look and figure out why that’s happening, they don’t just blame the drivers,” Swanson said.

Gord’s Ski & Bike president and CEO Jean-Francois Ravenelle, who leads a weekly biking group around the city, said his bikers sometimes utilize sidewalks.

“If there’s no pedestrians on the sidewalks and lots of cars, it’s a safer alternative and we use them at times,” he said. “If there’s a pedestrian, we get off the sidewalk or ride on the grass.”

For Jean Feliksiak, who lives in a Portage Avenue seniors’ complex, sidewalk cyclists are a frightening phenomenon.

“I use a walker and I’ve had lots of problems,” she said. “They ride on the sidewalks and they have their heads down and their behinds sticking up and they pedal as fast as their little legs can carry them weaving in and out. It’s just ridiculous where people are trying to walk. You take your life into your hands practically.”

Feliksiak would like to see bike lanes on roads, but paid for by cyclists.

“Licence the bikes to pay for them,” she said.

Bike to Work Day Winnipeg: CityTV’s Breakfast TV, Global TV

posted at June 25, 2011 14:52 (about 1 year ago)
June 24, 2011
CityTV, Global TV

On Bike to Work Day morning, Bike to the Future Co-Chair Curt Hull appeared on CityTV’s Breakfast TV Winnipeg and on Global TV Winnipeg. Each video clip is approximately 2 minutes long.

Two-wheelers rule during Bike to Work Day

Winnipeg free Press

City streets are filled with cyclists pedalling their way to and from work today.

The fourth annual Bike to Work Day is expected to see more Winnipeggers riding their bikes to work than last year, when nearly 2,000 riders registered for the event.

On their way to work, cyclists will gather at about 20 Bike Pit Stops sprinkled across the city to enjoy coffee and muffins and, no doubt, generally celebrate Winnipeg’s $20 million in upgrades to bike-friendly infrastructure. Organizers will hand out snacks along with T-shirts and other prizes and tickets to a victory barbecue at The Forks this evening featuring Red Road Moon.

To support the cyclists, CAA is expanding its Bike Assist program to everyone today. Bike Assist provides roadside assistance to CAA members whose bikes break down out on the road.

Bike to Work Day is sponsored by the city, Bike to the Future, Climate Change Connection, Manitoba Cycling Association, the Green Action Centre and Winnipeg Trail Association.

For more information, go to www.biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org.

His passion is the wheel thing

posted at June 23, 2011 12:09 (about 1 year ago)
June 23, 2011
William Burr

Winnipeg cyclist tireless advocate for active transportation

Anders Swanson sits on numerous active-transportation advisory committees, when he’s not working in a Winnipeg bicycle shop.

When he goes on a canoe trip, Anders Swanson likes to be the one holding the map.

The walls of his apartment are covered in them.

Control freak or visionary, Swanson likes to know where he’s headed.

And he knows where he wants to take Winnipeg: toward a full-fledged embrace of the bicycle.

Probably Winnipeg’s most famous cycling advocate, his membership on the steering committee for Bike to Work Day, coming up Friday, is just the tip of the iceberg of Swanson’s involvement.

He sits on six advisory committees for active transportation, including Manitoba’s and Winnipeg’s. He participates in seven environmental organizations, some of which he started himself, such as the Orioles Bike Cage, a co-operative where cyclists go to learn how to repair their own bikes.

His volunteer work is basically all he does outside his part-time jobs at the Natural Cycle shop and the Physical Activity Coalition of Manitoba.

“You get emails from Anders in the middle of the night all the time. I don’t know when he sleeps,” says Kevin Nixon, Winnipeg’s active-transportation co-ordinator.

Curt Hull, who works on Bike to Work Day with Swanson, is another peer who sings his praises. “It’s his quiet, infectious enthusiasm and how he brings energy into a room — I’ve seen him light up a city council meeting,” Hull says.

“He’s pleasant to work with and funny, and he breaks up the gruelling agony — he’s got a good wit about him,” says Janice Lukes, who sits on the city’s active-transportation advisory committee with Swanson.

She says he understands that cycling is more than a “niche market.”

“People generalize and think cyclists are spandex racer types. But they’re not. They’re the masses. And he gets it.”

Lukes says Swanson has been effective at selling cycling to people who were what she calls “tough nuts to crack,” such as Mayor Sam Katz and city Coun. John Orlikow.

Both speak highly of Swanson. “I’m a big fan of Anders, no question about it. That doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree,” Katz says.

“He’s an advocate. We have many advocates in the city. We listen to them all, and we take a balanced approach after that,” says Orlikow, but adds, “He’s passionate and committed and a good community member, for sure.”

Swanson is a tall, burly, youthful 33-year-old and he has a thick, brown beard. He lives with his girlfriend in a spacious apartment downtown. A bike Swanson is working on sits upside down on the floor, wheels in the air.

But he wasn’t always a cycling enthusiast. When he was 16, he wanted nothing more than his own car, and he would eventually own several — but not anymore.

The cycling bug only bit him in 2004, when he bought a $25 bike to get to work and learned how to equip it for the winter. Beating Winnipeg’s cold gave him a sense of accomplishment, and he was hooked.

Shortly after that, he applied to work at Natural Cycle. Senior mechanic David Geisel says the cover letter Swanson wrote was so convincing they had to hire him.

“He somehow touched on the cultural aspect of cycling and just made it sound as if nothing else mattered,” Geisel says.

While repairing bikes at Natural Cycle, Swanson heard many stories from commuters. “You get into discussions with customers and every second one has a story about this or that close call or this or that pathway that floods or doesn’t go the right direction or doesn’t connect, and I guess a penchant for mapping was making me connect all these dots in my head.”

He started OneGreenCity.com, a website where people share ideas about what kind of cycling infrastructure they would like to see in Winnipeg and then map it out digitally.

One project led to another, and suddenly cycling advocacy was all he did. “It got pretty out of hand. All of a sudden there were so many trails to be built and events that people wanted to plan — so anyways I started being on a lot of committees.”

Seeing ideas being turned into real changes to the city’s landscape, such as new bike lanes, helps motivate him to sit through so many meetings. “When you see it come out in reality and then you see little kids biking down there, big smiles on their face, then it’s like, OK, maybe this is pretty awesome,” he says.

Despite the bicycling inroads, it will be decades before Manitobans have the cycling infrastructure that other cities have, he says. “Even just to catch up, there’s a lot of mapping and ideas and people to connect.”


Put away the car keys… Friday is Bike to Work Day

Bike to Work Day this year will feature over 20 “pit stops” spread out throughout the city where participants can meet up with each other and get free snacks, coffee, T-shirts and prizes.

Largest pit stop will be at Bonnycastle Park — at the corner of Main Street and Assiniboine Avenue — where there will be a live TV broadcast.

During and following the afternoon commute on Bike to Work Day, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., there will be a barbecue at The Forks with free hotdogs, veggie dogs or burgers for the first 300 cyclists and a prize draw.

To register for this year’s Bike to Work Day, map your route and find a pit stop, visit biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2011 B1

Pedal pusher –Bicycle Valet Winnipeg

posted at June 18, 2011 20:35 (about 1 year ago)
June 18, 2011
David Sanderson

With his bike valet service, David Wieser is hoping more Winnipeggers will two-wheel it to city events

Revenge is a dish best served cold. And dripping with paint.

Not long ago, regulars at a bar in Livingston Montana were being plagued by a bicycle thief who would nab their wheels while they were inside tossing back a few.

One night, some of the victims hid near the watering hole’s bike rack, and waited for the perpetrator to show up. Within an hour, a dark figure appeared and began sawing the lock off one of their bikes. Before the crook could make his getaway, however, he was greeted by a barrage of paintball pellets. (Charles Bronson fans everywhere will be pleased to learn that the act of vigilantism was filmed by one of the participants, and is now available for all to enjoy, on YouTube.)

“That was a good video; I watched it last week,” says David Wieser, the founder of Bicycle Valet Winnipeg — a year-old organization that parks and protects Winnipeggers’ bicycles at events all over town.

The million-dollar question, then: will Wieser now follow suit, and arm his legion of valets with paintball guns?

“Uh, no,” Wieser says, with a laugh. “There are no plans to do that at this time.”

Bicycle Valet Winnipeg is exactly what it sounds like: Cyclists present their bikes to whoever is on duty at happenings like rock concerts and street festivals. Valets park the bikes in a cordoned-off area, then hand out claim stubs. At the end of the event, the bike owners return their ducats, and the valets fetch their rides. Best of all: it’s free.

“People always ask, ‘How much?’ but thanks to our sponsors and event organizers, we don’t have to charge a penny,” Wieser says, adding that Bicycle Valet Winnipeg is a subsidiary of Bike to the Future, a non-profit organization whose mandate is to make cycling in the Peg a safe and convenient transportation alternative, year-round.

Wieser came up with the idea for Bicycle Valet Winnipeg in 2007, after reading about a similar enterprise in San Francisco. But before he made his dream a reality, Wieser, a 17-year member of the Canadian Armed Forces, was redeployed to Edmonton for training, and then to Afghanistan for a six-month tour of duty.

“It was while I was in Kandahar that I really began jotting down notes, bouncing ideas off other people, and firing off emails,” Wieser says. By the time he returned to Winnipeg in April 2010, the married father of one was “pretty much ready to go.”

Well, not exactly. At Bicycle Valet Winnipeg’s inaugural event — Bike to Work Day 2010 at The Forks — Wieser had plenty of takers, but nowhere to put their bikes. “It fell on the same day that the Queen was in town,” Wieser explains. “The city was supposed to deliver a bunch of bike racks, but they were so busy with the royal visit that they forgot about us.”

To make sure that never happened again, Wieser began building his own bike racks. (Last week, he put the finishing touches on No. 51.) He’s also busy building on Year One, when his valets — all of them volunteers — worked at close to 20 events, including the last six Blue Bomber games. Wieser just got word that his services will be needed at all of the Big Blue’s home games this year, and Bicycle Valet Winnipeg will also be present at the Red River Exhibition, Canada Day at The Forks, and the MEC Bike Fest in July.

To date, Bicycle Valet Winnipeg has tended to everything from skateboards to unicycles to bike trailers. “Last year, we even had a 10-foot-long, four-wheel car cycle — it was awkward to park but we did it,” Wieser says. On the other hand, mopeds need not apply. “No, we won’t park anything with an engine. We’re trying to encourage people to choose active transportation to get to their event.”

In addition to establishing relationships with organizers of the Manitoba Marathon, and/or the management of this city’s new NHL franchise, Wieser has one other goal in mind.

“We parked (Hot 103 DJ) Ace Burpee’s bike at the Ciclovia festival last year,” Wieser says. “He draws such a crowd, I wish we could have a bike valet following right behind him wherever he goes.”

For more information, and to see where Bicycle Valet Winnipeg will be setting up next, visit bicyclevaletwinnipeg.ca.

Valet girl

In August, David Wieser will bid adieu to Winnipeg, and to his “baby,” Bicycle Valet Winnipeg. Wieser, an electrical distribution technician at 17 Wing, is being transferred to a base in Ontario. Last month, Wieser hired Rosanne Ritchot to take his place as Bicycle Valet Winnipeg’s chief co-ordinator. We recently caught up with Ritchot, and asked her a few questions about the future of Bicycle Valet Winnipeg, and her own passion for getting around town on two wheels.

Free Press: Was there a seminal moment in your life when you discovered you were a serious cyclist and not just somebody out for a little fresh air?

Rosanne Ritchot: I discovered my love for cycling during a bike trip from Winnipeg to Alaska and back, in 2004. Understandably, it would have been wiser to discover this love before leaving on a 5,000-plus-kilometre trip, but fortunately, it worked out.

FP: Just a hunch, but I’m guessing you didn’t show up for your interview with a David Wieser behind the wheel of a Hummer.

RR: I wouldn’t have dreamed of showing up for this job interview in any type of car! I have to admit, though, that I didn’t ride my bike. I walked.

FP: I know you haven’t officially started yet, but do you have any ideas re: your new title?

RR: I don’t have any specific plans yet. But I do dream of Bicycle Valet Winnipeg getting bigger, if only because I dream of Winnipeg being a city more open and accessible to cyclists.

FP: One of David Wieser’s chief tenets is that Bicycle Valet Winnipeg will never charge individual cyclists to use its services. Do you subscribe to that belief?

RR: Absolutely. In my opinion, BVW’s purpose is to make taking your bike instead of your car as easy, as accessible, and as affordable as possible. Using your bike is a glorious thing, and BVW should help to make that true for more and more Winnipeggers.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2011 E3

Preparing for Bike to Work Day

posted at June 18, 2011 08:01 (about 1 year ago)
June 01, 2011

This is 3:12 video interview with Dave Elmore (BttF’s Safety & Education Director) and Cara Fisher (The WREnCH‘s Program Director) about Bike to Work Day.

Cyclists can steer to ‘pit stops’, free barbecue on Bike to Work Day

posted at June 14, 2011 17:18 (about 1 year ago)
June 14, 2011
William Burr

Instead of making you come to it, Bike to Work Day is coming to you this year.

In the past, participants had to meet at one of five points across the city. But on June 24, there will be more than 20 “pit stops” spread out so that people from many neighbourhoods can meet up with other riders and take advantage of the free coffee, snacks, T-shirts and prizes.

This way, cyclists won’t have to add on as many needless kilometres to their commute just to feel like they’re part of the event. The largest pit stop will be at Bonnycastle Park — at the corner of Main Street and Assiniboine Avenue.

Increasing the number of meeting points is part of an attempt to get more riders out. For the past three years, the number of participants for the day has held steady at about 2,000. So far this year, organizers say they have about 1,000 bicyclists confirmed.

During and following the afternoon commute on Bike to Work Day, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., there will be a barbecue at The Forks with free hotdogs, veggie dogs or burgers for the first 300 cyclists and a prize draw.

Competing with motorists for road space is still a serious issue for Winnipeg cyclists, said Hal Loewen, a librarian at the University of Manitoba who cycles to work every day. Bike to Work Day can help, he said. “It’s a good start.”

Drivers have become more aware of cyclists over the past decades, said Curt Hull, a Bike to Work Day organizer who has been an avid cyclist since the 1970s, when he spent five months cycling across Europe.

“More cyclists on the road means that motorists have more of a tendency to accept cyclists on the road,” Hull said. “When you’re an anomaly, you’re seen as a real inconvenience, but there are more and more cyclists so it’s just not worth getting upset.”

To register for this year’s Bike to Work Day, map your route and find a pit stop, visit biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2011 B4

Bike routes should be enforceable: Orlikow

posted at June 13, 2011 14:56 (about 1 year ago)
June 13, 2011

A Winnipeg city councillor wants police to have the power to ticket those who drive vehicles on restricted bike routes such as Wellington Crescent on Sundays.

Signs say part of Wellington is restricted to local vehicular traffic on Sundays so people can bike, walk and run.

But Coun. John Orlikow says that’s not what is happening. “What we have found is a number of people are either not seeing the signage or ignoring it,” he said.

Orlikow wants a city committee to review restricted Sunday bicycle routes such as those on Wellington Crescent, Scotia Street, and Wolseley Avenue.

But Mark Oswald, who enjoys biking down Wellington Crescent, doesn’t think a review will change anything. “I think its probably just a waste of time. Who is going to be the enforcer? People have to be aware there are cars possibly coming down the road.”

Orlikow wants the current signage to be enforceable under the provincial Highway Traffic Act so police can actually ticket drivers who ignore the signs. “When we started looking at … the actual signage we have up right now … it’s not part of the Highway Traffic Act,” said Orlikow. “So therefore the police actually can not hand out tickets.”

Orlikow said ultimately the province will have to amend the Highway Traffic Act and the city develop new signage to resolve the problem.

Going for a ride? City brings back bike-pad parking

posted at June 06, 2011 09:22 (about 1 year ago)
June 06, 2011
Melissa Martin

There is suddenly a surge of parking in the heart of Winnipeg — as long as you leave your car at home.

City workers have installed new bike parking pads over 18 street spots in downtown, the Exchange District and the West End. It is the second year for the active-transportation feature, which was launched as a pilot program last summer.

The mobile pads take up about two car-lengths of space on the street, and have room to securely hitch 16 bikes per rack they carry.

“They are designed to be semi-portable so that, should a location not be in high demand, they can be moved to an area of higher demand,” city spokeswoman Alissa Clark said.

For instance, you may have spotted the pads — which are built on a base of recycled wood — outside Canad Inns Stadium for last Sunday’s U2 concert. Currently, the pads have a home at spots including outside the MTS Centre, near the Sport Manitoba building on Pacific Avenue, and on Langside Street, north of Portage Avenue.

In some high-traffic spots, the pads have been a hit with cyclists who have long had to lash their bike to fences or light poles.

Unlocking her bike from the pad at the corner of Bannatyne Avenue and Albert Street, one frequent cyclist applauded the pads’ return. “It’s an incentive,” said Elisa Contreras, 24.

“Everything that makes a city more friendly for cyclists is great. They’re well-made and incredibly easy to lock your bikes to —- it’s a great idea.”

Not all are so thrilled. Last year during the pilot program, witnesses in the Exchange District watched as a car accidentally drove into one of the pads, damaging bikes and the car itself; on Twitter and in Exchange District cafés, some drivers were overheard voicing concerns that the pads’ presence on the street wasn’t safe.

But the pads are marked by tall blue columns to alert drivers, and Clark pointed out that they are only placed in existing street parking spots to minimize risk. Each spot is vetted by the public works department to make sure it’s safe for drivers, she said.

The bike-pad program is administered by the city’s parking authority and designed to complement the city’s active transportation initiatives. They are monitored by local Business Improvement Zone organizations, which keep an ear out for feedback.

Last year, the Exchange District BIZ heard a few complaints about where the bike pads were located. So this year, they tweaked the placement of their four pads.

“So far, we haven’t had a single complaint, and for the most part they’re full,” said BIZ operations director Derek Manaigre. “So we are happy.”

The BIZ also hopes to install 15 to 30 more individual bike racks this year.


‘The best thing that’s happened to this part of St. James’

posted at June 01, 2011 21:40 (about 1 year ago)
June 01, 2011
Matt Prepost

Yellow Ribbon Greenway highlight of Trails Day events

The asphalt has barely had enough time to cool off but the Yellow Ribbon Green­way trail is already being heralded as one of the best in the city, according to residents and advocates.

And it will be one of the must-explore highlights of Trails Day on June 4, when there will be six multi-use trail events for individuals to explore across the city.

“It’s the best thing that’s happened to this part of St. James,” said St. James resident Connie Newman, who has closely followed the trail’s construction and can be found along it three to four times a week.

The 5.5-kilometre trail begins at Hamilton Avenue and Silver Avenue near Sturgeon Creek and snakes its way through city-owned property, including forested parts of Murray Industrial Park and the Living Prairie Museum, a strip near the airport and the Assiniboine Golf Course to Ferry Road. Plans call for it to eventually reach Polo Park Shopping Centre.

As part of Trails Day activities, a series of events will take place along the Yellow Ribbon trail include a scavenger hunt, bike decorating and guided hikes of the Living Prairie Museum.

Because it’s tucked away from traffic, it’s a gem full of views and community still waiting to be discovered by many in St. James, Newman said.

“Between bikes and scooters and dogs, all ages of people, it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s really a community kind of gathering, people talk to each other.

Janice Lukes, manager of special projects for Winnipeg Trails Association, said the event is an opportunity to showcase the city’s growing trail network.

“People are antsy to get out. The snow melted, the grass is green, the weeds haven’t taken over yet,” she said. “It’s an ideal time to get out and explore and learn where these trails are.”

Lukes said she spent three hours on the Yellow Ribbon Greenway with her children on a recent Sunday morning, and found it full of wildlife, playgrounds, the aviation museum and a must-see view of planes landing at the airport.

“We’re standing there and standing under these plane bellies coming in right after another. It was a real eye-opener for my kids,” she said.

Other Trail Day events will include Harte Trail’s Paw Trek and Dog Show, which starts at Oakdale Street and Ridgewood Avenue in Charleswood.

The event takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. and will include a dog show, bike decorating, and geo-caching. “It’s a very good opportunity for the whole community, we’re doing things for every age level,” said Lois Caron, president of the Friends of the Harte Trail.

“It’s a chance to get out and discover the trail, and gain more knowledge about the trail.”

For more information and downloadable maps, visit winnipegtrails.ca .


Trails Day set to connect communities

posted at May 25, 2011 10:00 (about 1 year ago)
May 25, 2011
Simon Fuller

Winnipeggers will soon get the chance to become even more connected.

June 4 is Trails Day, when there will be six multi-use trail events for individuals to explore across the city throughout the day.

One brand new trail will be Bishop Grandin Trail West — a five-kilometre route that runs west from the Red River at Bishop Grandin Boulevard to McGillivray Boulevard.

It was funded by all three levels of government under the banner of the Manitoba Rural Infrastructure Fund.

A key event organizer says the new trail — which is also part of the Trans Canada Trail system — will help bring communities in southwest Winnipeg together.

“This new trail is a stellar example of community connectivity,” said Janice Lukes, manager of special projects for Winnipeg Trails.

“It also enables access to the University of Manitoba on the east end and the Kenaston big box shopping centers and FortWhyte Alive on the west end.”

Lukes, who lives in St. Norbert, said the trail links the communities of University Heights, Waverley Heights, Waverley West, Linden Ridge and Whyte Ridge.

On Trails Day, the new route will be showcased by the four-kilometre Cycle Tour — FortWhyte Alive to Crampton’s Market, during which participants will get a guided tour of FWA before continuing on the trail for a trip to the market.

Erin Crampton, who co-owns and operates Crampton’s Market with her partner, Marc DeGagne, is excited about the new trail — not least because she hopes it will improve safety for local cyclists and pedestrians. “I’ve seen our customers, including mothers with young kids, dodging traffic when they cross the intersection at Bishop and Waverley,” said Crampton, who lives in Waverley Heights.

“I’m too scared to cycle on these routes. So, for me, the new pathway is absolutely necessary. There are the road warriors, who will nudge their way through traffic on their bikes. But for the rest of us, the new trail will make it safe and easy, which is lovely.”

When event participants arrive at Crampton’s Market, they can expect to find a selection of locally grown produce, dry goods and baked goods, as well as the chance to score goody bags and receive bicycle and sports therapy advice from various organizations.

“There will be a whole bunch of local food producers and we’ll also be giving out swag bags. People will get a rewards card and receive a sticker at every station they visit. When they get five, they can collect a bag,” Crampton said.

Other Trail Day events will include Harte Trail’s Paw Trek and Dog Show, which starts at Oakdale Street and Ridgewood Avenue in Charleswood and Discover Transcona’s Many New Trails, which begins at the Transcona Historical Museum on Regent Avenue West.

Crampton’s Market is located at 1765 Waverley St. For more information, and downloadable maps, visit www.winnipegtrails.com.


Floodway rec plan unveiled — Province reveals pedestrian-centred overpass, trail

posted at May 21, 2011 13:53 (about 1 year ago)
May 21, 2011
Bill Redekop

Birds Hill Provincial Park — Former premier Duff Roblin dreamed not just of building a floodway but of developing the floodway corridor for recreational use for all Manitobans.

The first one he got built in short order. The latter took 50 years.

On Friday, the province gave a glimpse of the first phase of that floodway development that includes construction of a $3-million pedestrian overpass bridge spanning Highway 59, across from the Birds Hill Provincial Park entrance.

The bridge is a key component in a 48-kilometre recreational trail for non-motorized travel being built along the west side of the floodway here. The bridge will also connect cyclists and others with Birds Hill Park, which has over 100 kilometres of additional trails, starting at the Cedar Bog Trail. The pedestrian bridge and a portion of the trail — from about Garven Road to Lockport — is expected to be completed possibly as early as August. Finishing touches are likely to continue until fall when a grand opening is scheduled.

The entire trail, extending as far south as Duff Roblin Provincial Park, at a cost of $6 million in addition to the bridge’s cost, will be completed by next summer. It will be open for four-season use including walking, jogging, cycling, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, even dogsledding. There will be a dedicated toboggan hill close to Kirkness Road, north of the Birds Hill Park entrance. There will be up to six staging areas where people can park and load their bikes.

Janice Lukes, a director with the Winnipeg Trails Association, expects some people will be skeptical. “It’s pretty hard for the average Joe to get the picture,” she said.

But Lukes has no doubt the trail system, once built, will attract hordes of users. “Just look at the usage that old rail line (the former CPR rail line between Gateway Road and Raleigh Street the city converted into a biking/hiking trail) gets. People are really getting into this,” she said.

The floodway project is just the north extension of the trail system being built through Winnipeg. You could soon be able to travel on a dedicated recreational trail from the University of Manitoba (following the Rapid Transit Corridor), through The Forks, along the old CPR line that divides Gateway and Raleigh, all the way to Birds Hill Park and beyond to Lockport.

“Cycle tourism is a massive industry in Quebec, in Minnesota. We’re flat here. We’re perfect,” Lukes said.

The project — which will also include landscaping and beautification, with the planting of thousands of trees and natural flowers and prairie — is being undertaken by the Manitoba Floodway Authority.

The steel bridge is necessary to hook up with the extensive trail system in Birds Hill Park, and because people are already crossing the highway there. “This is a major safety concern,” said Ronuk Modha, floodway authority communications director.

The bridge is 4.2 metres wide, from curb to curb. It will have an enclosure similar to wire fencing so people can’t fall out or throw things down on traffic. There will also be a viewing area in the centre. About a six-kilometre stretch of trail between Dunning Road and Garven Road is asphalt and already completed. The rest of the trail will be crushed limestone. The floodway authority is also building a three-kilometre trail into Birds Hill Park to hook up to the Cedar Bog Trail.

People can’t cross the floodway from Birds Hill Park to the floodway’s west side when it’s full with flood water but that is only one to two months of the year, said Modha. Otherwise, people can cross at Dunning Road, west of the 59er Restaurant. This is just the floodway authority’s first phase of development. The second phase will take place on the southern portion of the floodway near St. Mary’s Road, Modha said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2011 B2

Get on your bikes and ride!

posted at May 20, 2011 08:48 (about 1 year ago)
May 12, 2011
Marlo Campbell

New resources will help cyclists navigate Winnipeg’s evolving active-transportation network

Spring has sprung in Winnipeg — bringing with it not only tulips and potholes, but also an increase in the number of cyclists on city streets.

For fair-weather bike riders, now is the first chance to try out some of the $20.4 million worth of improvements made to Winnipeg’s active-transportation network last year: everything from improved signage to new multi-use pathways to the traffic-calming circles that caused a small furor when they were installed in October. Part of the federal government’s stimulus plan (although financially supported equally by all three levels of government), the unprecedented investment in AT saw 70 km of on-road infrastructure and 30 km of new paths added to the 275 km of existing routes throughout the city; 35 new projects in total.

With the changes to the local landscape come new resources aimed at helping cyclists of all experience levels navigate their way through the city safely and easily.

Offered through the City of Winnipeg’s Leisure Guide, two courses on commuter cycling skills will be held May 14 and 29 from noon until 4 p.m. at the Sport for Life Centre, 145 Pacific Ave. (The first is full but there’s still room for the May 29 course; it costs $36 to attend and those interested must register in advance by calling 311.)

The classes are being taught by Curt Hull and Dave Elmore, members of local volunteer cycling advocacy group Bike to the Future. Both men have been certified by CAN-BIKE, a nationally standardized safety program created by the Canadian Cycling Association.

Hull says the courses are for “any cyclist who wants to ride confidently on the roadway.” Each will include two hours of classroom time and two hours of on-road training through residential neighbourhoods and on high-traffic streets, with Hull and Elmore showing participants how to practice four key principles: manoeuvrability, visibility, predictability and communication.

“Since I’ve started to exercise the CAN-BIKE skills, the way motorists treat me has improved dramatically,” Hull says. “In fact, the way they treat me as a cyclist is much better then the way they treat me as a motorist.”

Also hitting streets this month is a new cycling map of Winnipeg, developed by eight local groups — including BTTF — in partnership with the City.

“Active transportation has been a really important lesson in the power of community involvement,” says BTTF member Anders Swanson, a year-round cyclist who helped develop the new map. “It takes lots of eyes and ears to map a city.”

An updated, revamped version of a 2009 map, the new resource shows all the AT infrastructure added over the last year and includes a street index. It also notes the type of surface people will encounter on routes in an effort to provide information that will be relevant not only to cyclists, but also to those walking, using wheelchairs or pushing strollers.

“What I think is really innovative about the map is how it incorporates all kinds of people’s needs,” Swanson says.

The 2011 Winnipeg cycling map is free. It will be available in local bike shops, and an online version will be released shortly.

Winnipeg’s new AT infrastructure is helping put the city on a different kind of map, too. This past November, biking directions for eight Canadian cities were added on Google Maps, Winnipeg among them. The feature shows riding routes colour-coded according to their suitability for biking and is constantly being updated; users are encouraged to email in tips.

“We were really excited to be a part of that,” Swanson says. “We really are redrawing the landscape.”

No better thrill on wheels, say pixie bikers

posted at May 17, 2011 07:34 (about 1 year ago)
May 17, 2010
Carol Sanders

They’re grown men on tiny bikes.

Not circus clowns, but daredevils who say they’re young at heart.

Meet the pixie bike racers, the latest, weirdest and likely the most well-balanced breed of Winnipeg cyclist.

On Sunday, they raced full bore on their tiny homemade wheels down the steep grade of Garbage Hill, vying to be the first to make it between the pylons two feet apart at the foot of the hill.

They’d grab hold of the jersey on the person in front of them to slingshot ahead. The prize for the winner of the “death race”? Survival and the sheer fun of it.

Jean Madore, 42, has been organizing the races for two years, and wants to “take it big — as much as BMX.”

There are anywhere from a dozen to 22 pixie bike racers in Winnipeg, Madore figures. Most are male and many are bicycle mechanics.

The transplanted Quebecer is a proponent of the homemade novelty bike as well as being a mountain biking enthusiast. The tricky little pixie, though, is dearest to him.

“I’m like a kid again,” said the Canadian Forces driver and driving instructor.

“I have no kids — I’m the kid.”

The bikes may look childish but require a high level of balance and co-ordination to operate without popping a wheelie or wiping out.

The pixie riders make it look easy.

Paul Dixon, 31, whips around the Garbage Hill course near Polo Park well-protected with a blue cape, shin pads and a full-face downhill helmet that says “Got Jesus?”

His bike is a hybrid of scavenged parts, including a pink L’il Princess handlebar and a boyish black banana seat.

Sometimes the bike mechanic will go for a spin down Broadway during the lunch hour.

“All the people looking grumpy see me coming and it makes them smile,” said Dixon, who has a three-year-old daughter.

On top of Garbage Hill Sunday, the pixie bike racers warmed up on their “steeds.”

“If you hit a gopher hole, you’re gone,” said KMO, a 27-year-old bike mechanic who wouldn’t give his real name.

He said there are no real mountains or big hills in these parts, so to make the hills feel bigger, they make their bikes smaller.

The sport isn’t for everyone, he said.

“It’s for someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously.”

Madore said they’re planning more races later this summer with the dates and times posted on his Facebook wall.


Cyclists risk fine if they bike on sidewalks

posted at May 11, 2011 23:31 (about 1 year ago)
May 11, 2011

Winnipeg cyclists need to dismount their bikes on sidewalks to avoid fines, a local lobby group warns.

Mike Cohoe, a director for cycling group Bike to the Future, said some cyclists have been ticketed $110 for riding their bikes on a sidewalk to cross the Osborne Bridge, which is currently under construction. While some cyclists feel unsafe biking on the roadway, Cohoe said the best thing they can do is walk their bike across the sidewalk or plan an alternate route.

The city had expected pedestrians and cyclists crossing the bridge from Osborne Village to use a path underneath the bridge’s north side to get to the legislature grounds or the Assiniboine Avenue bikeway. However, rising river levels have made the walkway impassable.

Cohoe estimates about 1,500 cyclists travel through the area every day.

“The best way to not get ticketed is to walk your bike across,” Cohoe said, noting the non-profit group plans to publicize alternate routes cyclists can take during the construction period.

Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said during this time of year more people may be out and about, and officers want to make sure roadways, including paved sidewalks, are “safe.”

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2011 B2

Sidewalk cyclists warned after ticket crackdown

Winnipeg Free Press, May 11

Police are reminding Winnipeggers about the rules of the road for cyclists after several were ticketed Tuesday for riding on the sidewalk of the Osborne Bridge.

Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said approximately 10 cyclists were ticketed under the Highway Traffic Act Tuesday, and will face fines exceeding $100 for allegedly riding on sidewalks. A police cruiser was parked near the Osborne Bridge Wednesday morning to monitor the ongoing situation, heightened by the closures relating to construction.

Police said the road safety reminder is also targeted at motorists, who need to be aware of cyclists on roadways.

Michalyshen said cyclists who go on sidewalks could pose a risk to others.

Police ticket sidewalk cyclists

Winnipeg Sun, May 10, Paul Turenne

Winnipeg police were parked at the foot of the Osborne Bridge Tuesday morning ticketing cyclists for riding on the sidewalk — a move some viewed as “ridiculous” but one police defended nonetheless.

Riding an adult-sized bike — children’s bikes are exempt — on the sidewalk is illegal under Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act and comes with a $111.10 fine.

Signs at either end of the Osborne Bridge clearly warn cyclists to dismount if they plan to cross on the sidewalk, but it’s a warning that more often than not goes unheeded.

With the bridge now under construction, two sidewalks have been consolidated into one, essentially doubling both the foot traffic and cycling traffic on the bridge’s west sidewalk.

Const. Jason Michalyshen, a spokesman for Winnipeg police, said Tuesday’s enforcement doesn’t relate specifically to the construction, although he said officers do set up where they believe there is a problem.

“Ultimately our role is to ensure the sidewalks are safe for everyone,” he said. “There can be dangerous situations when you’re dealing with young people and elderly people. People can get injured. When people operate their bikes they should know the rules of the road.”

J-F Ravenelle, president of Gord’s Ski and Bike, said he understands police have to uphold the law but called the enforcement “ridiculous” in light of the traffic chaos currently snarling the bridge.

“I don’t want to encourage public disobedience but I’d rather see cyclists being courteous to pedestrians on the sidewalk than risking getting hit in traffic. I’ll take my chances on the sidewalk,” he said.

A few pedestrians the Winnipeg Sun talked to on the bridge Tuesday agreed.

“I think it’s pretty ridiculous. What are (cyclists) supposed to do, really? The bridge is like a death trap,” said Kate, who declined to give her last name.

Madeleine, another pedestrian, said her husband is 80 years old and rides his bike on that sidewalk every day.

“I’m really glad he does, otherwise he might get hurt,” she said.

Another pedestrian named Carol said cyclists should just hop off their bikes and walk them across if they don’t want to get hit, but did question the need for enforcement.

Police ticket sidewalk cyclists

Uptown, May 19, Mike Warkentin

Police are ticketing cyclists who ride across the Osborne Bridge, finally enforcing a law that should be enforced all the time

I hope cops ticket every single cyclist on the Osborne Bridge.

In recent years, I’ve come out in defence of cyclists on a number of occasions, mostly because I ride my bike regularly and support active transportation. I’ve also criticized ignorant cyclists whose behaviour makes all cyclists look bad and creates dangerous situations on the roads.

You know the kind. They’re the ones weaving in and out of traffic, playing chicken with motorists, running red lights and blowing through stop signs without even looking for oncoming traffic. Cyclists have every right to be on the road, but they do not a right to behave like fools. Follow the rules and I’m on your side, pedal-pushers.

Which brings me to the Osborne Bridge.

With construction underway, cyclists have been told they must dismount before crossing on the sidewalk — as if that law wasn’t in place years ago. Yes, the “dismount on sidewalk” signs have been there for a long, long time, and yet now police are suddenly enforcing a law that should have been enforced all the time. And cyclists are upset.

I’ve been hit by several cyclists on the sidewalk of the Osborne Bridge, and I’ve had all manner of discussions with those cyclists in attempts to explain why they do not have the right of way on the sidewalk. These discussions never go well, despite the fact that I have just been struck by a bike that has no right to be travelling on the sidewalk.

I more than understand the issues with cycling in this city. Winnipeg is brutal for all forms of traffic, and cyclists definitely get the short end of the stick. That situation is made worse by the construction on the bridge, which creates the most ridiculous traffic jams at all hours and traps residents on one side of the river or the other.

But I have zero sympathy for cyclists who get ticketed for riding on the sidewalk. They know the rules and they break them. Cry me a river.

Think about this: one of the improvements to the bridge will be a barrier between the sidewalk and the road. Thank God and it’s about time. Currently, nothing but a small curb separates pedestrians from buses and, with increased foot traffic on the bridge, a speeding bike can force pedestrians into traffic. Or, in the event of a collision, the cyclist bails into traffic. Good times all around.

I laugh long and hard when I hear people call enforcement of this law “ridiculous,” as happened in the May 10 Winnipeg Sun story “Police ticket sidewalk cyclists.” What’s ridiculous is people who completely ignore instructions, endanger other citizens and then cry about a $110 ticket.

If a cyclist considers the roadway unsafe, then he or she is more than welcome to dismount and walk across the bridge with the other pedestrians. That’s a great alternative to battling rush-hour bottlenecks in which too many vehicles are fighting for too little room on a crumbling bridge.

It takes about three minutes to walk over the Osborne Bridge. Once you get to the other side, you can laugh at the dumb cyclists receiving tickets, hop on your bike and be on your merry, environmentally friendly way without having endangered yourself or others.

Mike Warkentin now avoids the Osborne Bridge like country music.

Bikes brought back to life by students

posted at May 10, 2011 07:01 (about 1 year ago)
May 04, 2011
Adrian Alleyne

Katherine Dow knows firsthand what it’s like to have no bike but is hoping other youngsters in Elmwood won’t have to experience the same feeling.

Dow, along with a number of her classmates at Elmwood High School, are cur­rently taking part in Community Youth Cycling Leadership Education, or CYCLE.

The program offers participants an opportunity rebuild two bikes — one for themselves and another for someone else in the community.

“It feels good because we’re making a bike for a kid who doesn’t have one,” said Dow, a Grade 8 student at the school, which houses both middle years and high school students. “I know how it feels, so it’s great to give this to a kid.”

The program was conceived of by members of the River East Neigh­bour­hood Network’s In Motion Committee.

CYCLE is offered three times a week for eight weeks. The after-school program is currently in its second session.

Twelve students take part in each session, working in teams of two at six different work stations.

School officials say the program has received largely positive reviews from Elmwood students.

“The attendance for the first eight weeks was great,” said teacher Chantelle Cotton. “Some students have never ridden a bike before, or never had one.”

Grade 8 student Jason Amaya said the program will provide additional benefits down the road.

“We can use this in the future. If our bikes break, we’ll know what to do,” he said.

Manitoba Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie visited the school last week as part of its Earth Week activities. He visited with CYCLE participants and took part in a presentation for students.

Manitoba Conservation was one of several funders for the program. It provided a grant of $8,640 for the project through its Waste Reduction and Pollution prevention Fund.

“I think it’s important to support it. We want to give support to the idea of bicycle use,” Blaikie said. “It makes people aware of the benefits of riding a bike.”

Dow can’t wait to take her new set of wheels out for a spin.

“I’ll definitely be riding more this year, since we did the work on the bikes,” she said.


Pedestrians risk life and limb

posted at April 26, 2011 21:31 (about 1 year ago)
April 26, 2011
Melissa Martin

Dodge traffic after pathway submerged

High water and heavy construction have choked off key walkways through one of Winnipeg’s busiest downtown routes, triggering a jaywalking jam many fear is a disaster waiting to happen.

On Monday afternoon, as the first waves of southbound rush-hour traffic started to flow south down Osborne Street from downtown, dozens of pedestrians and cyclists gingerly picked their way between oncoming cars to make it to Osborne Bridge’s single open sidewalk.

“This is what passes for planning in this city,” said Paul Hesse, who walks or bikes every day from his Osborne Village home to his downtown law office. “It’s terrible. Something has to be done.”

The problem: Since Monday morning, the east side of the Osborne Bridge sidewalk has been closed to accommodate the bridge’s year-long rehabilitation.

The city expected pedestrians and cyclists crossing the bridge from Osborne Village to use a path underneath the bridge’s north side to get to the legislature grounds or the Assiniboine Avenue bikeway.

But with that walkway deep under the swollen Assiniboine River and no temporary crossing from Mostyn Place to the legislature grounds, pedestrians walking downtown are forced to either walk north to Broadway — or, as hundreds of people did on Monday, nip across three lanes of bustling Osborne Street traffic.

Until the underpass reopens, Hesse worries, a scheme that pushes dozens of people an hour across Osborne Street traffic risks tragedy. “People haven’t been warned about this,” he said, minutes after a construction worker in a bright orange vest helped escort an elderly woman through the traffic.

“Will people have to risk lives crossing illegally through Osborne’s traffic?”

Monday was a holiday for city employees, who were not available to discuss the issue in-depth.

But in an email to Hesse on April 21, a city bridge engineer acknowledged the concern and said the city had “considered installing a temporary crossing at street level but determined that it is not safe to do so.”

The letter also noted that once the Assiniboine River water level retreats, the city will raise the walking path so it isn’t impacted by future flooding.

The bridge-level sidewalk will not re-open until October. The bridge project will also add a permanent pedestrian crosswalk between Assiniboine Avenue and Mostyn Place, the city said, but that will not be open until October 2012.

At the impromptu crossing on Monday, some pedestrians scooting between cars were taken aback by the city’s decision.

“It’s too dangerous (to put a temporary crossing)? Oh, that’s good,” said Kendall Hinds, an Osborne Village resident, on his way to toss a Frisbee on the legislature grounds.

“They really thought this one through — this is the major access point into the village.”

On the flip side, drivers seemed to understand that too, as they slowed down and stopped on Monday to let pedestrians and bikers cross. “It’s a little inconvenient, but for the most part motorists have been really considerate,” said bike commuter Bonnie Van Steelandt, waiting for an opening in traffic to pedal across to the west side of Osborne Street.

“But it would be nice to have a crosswalk here. I don’t know the right answer — I just hope it doesn’t last long.”


Construction, flooding puts pedestrians, cyclists in harm’s way along Osborne Bridge — Global TV Winnipeg

Potholes a blight for cyclists, too

posted at April 08, 2011 21:04 (about 1 year ago)
April 06, 2011
Arielle Godbout

When Tim Woodcock rides his bicycle to work from St. Andrews, he encounters countless potholes. Last week, he said the worst part of his trek was between the Norwood Bridge and the Red Top restaurant in St. Boniface.

“The wettest part of my entire ride was St. Mary’s,” said Woodcock, referring to the melted snow that puddles up in potholes.

And while the warm weather comes hand-in-hand with more ruts in the road, it also brings out more cyclists.

That has Woodcock — owner of Woodcock Cycle Works Inc. on St. Mary’s Road in St. Vital — reminding motorists that cyclists have to deal with potholes, too.

“The tough thing with the potholes is, when you’re commuting, you’re trying to keep as close as possible to the curb. But most of the worst potholes are close to the curb,” he explained.

Mark Cohoe, a director with the group Bike to the Future, agreed with Woodcock’s assessment.

“I think sometimes drivers don’t realize we’re dealing with that,” Cohoe said, adding that hitting a pothole can be more jarring for bikes than for cars.

Cohoe added spring is a good time to remind people to be consistent by riding their bikes about a meter away from the curb.

“If you’re at that meter length, it gives a bit of room to react,” Cohoe said.

He said even when there aren’t potholes to worry about, hugging the curb too closely can be dangerous since debris such as gravel and glass tend to gather there.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance, potholes are more likely to occur closer to the curb because of drainage patterns.

Ken Boyd, the city’s manager of street maintenance, said this year seems particularly bad for potholes.

That’s partly because of a wet fall, and because of numerous freeze-thaw cycles this winter and spring, he explained.

“Those both contributed to what I consider a worse than normal pothole season,” he said.

Boyd added crews are already on the street fixing ruts, both by hand and using automatic pothole-filing machines.

Cohoe said while potholes are a spring ritual in Winnipeg, he’d like to see the city spend more money on improving infrastructure.

Woodcock agreed, adding that the city should also ensure it’s getting guarantees on work done by contractors.

“It seems the same roads are getting resurfaced every year or two years,” he said.

Boyd said individuals can report potholes by calling the city’s 311 information line.


Cycling lobby asking for one-metre rule

posted at February 10, 2011 18:07 (about 1 year ago)
February 10, 2011
Aldo Santin

A cycling lobby group wants Manitoba to join the growing number of jurisdictions that require motorists to give bike riders a clear berth on roadways.

Bike To the Future wants amendments to the Highway Traffic Act that requires motorists to give a one-metre clearance when passing cyclists.

“It’s about education, not enforcement,” Charles Feaver, chair of Bike To the Future’s provincial committee, said. “We really feel this one issue could make cycling safer and encourage more people to give up their cars and ride.”

The lobby group has made a formal request for the legislative amendments in letters to Transportation Minister Steve Ashton and Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau.

At least 13 states in the U.S. and Nova Scotia have enacted similar amendments, known in Canada as the one-metre rule and in the U.S. as the three-foot rule, he said.

The lobby group believes the one-metre rule is more important to bike safety than making helmets mandatory, which the group opposes, Feaver said.

The Highway Traffic Act requires motorists to pass cyclists and other vehicles “at a safe distance” without defining the distance considered safe.

Motorists seem unsure how much clearance to give cyclists, Feaver said, adding some provide anywhere from half a lane to a full lane but some only give centimetres. He said one-metre clearance is enough to ensure safety at speeds within the city.

Feaver said the lobby group understand that it takes time to pass legislative amendments, adding however it remains Bike To the Future’s top legislative priority.

Ashton was not available for comment this morning but a spokeswoman said the government prefers public education campaigns and infrastructure changes designed to improve safety rather than legislative amendments and penalties that might accomplish the same goal.


Bike to the Future note:
We do not oppose mandatory helmet legislation, but we also don’t support it. See the 4th point in the first section at http://biketothefuture.org/attachments/0000/0864/bttfspecialdirectorsmeeting2007-11-21.pdf.

Cyclists want one-metre law

Drivers must keep their distance: lobby group

By Paul Turenne, Winnipeg Sun

February 9, 2011, 11:07 PM

Should drivers be legally required to pull over one metre to pass a cyclist?

Nova Scotia became the first province to pass that law in December, and now a cycling lobby group is asking the Manitoba government to do the same thing.

Bike to the Future wrote to Transportation Minister Steve Ashton and Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau last week to formally propose that the government make it illegal to pass a cyclist on the road without leaving at least a one-metre buffer between the vehicle and the bike.

The lobby group has identified the change as the top priority on its legislative wish list.

“It’s really just to be sure the cars understand they shouldn’t come so close to a bicycle,” said Charles Feaver, chair of Bike to the Future’s provincial committee. “Cars will leave a metre if they’re going by a concrete post or a parked vehicle, but they won’t leave that much room for a cyclist.”

Section 114(1) of the Highway Traffic Act currently requires drivers passing bicycles or other vehicles to do so “at a safe distance” and to return to the right side of the road when “safely clear.”

Feaver said he doesn’t expect police officers to be out on the streets with rulers making sure the law is followed.

He said it’s mostly about educating drivers so they “make a conscious effort” to pass cyclists safely, which Feaver believes will improve cycling safety much more effectively than any kind of mandatory helmet law.

“It will make everybody feel safer. A lot of the incidents on the road are due to a lack of common understanding,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Ashton said the government is reviewing a number of proposals related to active transportation, including the one-metre rule.

“Bicycle infrastructure and public education continues to be our favoured method of encouraging safe and healthy transportation,” she said.

More than a dozen U.S. states have such a rule — known there as the “three-foot rule” — in place.

Nova Scotia passed its law in December but has yet to proclaim it.

The government there is developing an educational campaign to help familiarize drivers with the change before the law comes into force.


Also see our Latest News item.

Cyclists look at winter and let out laugh

posted at February 07, 2011 08:13 (about 1 year ago)
February 07, 2011
Geoff Kirbyson

Undaunted by city’s cold climate

If you dreaded the sprint to your car the last few days because you were afraid of your face freezing off, Winnipeg’s hardiest commuters have a message for you — suck it up already.

The bone-chilling temperatures and biting winds were nothing more than minor irritations for hard-core cyclists, who headed outside with no more concern than most of us would have during a sunny day in June.

“I’m just out delivering a box of Cheerios. My mother ran out,” said Laurie Ahoff, during a brief pit-stop on Main Street. His two-wheeler is about as old school as they come — a three-speed with skinny tires and no modifications.

“What more do you need? I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he said.

He even rides his bike to get groceries, which he packs in a milk crate affixed above his rear wheel.

“Most people get groceries once a week. I shop just about every day,” he said.

Ahoff, who owns a car, said it’s too much of a hassle to drive in the winter.

“You’ve got to shovel it out and clean it off. With a bicycle, you just grab it and go,” he said. “You want to buy my car? I’ll give you a good deal.”

As daunting as the prospect might seem, cycling year-round is relatively comfortable provided you dress for the weather, said Ken Berg, a manager at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

“It’s not as bad as people think from a comfort and safety point of view,” he said.

“Although I do have a lot of people question my sanity when they see me out on days like this.”

Ed Jones has a vehicle, too, but he still prefers to get around downtown, where he lives and works, by bicycle.

“I’m just doing small hops around downtown. In some ways, it’s easier (on a bike). Parking can be inconvenient. That extra dollar for parking, I can’t really justify it,” he said. “The challenge is keeping your feet warm.”

Being a connoisseur of outdoor gear comes with the territory for winter riders.

Jones said you can get by with the same clothing you’d walk around in if you’re riding for less than 15 minutes. Anything longer and he said a balaclava, nylon booties and a hoodie are absolute musts. He also recommends a one-gear bike.

“It’s simple and efficient. Moving parts in this weather tend to moan and groan and break,” he said.

Berg said a hard shell to break the wind is another requirement as are sunglasses or his preferred eyewear, ski goggles.

“You’ve got to make sure every square inch of exposed skin is covered up,” he said.

Berg recommends shirts that keep moisture away from your body, too.

“If your clothes don’t breathe at least a little bit, all the moisture will be kept inside against your skin and you’ll get cold. Your sweat will freeze,” he said.

Ahoff said the beat-up bicycles that he rides in the winter last two years before they rust out due to the salt that’s put down on the roads.

“See if I can bill the city for that, OK?” he said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2011 B1

Rehab project could bridge conflict gap

posted at January 07, 2011 18:46 (over 2 years ago)
January 05, 2011
Simon Fuller

Tighter safety measures could help bridge the gap between the needs of cyclists and pedestrians at one of Winnipeg’s busiest bottlenecks.

Plans for the latest version of the $18-million Osborne Street Bridge rehabilitation project — which will stretch from River Avenue to Broadway Avenue along Osborne Street — were recently unveiled, featuring two options.

The first option is the preferred blueprint recommended by the city’s Neighbourhood Advisory Committee. It includes revamping the bridge with separate sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and cyclists in both southbound and northbound directions. Concrete shoulder barriers would separate the two lanes. The second includes a multi-use pedestrian-cycle lane next to the southbound lanes of the bridge.

A key figure in the planning process said the first option is more viable for several reasons including safety.

“The second option is a bit more unusual and faced some opposition from residents at the open house,” said Matt Chislett, bridge projects engineer for the city’s public works department.

“There are potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. During community consultation, we became aware there is a significant population of older people in that area. Many have vision and mobility impairments and are very uncomfortable having commuters zipping past,” Chislett said.

Chislett said that planners are constrained by the unique demographics of the compacted stretch of land. “The second option would require some property acquisition at the southwest corner of the bridge, which we found out afterwards,” said Chislett, noting that approximately 40,000 vehicles use the bridge every day.

He added that the pathways would be affected — or “discontinuous” — at certain points, such as near the Roslyn Square Apartments at the corner of Roslyn Road and Osborne Street. “We have to work with the useable width of the sidewalk by this heritage building, so there’s no real opportunity to widen there.”

Chislett said the consultation process for the massive project has included “all sorts of surveys and meetings with stakeholders” such as BIZ groups, Great West Life — who are based just north of the bridge — and cycling advocacy group Bike to the Future.

BTTF co-chair, Curt Hull, 55, thinks the separate pedestrian and cycle lanes make sound safety sense. “It’s important to have a cycling solution on the bridge, because right now we have conflict, especially at rush hour, which makes the recommended option attractive prospect for cyclists,” said Hull, who lives in Fort Rouge.

Hull said the vision reflects a “compromise, considering the different restraints developers had to contend with.”

“Also, when you cycle on the sidewalk, you become very vulnerable at intersections. We want cyclists to have routes that are segregated lanes. Personally, I think this makes crossing the bridge safer and more pleasant for everyone,” Hull said.

He added that Osborne Bridge is at the “crossroads of all major routes making it a key to the connectivity process for cyclists. The active transportation work done with bike paths in recent years has made a significant improvement to the network.”

Area resident Jenn Halyk, 32, has lived in the village since 1999. The marketing manager — who regularly drives and walks across the bridge — thinks the proposal is a “good thing, because so many people are riding their bikes on the narrow sidewalks.”

“If you’re a recreational cyclist who likes to use the sidewalk, where else are you going to go? There’s very little room to manoeuvre,” Halyk said.

“And just the other day I was driving behind someone who was riding a massive tricycle on the road in bad conditions. They were wearing no safety gear and I had to swerve in the snow at the last minute to avoid them.”

Area councillor Jenny Gerbasi said the opposing views of cyclists and pedestrians have been an issue of conflict in the community for some time.

“I know that cyclists using the sidewalks has been a problem in the past, so the rehabilitated bridge will certainly be a big improvement compared to now,” Gerbasi said.

“Also, with barriers on either side of the pedestrian walkway, the bridge should be a better and safer place for everyone.”

Chislett said work on the bridge is set to begin in April and should be significantly completed by October 2012. It will remain open during construction with a reduced number of lanes at different times. For more detailed information, visit www.winnipeg.ca/publicworks/majorprojects/osbornebridge.


$18-M remake for Osborne Bridge — Cyclists worry Osborne Bridge proposal has some flaws

posted at December 20, 2010 07:41 (over 2 years ago)
December 17, 2010
Geoff Kirbyson

Focus on cyclists, pedestrians, art

A newly rehabilitated Osborne Bridge will have separate spaces for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as an artistic component to fit in with the eclectic neighbourhood, according to plans unveiled Thursday evening.

A smattering of area residents and users of one of the city’s busiest bridges discovered active transportation will be the central theme of a planned $18-million renovation. Construction, which is scheduled to begin in April, will feature one three-metre-wide walkway and two two-metre-wide bike paths.

To accommodate these features, the bridge will be widened by about five feet by extending the overhangs and replacing the existing wide median with a narrower barrier.

Matt Chislett, bridge projects engineer for the city’s public works department, said the city decided against a joint pedestrian-cycling lane.

“We have a high percentage of people in the area with vision impairment or who use seeing-eye dogs and we didn’t want them sharing space with cyclists,” he said at an information open house at Holy Rosary Church.

Chislett said making the bridge safer for people on foot has been a concern since a vehicle jumped the curb and killed a pedestrian in the late 1980s.

He said the renovation will prolong the lifespan of the bridge for another 75 years. The Osborne Bridge was built in 1975. Replacing the bridge would cost about $25 million, he said.

Chislett said he and his team will take the most recent public feedback and potentially “tweak” bridge plans. The current schedule calls for the east side of the bridge to be closed in April, with construction finishing up in October. The following spring, the same thing will happen to the west side.

During both construction periods, traffic flows in both directions will be restricted to a total of three lanes, he said.

“It’s going to be a snarl,” he said, noting 40,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day.

Most of the time, two lanes will head south, with one going north. During morning rush hours, however, it will be reconfigured with two lanes heading north.

Chislett said an artist has been hired to incorporate art into the bridge’s design, such as the handrails or at the end of the bridge.

“We want to make it an esthetically pleasing bridge to fit the neighbourhood,” he said.

About 60 people came through the open house during the first three of four hours Thursday night. Gerald, whose family operates a business in the area and who asked that his last name not be published, said he appreciated the chance to voice his opinions on the project design. He said he was confident it would not result in the public relations disaster that accompanied last fall’s introduction of traffic circles in several neighbourhoods.

He said he believes the bigger problem is traffic flow in Osborne Village, used by people from other neighbourhoods simply passing through on their way home from downtown.

“I think they should tunnel under the Osborne overpass and come up under the river by the (Legislative Building),” he said.


Osborne Bridge to get $17M rehab

CBC.ca: December 17, 2010

People in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village had mixed reactions after getting a look Thursday night at the city’s plans for a $17-million makeover of the Osborne Street Bridge.

Some say the changes won’t ease traffic congestion in the popular shopping district but others welcome the wider sidewalks and the addition of bike lanes on both sides.

“Its a step toward safety — providing somewhere for people to ride their bikes that isn’t the sidewalk. I’ve flown up against the rail from people on their bikes a few times [while] walking over the bridge,” area resident Jason Van Rooy said while at the city’s open house at Holy Rosary Church on River Avenue.

Basil Lagopoulos, who owns Basil’s Restaurant, which is scheduled to re-open in the spring, calls the project a disaster.

“Osborne Village has, by example, provided its citizens with an alternate lifestyle and it is slowly becoming a freeway,” he said.

There are two options being considered for the project, which will extend the lifespan of the 33-year-old bridge by another 75 years.

The main difference between the options is the the space dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. Option 1 features 2.7 metre-wide sidewalks on both sides, 1.8 metre-wide bike lanes and a concrete barrier separating them.

Option 2 features a 4.1 metre-wide sidewalk on the west side of the bridge (next to southbound traffic lanes) for both pedestrians and cyclists. On the other side would be a 2.5 metre-wide sidewalk and 1.2 metre-wide shoulder on the road for cyclists.

Regardless of the option chosen, the bridge deck as a whole would be widened by about 1.5 metres.

The preferred choice recommended by the city’s Neighbourhood Advisory Committee (NAC) is Option 1, primarily because it keeps pedestrians safer by separating them from cyclists.

Cyclists on the bridge will be able to link to two nearby active transportation routes: the Nassau Street route, which will connect along Roslyn Road to the Osborne Bridge, and the Assiniboine Avenue bikeway to the north.

As well, a new street level crossing for pedestrians and cyclists is proposed at Mostyn Place.

Also, the Winnipeg Arts Council (WAC) has made a grant available to incorporate public art into the refurbished structure. The selected artist, chosen through a jury process coordinated by the WAC, will work closely with the engineering and design team, states the city’s website on the project.

The art might involve the railings, finials or other aspects of the bridge.

“The artist will consider input received through the collaborative planning process and public consultation including the concept of a subtle gateway to mark the transition from the lively, pedestrian-focused Osborne Village at the south end to the stately Legislative Building to the north,” states the website.

Construction is set to start in April and be completed by fall 2012. Work would only be done and restricted to happen between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekend and holidays in compliance with the city’s noise bylaw.

The bridge will be open during construction with a reduced number of lanes.

Cyclists worry Osborne Bridge proposal has some flaws

Global News: Thursday, December 16, 2010

Residents had their chance to weigh in on plans for the new Osborne Street bridge at an open house Thursday evening.

The existing 35-year-old bridge has some wrinkles, and is ready for a $17-million face lift.

“It’s not in danger of falling down, but it’s definitely time to get in and do some repairs and this work will allow us to extend the service life of the bridge by about 75 years,” says the bridge project engineer, Matt Chislett.

As many as 40,000 vehicles travel across the bridge every day.

Pedestrians and cyclists also rely heavily on the stretch.

“The pedestrian crossing on the north side of the Osborne bridge, we do not need another traffic signal in this city for sure,” says Cindy Wright, who walks across the bridge twice a day.

The new bridge will feature improved approach roadways and wider lanes. A divider wall will also separate cyclists, using the bike path, from pedestrians on the sidewalk. Right now they share.

“They ride and they don’t give you any warning, they just all the sudden yell at you. ‘Hey, I’m walking on the sidewalk,’ they’re supposed to ride on the road,” says Gerry Cairns, who lives in the area.

Some cyclists feel the plans still have some flaws, because they say the bike lanes will soon shoot them out into traffic at certain points, without warning.

“The one on the northbound just kind of starts out of no where, and the one on the southbound just kind of disappears,” says Curt Hull, a member of Bike to the Future, a cyclist organization.

While the city says it’s taking concerns into account, it admits there are limitations to how wide they can expand the bridge, and don’t expect any major chances to the plans.

Construction is set to begin in 2011.

The city plans to keep the bridge open during construction. A study is being done to reduce any headaches during roadwork.

© Copyright (c)

There was also a CTV News at Six item about the Osborne Bridge rehab on Thursday December 16th. It was almost three minutes long, and Bike to the Future’s Gareth Simons (our rep on the City’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee) was featured. He made numerous comments and was filmed riding over the bridge.

Bike to the Future’s Mark Cohoe (City Committee Director) served on the Osborne Bridge Neighbourhood Advisory Committee (NAC) Public Consultation and Collaborative Planning Process from September to December 2009. Comprehensive background info, reports from NAC meetings, and reports from City Committee Osborne Bridge Strategy Meetings are posted on our City Committee page under Osborne Bridge Rehabilitation..

Harper extends deadline for stimulus projects

posted at December 03, 2010 13:14 (over 2 years ago)
December 03, 2010
Mia Rabson

OTTAWA — Dozens of infrastructure projects in Manitoba received the gift of time from the federal government Thursday when Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended the economic stimulus construction deadline by seven months.

The extension — until Oct. 31, 2011 — gives another full construction season to finish the projects which might otherwise have died midstream or before they even got going if the government stuck to its guns about pulling funding from any projects incomplete by March 31. The only caveat is that the projects have to be at least underway by March 31.

Harper said more than 90 per cent of the projects are expected to be completed by the end of next March but the extension is warranted for the “small” number of projects hit by bad weather or “Murphy’s Law.”

“There are a number of organizations that were very concerned,” said Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton.

Ashton sent a letter to Ottawa in early October warning there were several dozen “high risk” projects that were unlikely to be completed by the March 31, 2011 deadline.

Out of 207 federal stimulus projects approved in Manitoba, one third are finished and one third are more than half done. But as of Oct. 31, there were 57 projects which were less than half done and nine which hadn’t even started yet.

Six of those are recreational pathways in Winnipeg. The city had 36 pathways planned under the stimulus plan, but six were delayed due to property negotiations and public consultations. Construction can’t begin on those six until the spring.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said he expected Ottawa would be reasonable and was pleased to see the extension.

The move takes pressure off Youth For Christ Winnipeg, which faced a March 31 deadline to raise another $3.57 million toward the completion of its $13.2-million Centre for Youth Excellence at the north end of the Main Street strip.

Salvation Army Commissioner John Nelson hadn’t yet heard about the extension Thursday but said it was great news for the new Multicultural Family Centre under construction on Morrow Avenue.

Ground was broken on the $4.5-million project in July but construction delays have put the building behind and it won’t be done by the end of March, said Nelson.

“We’ll appreciate the extension,” he said. “That will be wonderful.”

The centre, which provides programming and transition help for new immigrants, received $1.5 million from both the province and Ottawa. The Salvation Army contributed the remaining $1.5 million.

Nelson said the extension until October gives more than enough time to get the building done.

The stimulus plan in Manitoba totals $694.5 million, with $271.4 million coming from Ottawa and $245.3 million coming from the province. The remainder came from municipal governments and the private sector.

Some project heads said they had planned to get around the looming deadline by completing the parts of their project associated with the federal cash first.

Virden Mayor Jeff McConnell said the federally-funded components of the $17-million multi-use recreational facility underway in Virden are on target to be done by the end of March.

— with files from Bartley Kives and the Canadian Press


City tab for bike, pedestrian upgrades climbs by $3M

posted at November 23, 2010 09:24 (over 2 years ago)
November 23, 2010
Bartley Kives

City council was asked to spend another $3 million on Winnipeg’s ambitious bike-and-pedestrian program — over and above the $20.4-million tab shared by all three levels of government.

In a report published on Monday, the city’s public works department said it needs more cash to complete an upgrade that was supposed to see 36 new bike-and-pedestrian projects built this year.

Six of those projects were delayed until 2011 because property negotiations or public consultations took longer than expected. But some of the costs of completing the rest of the projects were not covered by an infrastructure-stimulus agreement that was supposed to see each level of government pay for one-third of the upgrade.

“When they say one-third, one-third, one-third, it doesn’t always work out that way. In fact, it rarely does,” said St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, who chairs the public works committee, which will address the funding shortfall this morning.

To complete the active-transportation program, council is being asked to divert $1 million from a dormant portion of a Kenaston Underpass project and approve $2 million in funding from the 2011 capital budget.

The Kenaston money is dormant because of the ongoing Kapyong Barracks redevelopment stalemate, while the 2011 money could eat up a large chunk of next year’s active-transportation budget.

In 2009, the city spent $4 million on bike-and-pedestrian upgrades. This year’s allocation of $20.4 million was borne out of Ottawa’s effort to stimulate the Canadian economy.

Costs that were not covered by the infrastructure-stimulus deal this year include “Manitoba Hydro services, City of Winnipeg traffic services, City of Winnipeg traffic signals, property costs, additional engineering consultant costs and contract over-expenditures,” project manager Bill Woroby wrote in a report to council.

While the city managed to bring in some of the projects under budget, it can’t transfer federal and provincial money between projects. As a result, the net shortfall on the active-transportation upgrade is $3 million, Woroby concluded.

Vandal said he plans to ask a lot of questions about the funding at this morning’s meeting.

“No one’s ever happy when you have to move extra money forward,” he said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2010 A4

Bike Path Funding

posted at November 22, 2010 19:25 (over 2 years ago)
November 22, 2010

The City of Winnipeg admits it could be on the hook for millions of dollars in construction costs, for bike path projects that haven’t even been started and can’t make a March 31st deadline for Federal funding.

1:57 video, including a brief comment from Bike to the Future Co-Chair Kevin Miller:
“Mayor Katz assured us that the federal funding deadline of March 31st was not carved in stone … that those projects would be completed in the spring.”

City bike routes going on Google next week

posted at November 22, 2010 18:54 (over 2 years ago)
November 23, 2010
Adam Wazny

The snow and ice suggest otherwise, but life for the Winnipeg cyclist just became a little easier.

In an announcement at the Sustainable Mobility Conference in Ottawa Monday, Internet search engine giant Google has added Winnipeg to its list of Canadian cities that will have bike routes available online for those looking for the best path to take on two wheels.

With Google Bike Directions, scheduled to be added to Google Maps during the next week, users can pore over city-fed bike maps using the popular web atlas to chart a course for their daily commute.

Comprehensive maps of various bike routes and paths are already available on the city’s website, but Winnipeg Trails Association director Janice Lukes was thrilled to find out Google has added the city to its new mapping feature.

“We have all this new infrastructure and many people don’t know where it is,” she said. “This will encourage those who are looking to get out on the weekends or do a little riding after work.”

What has the cycling community excited about the Google Maps addition is the reach it will have to those contemplating ditching their vehicle for a bike.

Jeff Martin, owner of Alter Ego Sports, feels the undecided might finally decide to switch to a two-wheeler permanently, thanks to Google Maps. Not every trail or dedicated bike lane is visible from behind the wheel, he notes, so not everyone is up to speed with the layout of the city’s active transportation framework.

“For the serious cyclist, they’re going to ride their bikes regardless,” he said. “But for the inexperienced rider, this will show them they can get from point A to point B in a safe way, especially for winter riding.”

Google Bike Directions works like this: A click on the bicycle icon shows a dark green line indicating a bike-only path. A lighter green line signals a dedicated bike lane and a dotted line shows a city street that doesn’t have a dedicated bike lane, but could still be suitable for riding.

The city planned to spend $20.4 million dollars on 36 bike-and-pedestrian projects under a federal stimulus program this year. Cold weather cut six of those projects short, with completion scheduled for 2011.

Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Gatineau and Waterloo are the other Canadian cities involved in Google’s announcement. Bike-trail data for U.S. markets was added to Google Maps earlier this year.


Google Maps With An Eye On Wpg Bike Trails

CJOB News, 2010-11-22

Winnipeg is on the map you might say, as Google Maps moves to expand its routes to include bike trails in major Canadian cities. The project rolls out this week in Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec. Winnipeg is in the mix, along with Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Kelowna. Colour codes will highlight the bike trails as well as roads with designated bike lanes.

Google Maps adds urban bike trails in nine major Canadian cities

CW Media / Canadian Press, 2010-11-22

Cycling enthusiasts across Canada will soon be able to turn to Google for help with their next urban bike expedition.

The online information giant announced Monday that it is introducing a Bike Directions feature to its popular Google Maps site, allowing users to highlight bike-friendly trails and roads in nine major Canadian cities.

The tool will be available in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. later this week, the company said.

No other release dates were immediately available, but Google said the feature will also be available for maps of Waterloo, Ont., Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Kelowna, B.C.

Bike Directions, which has been available in the United States since March, uses colour coding to flag routes that are safe for cyclists.

A dark green line indicates a bike-only trail, while a light green line represents a dedicated bike lane along a road, Google said. Roads that are not designated biking areas but tend to be suitable for cycling are highlighted with a dotted green line, the company added.

Users also have the option of customizing routes to their preferences, such as finding short cuts or selecting routes that avoid hills.

Google relied on information provided by the cities to compile route data in some regions, the company said, adding it will implement a reporting tool that will allow users to suggest other bike routes for inclusion.

The Association of Commuter Transportation of Canada praised Google for creating a tool that will promote green travel in Canadian urban centres.

“Easy access to information is a powerful resource for supporting and encouraging the choice of sustainable travel options,” association chairman Lorenzo Mele said in a statement.

“The introduction of Google Bike routing in Canada will put cycling at the forefront of people’s thoughts as they search out the optimum way to get to their destination.”

Bike to the Future’s comment:

Anders Swanson has been working with the City of Winnipeg and Google to make sure Winnipeg was part of this initiative. It helped that the raw data from Winnipeg Cycling Map 2009 was useful to Google.


  • Most routes aren’t displayed yet. It will also take some time for all of the new 2010 routes to be added. Certain pathways (like the Bois des Esprits, Bishop Grandin Greenway, etc) started showing up a couple weeks ago.
  • There will also be a “bike there” feature. You’ll see the little bike symbol show up under “directions”.
  • There may be an integrated feature where users can modify / refine/ suggest alternatives.

Bicycle licenses hard to peddle

posted at November 16, 2010 15:04 (over 2 years ago)
November 13, 2010
Kristen Steele

The bicycle is such a simple invention and extension of human mobility that even my two-year-old enjoys the thrill of wheeling around on his Radio Flyer bike. This may be why, for many of us, the mention of requiring bicycles to be licensed or registered with the government raises hairs on our arms. It just instinctively feels wrong, like requiring pedestrians to register shoes, or roller-skates and scooters to don tags. But as cycling becomes more widespread, inevitable conflicts arise between road users, and some people are quick to propose legislative solutions.

Licensing and registration are two different issues in theory, though the terms are most often used to mean the same thing: a way to link a bicycle to a person. Bicycle registration is just that, linking a bicycle to a person in a database. While the major arguments for bicycle registration are that it helps recover stolen bicycles and generates new money for bike programs, registration programs almost always cost more to administer than the revenues they generate. And, since private bicycle registration services – such as the National Bicycle Registry – are available for cheap, many cities have discontinued mandatory registration in favor of optional programs.

Bicyclist licensing applies to cyclists as drivers licenses apply to motorists. Although some proposals to license bicyclists have been motivated by a desire to train cyclists on the rules of the road, I was hard-pressed to find a North American city that has seriously considered bicycle licensing with a mandatory education/test requirement. Where bicycle “licensing” does exist in North America, it is generally referring to a bicycle registration program.

Wherever the idea of actually licensing cyclists has been verbalized, it has died quickly. One reason is that licensing relates very little to education. Consider drivers licenses. After the initial license is issued, a renewal license – 10, 20 or 30 years later – only requires a small fee and testing to ensure you’re not blind. And, the main reason for licensing drivers – to keep people off the road who pose a threat to others – isn’t as applicable to cyclists. While a 3,000-pound (1,361-kilogram) car can be a deadly weapon, most cyclists who make mistakes on the road are only putting their own lives at risk.

Over the years, mandatory bicycle registration has existed and been repealed, or proposed and shot down, in places such as Portland, Toronto, Detroit, Tucson, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City. Why? The resulting laws:

  • Cost more to administer than they generate in revenue;
  • Open the door to police harassment of bicyclists;
  • Deter some people from cycling;
  • Do not improve cycling safety; other efforts are more effective at educating cyclists and motorists on how to share the road.

These precedents are useful to consider when the idea of registering bicycles creeps up. Last year in Philadelphia, PA, after a couple of high-profile accidents where cyclists were found to be at fault, two city council members proposed legislation that would mandate bicycle registration. According to Sarah Stuart of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, “The negative reaction to the bills was overwhelming. The pushback that the councilmen who introduced the legislation received was dramatic and much more than either expected. They were pilloried in the press and blogosphere.” Stuart reports that things have since cooled off and the proposals have been put on hold.

Alfred Whitney Griswold said, “The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” Campaigns and programs that promote cycling and bicycle safety are always better ideas than those that criminalize cycling.

Kristen Steele works for the Alliance for Biking and Walking, the North American coalition of over 160 bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations.

Contact Kristen at kristen@peoplepoweredmovement.org

On the path to no more cash

posted at November 14, 2010 15:46 (over 2 years ago)
November 13, 2010
Bartley Kives with files from Mia Rabson

Funding to finish bike-pedestrian projects in danger of disappearing

Only half of the bike-and-pedestrian projects planned for Winnipeg this year have been completed, placing federal funding for some of the remaining projects in jeopardy.

As of Wednesday, construction crews had finished 18 of the 36 active-transportation projects slated for 2010 as part of a $20.4-million infrastructure- stimulus program funded by all three levels of government.

Another 13 projects are under construction and could be completed before the snow falls if weather conditions remain favourable. But five others are on hold, pending further public consultations and property approvals.

Under the terms of a 2009 infrastructure-stimulus agreement, all the projects must be completed by April 2011. Since all but three involve concrete, which cannot be poured during the winter, the construction season for the upgrade is effectively over.

That means Ottawa could withdraw its funding for the incomplete projects. The city will likely seek some sort of extension to ensure that money doesn’t disappear, said St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, city council’s new public works chairman.

“You go hard until you can’t go anymore because of the weather. The large majority of them will likely get done and the ones you can’t get done will be finished in the spring,” Vandal said in an interview, expressing optimism the federal government will give the City of Winnipeg more time.

“Hopefully, at the end of the day they will see the difficulty the (infrastructure-stimulus) timelines placed on not just Winnipeg, but every municipality that had to spend infrastructure-stimulus funds.

“There’s no disadvantage to the federal government to allow a few more months for the projects to be completed in the spring.”

Prior to this year, the City of Winnipeg had never spent more than $4.4 million on cycling and pedestrian routes in a single year. Once a laggard on active-transportation infrastructure, the city hoped this year’s influx of $20.4-million would add 102 kilometres of cycling routes to an existing 274-kilometre network.

But the rollout of the project proved more difficult than expected, as the design work, public consultation and construction all had to be completed within a year.

One of the projects, a $1-million bridge over Omand’s Creek in Omand Park, was scrapped due to public opposition and replaced with $100,000 worth of trail improvements in the park. And since most of the other projects involve changes to existing streets, at least eight other routes garnered heavy criticism.

A spokesman for Infrastructure Minister Chuck Strahl referred questions about funding deadlines to the department Friday. A department spokeswoman said the March 31, 2011, deadline was a clear condition of the funding and all applicants signed agreements attesting to it and guaranteeing projects would be finished in time.

However, she said, the government is “monitoring the issue” and will be “fair and reasonable.”

“We are still several months away from the end of the fiscal year and we want to work with our partners to ensure that the projects are completed,” said Michelle Viau in an email.

In September, project manager Bill Woroby conceded the city should not attempt to complete so many active-transportation projects in a single year in the future. More time needs to be spent to ensure the changes enjoy widespread support, Vandal added.

“It’s great to have access to the money, but when you’re dealing with something as passionate as traffic management, you have to consult with the community,” Vandal said. “Hopefully, we’ve learned something in this case. I’d say the reasons we went so quickly was the timelines imposed by the federal government.”

— with files from Mia Rabson


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2010 B1

Cyclist’s driving us round the bend — Letters to the Editor

posted at November 09, 2010 23:10 (over 2 years ago)
November 09, 2010

Illogical rant

Tom Oleson’s Nov. 6 rant, Cyclists driving us around the bend, which has more lapses in logic than Winnipeg has four-way stops, would be funny were it not so dangerous. He is clearly no fan of roundabouts or cyclists, and his column is nothing more than a weak attempt to establish a linkage between the two, in order to complain about both.

Just for spite, he concludes with an ill-founded suggestion that bicycles should be licensed and their operators insured, ostensibly to offset the cost of new roundabouts and bike paths.

First off, don’t blame cyclists for the new traffic circles. The cyclists’ preferred solution to Winnipeg’s excessive use of two- and four-way stops was legalization of the rolling stop for bicycles, an approach that costs next to nothing. This was considered by the city late last year and rejected, despite the fact that it works well elsewhere (it’s been in place in Idaho since 1982).

Second, our roads and cycle paths are not paid for by licensing fees and insurance premiums. In large part, they come from property taxes, which most motorists (and cyclists) already pay.

Third, where’s the upside to forcing cyclists to pony up for a licence and insurance? Increasing the cost of cycling would simply ensure that these eagerly awaited bike paths and sharrows see somewhat less use.

Ken Newnham

Tom Oleson has managed to characterize all cyclists as evil since they do not like stop signs, do not pay a licence fee, and do not pay for accident insurance. And yet, he insinuates, cyclists “want to use the streets in the same way as motorists.”

In fact, cyclists are mandated by the Highway Traffic Act to use the streets in the same way as motorists. It’s not a matter of “want.” Pedestrians who cross our streets also must follow the laws and do not pay insurance.

What I do want is to simply ride my bike without being injured or killed. I am prepared to follow the traffic laws to do that. I would feel a lot safer in my daily commute if Oleson did not suggest reasons, spurious as they are, for motorists to hate cyclists.

Howard Ryant

Cyclists driving us round the bend

By: Tom Oleson

Oct. 21 the Free Press set up a video camera at the new traffic circle at Grosvenor and Waverley in both the morning and the afternoon. For all that time, during all those long hours, it simply showed the traffic in all its confusion come and go, interrupted only occasionally by a journalist’s chirpy comments.

Old-timers who happened to tune in might have thought that video had gone back to the days of watching the test pattern on television while waiting for the programming to start, but there was something more at play here. What we were seeing was a controversial city issue — are traffic circles good or evil, necessary or not? — playing out in real time, in real life, without any fifth columnists, commentators or combatants telling us which way was round.

In the few hours that it was on, it attracted about 5,000 viewers, which is kind of astonishing and a comment, perhaps, on the possibility that some of us have too much time on our hands, or that not all people at work are as productive as they might be, or that daytime TV is getting really, really bad.

Or is it, perhaps, just that Winnipeggers went to the web because they are still struggling to get their minds around traffic circles, to even understand why they are here at all, at great expense, when the straight roads that we are accustomed to are potted with holes so big that dogs and cats and perhaps even small children routinely vanish into them, never to reappear, at least according to urban legend?

The city’s explanation for the roundabouts is that they “calm” traffic. Perhaps one day they will — roundabouts have been fixtures in Europe for decades and are common elsewhere in North America — but at the moment they seem to have had the opposite effect, frustrating and infuriating motorists who are used to driving straight through but who are also accustomed to stopping at stop signs strategically placed to prevent them from building up too high a head of steam. Stop signs, one might imagine, have an even greater calming effect on rampaging roadsters than traffic circles.

The second reason given for traffic circles is that they fit in with the city’s plan — if that is not too dignified a word for it — to accommodate cyclists.

People who ride bicycles don’t like stop signs. They — like most motorists, one supposes — don’t see any reason why they should have to be subject to a traffic ticket if they don’t stop when there is no traffic coming, and, in my experience, most of them don’t stop. Motorists may salute a sign with a California Stop, slowing and then rolling through, but many cyclists don’t even bother to doff their helmets as they sail by.

Winnipeg — like many other places — is spending a great deal of money making the city a safer and a better place for bicyclists. It’s all part of the global warming, eco-freaky, grab-a-green-thing ethos that we all embrace when it doesn’t actually cost us anything in cash or convenience.

Bicycles are embraced as an environmentally friendly “alternative” mode of transportation to the automobile, something that should be celebrated. When I was a kid, bicycles were much more humble things. They were vehicles that we used for playing and getting around.

And they were licensed as vehicles. Every year you had to go down to your local fire hall and buy a bike licence. Every bike had two screw pads behind the seat where the licence could be attached, but only nerds used those. Cool kids stuck their licences between the spokes of one of their wheels, and that did look good when you were cruising.

Bicycles then cost the city nothing — the ostensible reason for the licence fee was so that police could return stolen bikes to their owners, although I never heard of anyone ever getting a stolen bike back unless he found it himself.

Today, bicycles are costing the city millions for traffic circles and reconstructed roads with bike lanes on them, but bicycles don’t need to be licensed. Neither do they need to be insured in case they run over pedestrians on streets where the bike lanes haven’t been built yet.

It’s time that changed. If cyclists want to use the streets in the same way as motorists, they should pay the same freight in licensing and insurance. Just because it doesn’t have a motor doesn’t make a bicycle any less of a vehicle of transportation. And that would sort of close the playing circle, if you will. Everyone will be cursing as each new roundabout is installed.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2010 A16

Cyclist’s integrity has readers rallying to support him

posted at November 08, 2010 07:16 (over 2 years ago)
November 03, 2010
Lindor Reynolds

MPI makes young man pay for honesty — Recent U of M grad dunned $1,800

October 21, 2010

Sebastian Ibarra has learned that honesty doesn’t always pay.

The 24-year-old, a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba, was riding his bicycle down Corydon this spring. There was a branch in the road. He swerved to miss it. In that split second he had to choose between falling into traffic or toppling over a parked car.

He picked the parked car.

After bystanders made sure he wasn’t badly hurt (he wasn’t, but his bike needed repairs), Ibarra checked the damage. He’d broken the tail light on a Lexus. Some people would have chosen to either ride off or pretend to write their details.

Ibarra, a foreign student from Mexico, did the right thing. He gave the absent car owner all his information, including his email address, home address and an explanation of why he doesn’t have a valid licence.

Here’s what he wrote in the note he left on the windshield:

“I do not have a Canadian driver’s licence, however, the Manitoba government gave me a driver’s exemption letter. I will scan it today and send you a PDF of this letter. The driver’s licence (number) under which this permit was issued is (his licence number). The accident happened just across (from) the Red Cactus bar. I was biking through Corydon, then I tried to avoid a branch in the pavement and lost control of my bike. To avoid the traffic to my left, I balanced all my weight to the right, just where your car was.”

He does have a Mexican driver’s licence, a moot point, as he doesn’t have a car here.

Here’s what the Lexus owner emailed back:

“Thanks for being so honest! It is because of people like you who make our city great. I hope you are at least OK.”

And that was it until two weeks ago when Ibarra got a letter from Manitoba Public Insurance telling him the damage to the Lexus came to $1,800. He’d have to pay the price.

Here’s context on Ibarra. He supported himself throughout his university years. His parents didn’t pay his tuition. He came to Winnipeg because he fell for a girl. When that ended, he stayed on. Ibarra’s proud that he’s graduating “only” $18,000 in debt. As an international student, he paid $15,000 a year in tuition.

The average student who attends university without parental help ends up owing $25,000.

Ibarra is now working two jobs, one as a server at a restaurant and another as a cook at a different restaurant. He says he has no idea how he can pay the MPI bill.

“As soon as I got the letter from MPI I called and asked them if there’s anything they could do. They waited all this time and then they send me this bill. I thought maybe I’d have to pay the deductible, but this is crazy.”

He contacted the Lexus owner again to see if he could intervene. The man was kind, but the situation is out of his hands.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley told me this is standard operating procedure. While he couldn’t discuss the specifics of Ibarra’s case, he said it’s not unusual to have months pass before the guilty party gets the dunning letter. First, the owner has to report the damage, then it’s repaired and finally MPI tries to recover its money.

“It’s irrelevant whether the person has a driver’s licence or not,” says Smiley. “The insurance company is trying to recover the monies from the person they believe is responsible.”

In this case, they didn’t have to look very hard. Ibarra left a note.

Lorraine Forbes, whose son is a friend of Ibarra’s, says she’s frustrated that a young man who did the right thing is ending up being financially battered.

“He’s a fine person, he’s an honours student,” Forbes says. “He’s the kind of upstanding student you want to see more of. I wish a fairy godmother could come down and help him.”

Brian Smiley holds out a glimmer of hope. People in situations like Ibarra’s can arrange to pay off their debts over the course of months or years.

I asked the honest cyclist if he regretted leaving his name and contact information.

“Of course not,” he said. “That was the right thing to do.”


It really is the best policy — Cyclist’s integrity has readers rallying to support him

November 3, 2010

Honesty does pay.

Last week I told you about Sebastian Ibarra, a 24-year-old recent graduate of the University of Manitoba. He was riding his bicycle down Corydon this spring. There was a branch on the road. He swerved to miss it. In that split second he had to choose between falling into traffic or toppling over a parked car.

He picked the parked car. That was the beginning of his misfortune.

Ibarra, a foreign student from Mexico, did the right thing. With a note on the windshield, he gave the absent car owner his information, including his email address, home address and an explanation of why he doesn’t have a valid licence.

Here’s what the Lexus owner emailed back:

“Thanks for being so honest! It is because of people like you who make our city great. I hope you are at least OK.”

So far, so good. Ibarra expected to have to pay the car owner’s deductible. Months later, he got a letter from Manitoba Public Insurance telling him the damage to the Lexus came to $1,800. He’d have to pay the price.

When I told you about him, many of you responded with offers of help for a young man who supported himself through university, works two jobs and has $18,000 in student debt.

At last count, Free Press readers had donated $1,615. When Ibarra and I had coffee Friday, he got teary.

“This is crazy,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.” Ibarra hadn’t contacted me with his sad story. The mother of a friend did. He wasn’t asking for anything.

“I just want to thank everybody. All these people I don’t know… is empathy the right word?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

I contacted the Lexus owner before the column ran, partially because he’d been so kind to Ibarra. He didn’t get back to me that day. Here’s part of what he had to say when we did connect:

“For the record, the tail light was not the only damaged part, there were dents and deep scratches in the rear quarter panel, dents on the trunk lid, and bumper was pushed up and in. The total claim was estimated at $4,000,” he wrote.

“The tail light only cost $500 to replace. The back rear quarter and bumper required bodywork and refinishing, as well as the bumper brace needed to be replaced. I was out my vehicle for a week while it was repaired in which I had to rent a vehicle at my own cost.”

He was frustrated and felt he was being painted as a villain because he didn’t somehow make this right for Ibarra. While he was sympathetic, his car was damaged and there was no way he should be on the hook for the repairs.

He said he worked hard to buy his car and shouldn’t be judged because it was a luxury vehicle.

As to why there’s a discrepancy between what Ibarra is being asked to pay and what the car owner says was the total cost of repairs, I can’t answer that. MPI can’t comment on specific cases.

As we sat in Stella’s on Friday, Ibarra questioned whether this sort of public outpouring of help for a stranger would happen in his native Mexico. He hoped it would, although he sounded doubtful.

He hadn’t told his parents about his dilemma.

“Why worry them?” he said. He’ll tell them now so they get a better idea of the people in his adopted city.

I asked him what he’d do if more than $1,800 was donated. After all, he still has $18,000 in student loans.

“If I do happen to go past that amount, it’s not my money. I would give it away to an organization in Winnipeg. Maybe to the Bike To The Future organization.”

But wouldn’t the extra money help him out, I asked.

“My school’s going to be paid by me,” he said. “That’s my situation. That’s not why people helped. I couldn’t keep that money.”

The cynics among you will wonder if this guy is as good as he seems. The emphatic think we should have more honest citizens like Sebastian Ibarra.

Me? I’m back where I started. Honesty does pay.


Bike to the Future’s comment:

On September 30th, Sebastian contacted us about his predicament.

Within a few days, BttF’s Safety & Education Committee Director and BttF’s volunteer lawyer replied with empathy, info, and advice, although both replies were of a “sorry we can’t help you more” tone.

It’s great to learn that things have worked out OK for Sebastian.

Two-way traffic allowed again on Assiniboine

posted at November 06, 2010 07:51 (over 2 years ago)
November 06, 2010

Construction crews returned to Assiniboine Avenue Friday to allow two-way traffic to return to a contentious block of the downtown street.

At the end of August, six businesses located near the Midtown Bridge complained to the city about changes to the flow of traffic in the Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood as a result of the Assiniboine Bikeway, a $125,000 project that’s one of 35 new bike-and-pedestrian amenities planned for Winnipeg this year.

In September, the businesses filed a lawsuit to halt construction on the bikeway. One of their main complaints involved the flow of traffic on a single block of Assiniboine, between Hargrave Street and Navy Way. The original bikeway plan called for two-way traffic to flow under the Midtown Bridge, but a tweak to the plan earlier this year resulted in one-way, westbound traffic beneath the bridge.

On Oct. 8, Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi announced the city plans to revert to the original plan for the contentious block. A letter dated Oct. 25 finally confirmed the change.

“As a result of ongoing discussions with area stakeholders, a need has arisen to further revise the planned traffic flow changes subsequent to the letter that we distributed in your neighbourhood in July,” project manager Bill Woroby said in the letter. “These revisions will permit access and egress to and from properties between the Midtown Bridge and Navy Way for the variety of vehicles that currently use that section of Assiniboine Avenue.”

In October, Gerbasi hoped the move would satisfy the businesses. But they have vowed to continue their legal action.

Also see City backtracks on Assiniboine

Bike to the Future’s comment:

The block on Assiniboine Ave between Navy Way (under the Midtown Bridge, aligns with Donald St) and Hargrave Street is the only block affected. It was originally supposed to be two-way, but many months ago during detailed design the consultants/engineers/City changed it to one-way west-bound, and it was built that way — with a 3.0m cycle track and medians (diverters) on the roadway to prevent east-bound car traffic from entering that block on Assiniboine Avde. They are now changing that block back to two way car traffic, so they’ve torn up the medians/diverters, the concrete that divides the cycle rack from the motorized traffic lane, and the curb bump-out at the corner of Hargrave and Assiniboine (which affects pedestrians). ~8 on-street parking spots will be removed.

It will be rebuilt with a slightly narrower (2.7m) cycle track and two narrow motorized traffic lanes. The important thing is that cycletrack will still be continuous.

Part of the problem with this block being one-way was that, because of the low Midtown Bridge over Assiniboine Ave at Navy Way, some properties could not be served by tall trucks.

Cars and bicycles can get along

posted at October 09, 2010 22:04 (over 2 years ago)
October 09, 2010
Anders Swanson

Well, Winnipeg is finally building an active transportation network.

For the last four years, politicians at all levels, recognizing the wisdom of these projects and the momentum behind them, chose to support them, and we should be proud of them for doing so, whether we ride a bike or not. It has taken an incredible effort. More has been done to engage people in these discussions than has ever been tried on the average road widening, overpass or freeway.

Traffic-calming circles may be new to Winnipeg, but not to other cities. They are very popular, especially for local residents. Emergency vehicles aren’t going to be left stranded. Engineers generally don’t design things that don’t work — it’s not in their nature. Some designs may need fine-tuning upon completion, but they can be revisited. Property values on the routes will go up, not down.

There is grassroots involvement, not a conspiracy. Patience, everyone.

First of all, riding a bike is not an ideology, it’s just something people do. Why? Because it’s fun. And, compared to driving, it’s basically free. Think about it: even at the current rate of use, each week the number of trips taken by bicycle in Winnipeg outnumbers the attendance at Moose or Blue Bomber games combined. The vast majority of Winnipeggers, if you ask them, think that bike paths and bike lanes are good for our city. Not everyone chooses to cycle to work, but there are plenty of other places to go. Even the trail-riding purists need to get to the trail somehow.

Why do cyclists shy away from the busy areas? Because without bike lanes, cyclists typically must ride alongside heavy, scary, fast-moving cars and trucks. Build infrastructure for cycling, and we all will ride.

Come spring, once it’s ready, this stuff will be very popular. Yes, we will have to be patient to see the full effect. Yes, we are a winter city. Yes, it will be cold out soon. But, no, it’s not silly to build this infrastructure even if it’s mostly used between April and October.

Consider this. A tiny, tiny percentage of us will become pro hockey players, but no one suggests that multi-million dollar investments in indoor and outdoor rinks for regular people is not worth the investment. So, build it, and we will swerve around on razor-sharp shoes, hurtling rubber discs at each other at eye level — even in the summer months.

But, unlike cycling, you can’t use hockey to go somewhere, fight poverty, get fit, cut the infrastructure deficit, and save the planet. Whether it’s fighting the stress and frustration of traffic congestion, avoiding unnecessarily lubricating the seahorses in the Gulf of Mexico, or avoiding turning Northern Alberta upside down in our search for more oil (which, at some point, we may no longer find), or the lack of physical activity options for our kids, or the need for “tighter buns”, everyone has a problem cycling can address.

Unfortunately, lawsuits, learning curves, and last-minute objections make the news (especially during an election when any controversy counts), but safely completed bike rides, and pedestrian crossings and accidents that don’t happen never do.

Do advocates care about keeping parking? Yes, wherever possible when it doesn’t impact safety.

Do “the cyclists” hate cars? No. Most of them drive cars, too. Have the bike routes been chosen for maximum benefit with the minimum disruption? Yes. We all have to make compromises when determining the best use of the public right of way. There be minor mistakes, updates, design changes and monitoring along the way.

There were 19 open houses – each acting as an advertisement and encouragement to attend the next and numerous mall displays. The city/province/feds produced a tremendous amount of pamphlets, maps, curbside billboards, thousands of individually mailed letters, posters, newspaper ads, web announcements, press releases, etc… all urging people to get involved. All of this was so that people could come out and have their say.

We have ignored the bicycle for 50 years. These are exciting times, and only time, especially starting in the spring of 2011, will tell just how good this is for our city.

Anders Swanson is a year-round cyclist, bike mechanic and coordinator of One Green City – a volunteer project with a goal to create a network of safe and efficient cycling routes for everyone in Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2010 H1

Being ‘sweet’ to bikes benefits everybody

posted at October 09, 2010 20:20 (over 2 years ago)
October 09, 2010
Michael Dudley

To those Winnipeggers who are up in arms over the recent wave of bikeway construction; who are infuriated over the loss of parking spaces and car lanes, or just annoyed at the scale of public dollars being spent on the needs of what you might think of as a vocal minority… I have someone you need to listen to.

His name is Jan Gehl, a renowned Copenhagen-based architect who has spent decades working to make cities in Europe, Australia and the US more people-friendly. He has just come out with a book called Cities for People.

I recently heard him speak at the 2010 Canadian Institute of Planners conference in Montreal.

For Gehl, the fundamental problem with most of the modern cities in the West is that they were laid out by traffic planners, who, for decades, geared all their efforts to “making the cars happy,” as Gehl put it.

By extension — and through a lifetime of acculturation — all of us have, to some degree, adopted the same car-oriented perspective.

The result for our cities, he says, is that they have become inhumanely scaled and bleak, filled with places in which nobody wants to linger. The buildings and complexes may look spectacular as architects’ models or when seen from an airplane; yet, according to Gehl, the only scale that matters is the human scale, and at five kilometres per hour.

This orientation has led Gehl and his colleagues to roll back automobile dominance wherever they have worked. The results have been astonishing, and in some cases, rapid.

The squares and streets of Copenhagen, which in 1960 were deluged with cars, are now plazas bustling with street life, pedestrians and cyclists. Businesses are thriving, and the city is regularly cited as one of the most livable and sustainable in the world.

In Melbourne, what was as recently as 1994 a bleak urban core is now a thriving commercial centre, thanks to pedestrian and cycling schemes.

Even New York City, with its streams of Manhattan traffic, has closed off large sections of Broadway, with the result that rents for businesses along those sections are shooting up.

The math, according to Gehl, is simple: 10 bicycles can park in one car space. Removing the parking and closing off the lanes — as he dubs it, being “sweet” to pedestrians and cyclists — acts as an invitation to human-scaled street life.

I saw the results for myself in downtown Montreal, which is constantly humming with people walking and cycling — many of them travelling on Montreal’s recently installed “Bixi” rental bikes. The major thoroughfares now feature bike lanes segregated from traffic and continuous network of routes painted on the streets — the very infrastructure that is now vexing so many people along Assiniboine Avenue.

I spoke with Gehl about the controversy in Winnipeg. He was quick to point out that every city that has taken on these improvements has faced just this sort of vocal opposition, largely from drivers and merchants, who insist that such measures can never work in their city. Critics, however, are invariably won over by the transformation their cities undergo: people of all ages and in their hundreds filling spaces where before such travel would have gotten them run over, enjoying the opportunity to mingle with their neighbours and patronize local businesses.

The several dozen projects underway in Winnipeg may look bad now while under construction, and they may require that some of us change our travel patterns.

But in the end, just as they have around the world, they will make life a little “sweeter” for pedestrians and cyclists — who, after all, are not some special class of people, but are simply our friends, families, neighbours, tourists, parents and children.

And, yes, customers.

Michael Dudley is a research associate at the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg. m.dudley@uwinnipeg.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2010 H12

‘Bicycle boxes’ OK on paper

posted at October 09, 2010 20:14 (over 2 years ago)
October 09, 2010
Larry Kusch

Province alters law to allow them; city isn’t planning any yet

The provincial government has amended Highway Traffic Act regulations — at the city’s request — to allow the creation of so-called bicycle boxes.

The painted-in boxes would allow bicycles to line up in front of motor vehicles at intersections on streets with designated bike lanes.

The painted-in boxes would give bicycles a clearly marked spot at the head of the queue at a red light, with motor vehicle traffic lining up behind them.

But don’t expect another heated round in Winnipeg’s active transportation debate — just yet.

Michelle Bailey, a city spokeswoman, said the boxes are not being contemplated on any of the bike paths currently under construction.

“We are not in the process of installing any of them,” she said late Monday.

The city asked the province in April to devise the necessary regulation so planners could consider the boxes as an option in developing future bike paths. But the province didn’t pass the order until Sept. 16 — after the city’s current ambitious active transportation route expansion was well underway.

The new regulation sets out the dimensions of the bike boxes and the conditions under which they can be installed.

Bailey said the regulation was required just to consider such boxes as an option. “It could not be considered without application and (provincial) approval.”

As well, the city must still develop proper guidelines for their use, she added.

Bailey said the city has not ruled out including bicycle boxes in the development of future bike routes.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2010 A3

Note: Bicycle boxes allow bikes to get from a bike lane across vehicle traffic lanes in order to make a left turn.

Video: http://www.streetfilms.org/how-to-use-a-bike-box

Active transportation needs civic champion

posted at October 09, 2010 18:43 (over 2 years ago)
October 07, 2010

The implementation of Winnipeg’s long-awaited and much-hyped active-transportation plan has become an example of how not to roll out a good idea.

Construction crews have been working feverishly since the summer on $20.4 million worth of expansions and improvements to Winnipeg’s existing AT network — the largest such undertaking attempted to date.

Funded by all three levels of government — including $6.8 million of use-it-or-lose-it federal stimulus money — the ambitious plan includes 35 projects ranging from signage and painted bike lanes to the addition of bumped-out curbs and traffic-calming circles on some streets.

Planning for these upgrades began in 2007 at the civic level but it was only when construction actually got underway that some local businesses and residents started paying attention. Since then, all manner of complaints have emerged — from concerns about traffic flow and parking on Assiniboine Avenue to confusion about new calming circles on Grosvenor to a more general sense that citizens living or working in affected neighbourhoods were not adequately consulted about the upcoming changes.

Whether one agrees with such sentiments, they have served to re-open a historically fractious debate about AT in Winnipeg — one that has pitted car drivers against cyclists as if the two groups are mutually exclusive, warring factions.

Exacerbating this situation is the fact that Winnipeg is in the middle of a civic election campaign. Regrettably, incumbent Mayor Sam Katz and challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis have wasted no time making political hay with this issue; playing to an angry vocal minority, both have publically criticized the consultation process while Katz has gone even further, postponed plans for work on an Exchange-District route. The backlash is unfortunate, as Winnipeg is on the right track with its investment in active transportation. If anything, the city is playing catch-up to other municipalities across North America which have already built robust AT systems in recognition of their benefits: more options for people to get from Point A to Point B, less wear and tear on roads and the long-term potential for more active, healthier citizens, to name but a few.

Equally unfortunate is the response by would-be civic leaders. While an argument can be made that Winnipeggers could have been better informed about what was going to happen on their streets so that they could begin adapting accordingly, progressive development should be defended, not abandoned because of short-term inconvenience to a few, or worse, the kind of NIMBYism that sees some citizens refuse to share “their” roads with others or accept any form of accommodation in the name of the greater good.

When a city embarks on an unprecedented, multi-pronged infrastructure project, it’s inevitable that some mistakes will be made. In response, the city needs to work to fix them.

But a city also needs leadership that will stand behind decisions made and champion progress. Winnipeg’s politicians should be working to unite citizens on the issue of active transportation, not trying to win votes by finding scapegoats to blame.

City backtracks on Assiniboine

posted at October 09, 2010 06:51 (over 2 years ago)
October 08, 2010
Bartley Kives

Set to allow two-way traffic again; move won’t prevent filed lawsuit

The City of Winnipeg is poised to allow two-way traffic to return to a contentious block of Assiniboine Avenue — but that won’t end a lawsuit against a bike-friendly makeover of the downtown street.

At the end of August, construction crews began working on the Assiniboine Bikeway, a $125,000 project that’s one of 35 new bike-and-pedestrian amenities planned for Winnipeg this year.

Six businesses located near the Midtown Bridge immediately cried foul about the Assiniboine Bikeway, complaining about changes to the flow of traffic in the Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood.

In September, they filed a lawsuit to halt the construction. But the city filed motions to toss the case out of court and also remove the complainants’ lawyer from the case.

One of the main complaints against the bikeway involved the flow of traffic on a single block of Assiniboine, between Hargrave Street and Navy Way. The original bikeway plan called for two-way traffic to flow under the Midtown Bridge, but a tweak to the plan earlier this year resulted in one-way, westbound traffic beneath the bridge.

The businesses argue the change is illegal because it didn’t come before councillors. But the city maintains the change did not require council oversight.

Now, the city plans to revert to the original plan for the contentious block, Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said on Friday.

“I’m very pleased to learn they’re going to make this change. As the councillor for the area, I’ve been proactively working with the department,” said Gerbasi, referring to the public works department. “We heard from the businesses who wanted the change and I hope they will be pleased with it.”

The complainants against the bikeway, however, are merely calling the move a step in the right direction. The lawsuit against the city will remain in place until all the traffic issues in the Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood are resolved, said Joey Pollock of the law firm Campbell Marr.

“Undoing it from Navy Way to Hargrave is a start, but it doesn’t solve all the traffic problems,” said Pollock. “It’s not going to result in the claim being discontinued.”

The city wants to remove Pollock from the case because one of his colleagues at Campbell Marr is one of the complainants. Lawyer Doug Mackenzie is the president of 10 Donald St., the business that houses the law firm.

The case has been adjourned until Oct. 15.

The city initially intended to spend $20.4 million this year to build 36 new bike and pedestrian amenities with the help of provincial and federal funds. The plan is to add 102 kilometres of new cycling routes to the city’s existing 274-kilometre network. Roughly three-quarters of the new cycling infrastructure involves new lanes or bikeways on existing city streets.

A public backlash against the plan has resulted in one of those projects getting cancelled, another being placed on hold and at least six more coming under intense criticism. Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said he accepts responsibility for a public-consultation failure, but has also placed some of the blame at the feet of councillors such as Gerbasi.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 9, 2010 A3

City drivers going around the bend got it wrong: expert

posted at October 07, 2010 09:18 (over 2 years ago)
October 07, 2010
Lindsey Wiebe

Winnipeg is one of the last major Canadian cities out of the gate when it comes to ‘traffic calming,’ a soothing term for road slowdown measures that have left some residents anything but calm.

Toronto and Vancouver were among the first to hop on board, with road-calming upgrades to bikeways and greenways going back a decade. Even Saskatoon, with a population less than one-third of Winnipeg’s, has curb extensions in 1,000 locations.

But Winnipeg’s introduction to bump-outs and traffic circles in the name of active transportation has been more controversial than calming, with some residents complaining of insufficient consultation and politicians caught in an evolving blame game.

Experts say the key to public buy-in is strong consultation as well as education. Poor planning and lack of public engagement can lead projects to fail.

Traffic calming is a catch-all term for a host of measures aimed at curbing driving speeds on roads to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists. That might include widened curbs, narrowed lanes, speed bumps or changes in road texture.

Changing driver behaviour is central, says calming guru Ian Lockwood, who argues route-changing measures such as street closures fall under a different category.

The calming concept has its roots in the Netherlands, where as early as the 1960s streets were converted into roadways on which pedestrians and cyclists get priority over drivers. Traffic calming spread throughout Europe in the years that followed.

The concept was slower to take root in North America, which “resisted it tooth and nail” for decades, says Lockwood, who’s consulted on hundreds of calming projects in North America.

But the idea has since become entrenched in cities such as Seattle, whose hundreds of traffic circles have had “a dramatic effect on reducing crash rates,” Lockwood says.

In Canada, Winnipeg is one of the last larger cities to implement calming measures on an area-wide scale, according to a 2005 Transport Canada study.

Lockwood said although some complaining is inevitable, cities new to traffic calming tend to need more guidance and hand-holding early on.

“Normally it has to do with the quality of the plan, whoever’s behind the design of the plan… . If people are objecting to it, they did a poor job in their planning and/or they did a poor job at public consultation,” he says.

Walkable Communities co-founder Dan Burden consults on pedestrian-friendly street changes across North America and says while most succeed, he’s seen a few projects backfire.

“Every time it’s been a success, it’s because the right civic engagement process was carried out. And every time we’d have a hiccup, it’s always been that folks didn’t understand how important that would be and only later realized that was the critical part.”

Even when residents want calmer roads, the changes don’t always work. Saskatoon installed three traffic circles at the request of residents five years ago but removed them after complaints from those same residents.

Vancouver saw gripes in the early days of its bikeway upgrades, which included hundreds of traffic circles.

In the past the city got rid of calming projects that met with heavy criticism, said transportation engineer Ross Kenny, but that’s no longer the case. In fact, some areas where initial plans for traffic circles were scrapped over objections are now getting them belatedly, he said, due to increased traffic from both cyclists and vehicles.

Residents can also petition to get a traffic circle on their streets, and pay for it themselves, said Kenny.

Slow speed ahead

Take a deep breath: The widened curbs and traffic circles sparking road rage are meant to do the opposite — as part of a decades-old concept called traffic calming, they’re aimed at slowing cars and making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2010 A4

Winnipeg drivers taking anger out on cyclists

posted at October 07, 2010 07:45 (over 2 years ago)
October 06, 2010
Lesley McLaren

Cyclists say the tension between cars and bicycles in Winnipeg is translating into more cases of so-called buzzing.

Jackie Avent of the lobby group Bike to the Future said the group has received many reports in the past few days of drivers intentionally getting too close to cyclists.

Avent was one of those who experienced a close call last week, when a car brushed her arm as it passed by.

“It’s terrifying. Another half inch, and I would have had my arm broken,” she said.

The tension has been caused by a recent spate of roadwork the city has undertaken to make roads more bike-friendly. However, drivers and many residents are frustrated with the construction.

Mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis said her son was also buzzed a few days ago.

“I think [the situation] reflects just how much we have to build the consensus and how far we have to go to change the culture of commuting in this city,” she said.

People who live on Berry Street protested the construction of bike lanes in late September, claiming they would devastate the street’s trees and boulevards.

The Berry Street Bikeway is intended to be a 1.75 km bike boulevard linking the northwest community to downtown as well as to the airport.

Some residents, who started a petition to stop the city from building the path, chased construction crews away on Sept. 27.

Other traffic-calming measures to slow motorists and make it safer for cyclists include round concrete islands in some intersections and limiting travel on others.

A group of business owners is also taking the City of Winnipeg to court over traffic issues on a stretch of Assiniboine Avenue downtown, where a bikeway under construction has changed the direction of traffic on several streets.

In a statement of claim, the business owners claim the changes are dangerous because they restrict access by emergency vehicles.

The city has come under criticism from many people who claim there has been insufficient public consultation on the changes.

Motorists have to learn to accept the fact that municipalities are trying to encourage more cycling and it takes physical changes to the roads to do so, Avent said. For the time being, cyclists have to be patient, she said.

“Cyclists need to have a thick skin and realize that this is part of change and take a deep breath and be calm about it rather than fuelling that frustration and anger that’s out there,” Avent said.

Better solutions needed for active transportation: Wasylycia-Leis

posted at October 05, 2010 13:53 (over 2 years ago)
October 05, 2010
Bartley Kives

Mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis has accused Mayor Sam Katz of employing “divide and conquer” tactics to deal with public anger and confusion over the City of Winnipeg’s $20.4-million active-transportation upgrade.

Wasylycia-Leis gathered reporters to her Portage Avenue headquarters this afternoon and pledged to personally attend public meetings about the city’s new bike-and-pedestrian upgrades if she’s elected mayor on Oct. 27.

Wasylycia-Leis also promised to cancel a city search for a private public-relations consultant, a move she described as “damage control and nothing more.”

The former Winnipeg North MP, who is even with Katz in the latest Probe Research poll, said she supports active-transportation but claims the city did not do a good job of making sure the public understood what it was getting.

She praised the efforts of city staff but insisted the city should have listened to concerns from businesses on Assiniboine Avenue before they sued the city over the Assiniboine Bikeway.

She accused Katz of deflecting responsibility to city staff and councillors. She claimed the incumbent is a poor consensus builder who has wound up pitting motorists against cyclists. She claimed the city must be united before it can move forward with change.

Katz will speak to reporters later this afternoon. Last week, he said the ultimate responsibility for the active-transportation upgrade lies with him. He also said some councillors did not conduct proper oversight of new commuter-cycling amenities in their wards.

The city originally planned to build 36 new bike-and-pedestrian paths, bikeways and other amenities. One has been cancelled, another is on hold and at least six others are the subject of intense criticism.

Approximately three quarters of the 102 kilometres of new routes being added to the city’s network of cycling routes are on streets.

Wasylycia-Leis made her comments in the company of a cycling advocate and a Crescentwood resident opposed to a barricade at Academy Road and Harrow Street.

She said she would not rip up infrastructure if elected mayor, but would speak personally to all citizens in an effort to find solutions to genuine problems.

CBC TV news items (video) — Sep 30th to Oct 5th

posted at October 05, 2010 01:06 (over 2 years ago)
October 06, 2010
CBC TV News, Winnipeg

Winnipeg Free Press — Letters to the Editor

posted at October 03, 2010 21:09 (over 2 years ago)
October 02, 2010
October 13, 2010

Fining drivers

I agree wholeheartedly with the points made in the Oct. 9 article Being ‘sweet’ to bikes benefits everybody. As a person who drives, cycles and walks, I find the opposition to making our cities more pedestrian and cycling-friendly laughable. How much effort does it take to be more respectful of cyclists and pedestrians?

I’d like to see the provincial government step up and amend current traffic legislation to include fines for not allowing a one-metre space when passing a cyclist on any roadway and not yielding to a pedestrian at an intersection. We can find this in other jurisdictions around the globe.

I have been struck by vehicles while walking and cycling and obeying all traffic rules and found the drivers involved showed no remorse whatsoever for their actions. In my opinion, fining drivers with that type of attitude is more than justified.

Al Hutchings

Useful and clever

I live several doors off Grosvenor Avenue. I drive a bicycle rarely and commute daily down Grosvenor.

I think the curb “bumps” and the roundabouts are clever and useful. I welcome them for several reasons.

First, they calm traffic. Grosvenor was a useful alternative to Corydon and Academy, but not now. This is good.

Second, they are good for cyclists. We are tending to be an overweight society and an indebted society. Little things, like cycling and not driving, are good counters to this and should be encouraged.

Third, I think too many Winnipeggers whine about new things too much. Roundabouts are not revolutionary. Get over them. Move on.

Finally, there are life-and-death issues, in Winnipeg, which should be consuming our attention. Minor road work on Grosvenor is not one of them.

Robert Poirie

Car supremacy

Re: Trafficking in circles (Letters, Oct. 6). I am confused by David M. Brown’s concerns that vehicles, particularly fire trucks, cannot turn left at any of the traffic circles recently installed in River Heights. Because one always enters and leaves a traffic circle by turning right, left-hand turns never occur.

As for having to stop and start along with the transit bus “all the way from Stafford to Waverley Street,” perhaps those who are in a hurry could take the faster routes, those intended as through routes, Academy and Corydon.

Part of the purpose of traffic-calming measures is to get vehicles off the residential streets. I live on Wolseley Avenue and would welcome any and all traffic-calming measures that would curtail traffic on my beautiful street.

Even road-closure barricades do not keep cars from driving on this designated bike route on Sundays and holidays.

Please open your minds and be willing to accept a little inconvenience in order to make our streets more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Like it or not, the days of car supremacy are coming to an end.

Best for children

Amid the debate around walking and cycling routes in Winnipeg, there has been no talk about what is best for children and other vulnerable road users. Many of the new routes run directly adjacent to schools and daycares. In fact, I lost track trying to count them all using Google maps.

Other new routes provide safe connections between existing or recently implemented walking or cycling infrastructure. Special attention was paid to calming traffic in these areas.

At a time when childhood obesity, climate change, air pollution, nature-deficit disorder, and safe communities are on people’s minds, why are we not supporting community amenities that help make our neighbourhoods more inclusive, safer and healthier for everyone? Change is difficult, but once people get used to the enhancements, the true benefit of these routes will become crystal clear.

Investing in active-transportation infrastructure will make it easier and safer for children to walk and cycle to and from school, and help give everyone the safety, convenience and right to road space they deserve.

Jackie Avent

Circular logic — Letter of the Day

Re: Traffic circles causing confusion (Sept. 30). Before we complain too much about traffic circles, it is important that we realize the considerable benefits they offer.

  1. They are good for the environment. Four-way stops, on the other hand, are not. Instead of forcing traffic to stop, traffic circles generally allow traffic to keep rolling through if there is no vehicle in sight.
  2. They involve the driver in problem solving. Having spent many hours in the nightmare that was Winnipeg traffic this summer, I realize that my main frustration comes from the plague of four-way stop signs and traffic signals that infest this city. At least a traffic circle credits me with some intelligence. I can move through an intersection without stopping if conditions warrant.
  3. Traffic circles slow down vehicles by their very nature, but they also keep traffic moving in a slow, orderly fashion without the need for a complicated traffic-light system — thus earning another environmental stamp of approval.
  4. They have the potential to be pretty. Planting flowers or plants in the middle of a traffic circle (Europeans go so far as to have fountains) can make them quite attractive. When is the last time you could say that about a stop sign or a traffic light?
  5. They are safe: I have driven a lot in the Netherlands, and it has many, many traffic circles installed. The Netherlands is 1/17th the size of Manitoba but has more than 13 times the number of vehicles packed into it. I frequently drove to Dutch addresses inside towns and encountered no stop signs the whole distance. Only traffic circles. And I should point out that the Netherlands has one traffic fatality per year for every 28,000 people. We have one traffic fatality per year for every 12,000 people.

Ken Penner

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2010 A11

Win-win situation

Today I enjoyed my most pleasant bike commute in 22 years. Since 1988, I have been riding my bike back and forth to Health Sciences Centre, north on Sherbrook in the morning and south on Maryland in the evening. It is a busy route and is frequently fraught with unexpected and sometimes dangerous situations for both cyclists and drivers alike.

Today, as I turned south onto Maryland, I was pleasantly surprised to find a newly painted white line designating a bike lane that parallelled the west curb lane and ran south from Notre Dame to the Maryland Bridge. What a difference a painted line can make! The cars and trucks respectfully stayed on their side; I kept to my side, and all moved smoothly together in a safe and organized homeward commute.

That thin white line created a win-win situation. The vehicles still had three lanes, but now I also had my own space. Both drivers and cyclists seemed more relaxed since both now knew how they were expected to share the road. It was remarkable. And all thanks to the hard work of all those involved in making Winnipeg’s active transportation initiative a reality — and a thin white line.

Chris Harrington

Traffic circus

On a Sunday afternoon, it is fascinating to watch the new traffic circus perform behind the new cement barricade on Harrow Street at Academy Road.

Hundreds of vehicles turn at the Sunday bicycle barricade on Wellington Crescent, arrive at the big barricade on Harrow, determine that they really can’t drive through it, then turn in circles or reverse together, three or four at a time — unchoreographed and unco-ordinated — until they finally exit via the back lanes.

Other vehicles avoid both barricades, and the new so-called traffic-calming lights and cameras on Academy, by just speeding directly down our back lanes. They star briefly in the big show when they shoot across Harrow.

The City of Winnipeg’s active transportation program has turned our narrow back lane, blind spots and all, into a superhighway. In just one hour, we clocked 96 cars and trucks, some speeding at 50 km/h.

Frustrated drivers become enraged by slow or stopped vehicles, oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, children, cyclists, skateboarders, dog-walkers and anyone else who does not move out of their way quickly enough.

The Harrow Street barricade is a menace. Tear it down. Jeopardizing the safety of nearly everyone in the area does not enhance the safety of bicyclists. What people really want is the potholes fixed.

Leila Alvare


I want to thank the city planners, engineers, and construction crews for trying to make our city more cycling friendly. As for the citizens that have been complaining about the projects, shame on you. If these construction projects were only for road improvements you would be complaining about them, too. If there was no construction at all then you would be complaining that our roads are falling apart. Maybe you complainers should ride your bike (if you own one) to work and see things from the other side. As for the candidates for mayor; I too am a voter and there are a lot of us cyclist who are in favor of active transportation infrastructure program.

Construction will always be a part of revitalizing our city and we, as Winnipeggers, should be used to it by now. Once these projects are completed it will be everyone, including your children, that will benefit from the new bike routes.

Manny Bairos

Critics have a point

Re: Back to driving school (Oct. 1). There was a time when I would react with righteous indignation when an “outsider” maligned the driving skills of my fellow Winnipeggers. Then, on one trip to Toronto, I realized I could make a lane change more easily in bumper-to-bumper traffic at 100 km/h on the 401 that I can on Portage Avenue in rush hour. More recently, I have noticed on numerous occasions how inept some (not all) Winnipeg drivers are at using a merge lane to get into traffic.

The recent uproar over the introduction of more traffic circles on our streets, however, has finally brought me to the disturbing conclusion that the critics may have been right all along. The transition to using this kind of traffic-control system is not all that complicated and certainly doesn’t warrant the anguish that some Winnipeg motorists are apparently experiencing.

I am embarrassed for our city to see that city staff have to “ramp up the education process for pedestrians and motorists.” It shouldn’t be as complicated as you are making it, folks. Just apply a little common sense.

David Ediger

On with the job

Re: Bike path work overkill: official (Sept. 29). Stop criticizing the consultation process. Stop criticizing city staff and consultants. Get on with the job of putting federal infrastructure money to work building badly needed bike and pedestrian facilities.

Shame on Judy Wasylycia-Leis for suggesting that the Assiniboine Bikeway be halted. Double shame on Mayor Sam Katz for criticizing city staff. I found city staff involved in active transportation to be knowledgeable and helpful people who made a considerable effort with a complex consultation process.

The construction season is coming to a close. Federal infrastructure money is coming to an end next March. There has been planning, there has been press coverage, there has been consultation and there has been opportunity for feedback. Now is the time to take the plan and the money and finish the job. It is not the time to be indecisive and throw away federal money.

The benefits of having our cities and neighbourhoods accessible by active transportation are legion and well-documented. You don’t have to go to Paris for innovative, scenic and functional cycling trails, a public bike rental system, rapid transit where you can roll your bike on and hang it up, and vacation destinations where the cycling infrastructure is a major part of the attraction.

Go no further than Minnesota, in general, and Minneapolis in particular. Winnipeg has been making great progress in active transportation lately and if the municipal politicians will stay out of the way and let the planners, consultants and builders spend the federal money to finish the job, we can make Winnipeg a place where more people want to work, live and vacation.

Dan Prowse

Cycle of unjustified blame

posted at October 03, 2010 18:46 (over 2 years ago)
October 03, 2010
Bartley Kives

There’s no one party responsible for bike-pedestrian-trail fiasco

Somewhere in the deepest, darkest fantasies of Winnipeggers, city employees are lazy slugs who spend all their days with their feet up on their desks, drinking coffee while they watch kittens cavorting on YouTube.

Those of you familiar with logic will immediate recognize the first sentence of this column as a “straw man” — a dubious statement created specifically to be knocked down. It’s the cheapest way to construct an argument.

But I’m not alone in this city right now. Straw men are getting erected and whacked all over town in the name of a spectacular argument about pavement.

Back in September 2009, all three levels of government announced a plan to spend $20.4 million in Winnipeg on 36 new bike-and-pedestrian projects. Each government would chip in about $7 million as part of Ottawa’s infrastructure-stimulus plan.

The catch was all of these projects had to be shovel-ready, which means they had to be planned to a great extent but also couldn’t be on the books of any existing budget documents.

They had to be new, but ready to go. Some policy geeks believe that’s an oxymoron. But given the badly underfunded state of Winnipeg’s infrastructure, no politician in his or her right mind would give up the offer of cash.

Spending the money on bike-and-pedestrian trails was the city’s idea, but other levels of government loved it, too. Mayor Sam Katz and Winnipeg’s city council have been proudly increasing funding for active transportation since 2007, when politicians belatedly embraced a comprehensive study they actually shelved the previous year.

Civic politicians like bike infrastructure because it allows them to get a big bang for their funding buck. For a fraction of the cost of building roads, they get new amenities to encourage Winnipeggers to get out of their cars and engage in healthier, more environmentally friendly commuting.

So going ahead with the active-transportation project was a no-brainer. I mean, what possibly could go wrong?

The early concerns about the project had to deal with capacity. Were there enough engineers to design the projects? Could the construction industry absorb the work?

That didn’t turn out to be the problem. Rather, the fact Winnipeg is an older city, planned in about seven minutes in 1905, turned out to bite everyone — politicians, administrators and the public — in the padded posterior.

Cyclists and motorists alike prefer bike routes to be separated from street traffic. But you can’t mow down a few blocks of downtown or other older areas just toput up a concrete commuter cycling path.

So roughly 75 per cent of the city’s 102 new kilometres of cycling routes were planned for streets, either as painted lanes or as separated bike boulevards. Four-way stops would also be replaced with traffic circles on some routes, to end the stop-start routine cyclists dislike. Two-way traffic would also end on other routes to discourage all motor-vehicle traffic.

The city recognized it had to sell these changes to the public. The expectation was motorists would not be happy with any of the on-street improvements.

So the city held “public consultations” in a variety of ways: setting up booths, sending out mailers and holding some meetings. The only problem was, the city had never tried doing this with 36 projects.

A plan to outsource the public relations was issued and cancelled and issued again. A bike-and-pedestrian bridge in Omand Park was shot down because residents were told where it was going, not asked what they wanted in their neighbourhood. Other meetings attracted few people. Generally, few people paid attention.

And as the year wore on, the task of “consulting” became a rush job — a task that needed to be ticked off in order for construction to commence.

Today, as the work is being done, there’s opposition to several of the routes. Some of it is legitimate anger over changes in traffic flow that affect businesses and homeowners. Some of is it plain old NIMBYism from motorists who don’t easily accept any change.

Winnipeg is a low-density city. Most of us use cars and spend a lot of time in them. That’s why it’s ironic a program designed get some of us out of those very same cars has directed anger toward cyclists themselves.

This is ridiculous. Cycling groups who lobbied for more commuter routes should not be blamed for advocating for themselves. The engineers who planned the routes should not be singled out for accepting the work. The city administrators who co-ordinated the project should not be blamed for doing what the politicians asked them to do.

The mayor and councillors cannot be blamed for taking advantage of federal-provincial dollars. And the federal Conservatives cannot be blamed for their “shovel-ready” project demands, especially as the Liberals were advocating even more aggressive stimulus spending at the time.

It’s tempting to blame one party for all of this, but scapegoating may be a primal impulse. And the myth of the lazy city worker has some otherwise well-intentioned types directing all their ire toward public servants — unelected, sometimes powerless people who suffer the whims of their political masters. Those politicians are also blaming each other, which serves none of them well at election time, when they need to be leaders.

I’d argue this mess is a group effort. Every party played a role, somewhere down the line. This does not excuse the fact Winnipeg bit off a little more than it could chew this year.

If this city can build roads, it should be able to build bike paths. Let this year be a lesson and not an excuse for future inaction.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2010 A3

Back to driving school

posted at September 30, 2010 20:28 (over 2 years ago)
October 01, 2010
Geoff Kirbyson

Amid complaints, city seeks to ‘ramp up education’ on roundabouts

Facing rising complaints from River Heights residents about the newly constructed traffic circles in the neighbourhood, the city is taking drivers back to school.

Luis Escobar, manager of transportation for the city’s public works department, said Thursday it has received many questions from pedestrians and drivers alike about how the traffic circles are supposed to work, and felt it was time to take action.

“We need to ramp up our education process for both pedestrians and motorists,” he said. “With a traffic circle, we rely more on people. We want people to take an active role in crossing the street.”

So the campaign began with a gathering of the media on the corner of Grosvenor Avenue and Waterloo Street on Thursday afternoon, the site of one of the much-talked-about traffic circles.

As Escobar answered questions, it was easy for reporters and camera people alike to count off the many infractions — the biggest one was drivers making direct left turns without merging into the circle first — happening right behind his back.

He said it’s too early to tell if the education might require something extra, such as television commercials.

He said it’s not that navigating the traffic circles is particularly difficult — they’re essentially no different than a yield sign on a right turn — but they’ve been constructed relatively quickly.

“It’s a learning experience, not just for the citizens but for (administrators) as well,” he said.

Previously, unless you grew up in London, England, or spent time in a city such as Montreal or Vancouver, the only chance Winnipeggers had to navigate a roundabout was downtown on Waterfront Drive or at the intersection of Lakewood and Beaverhill boulevards in Southdale.

Escobar said many people might not realize it yet but the traffic circles are typically much safer than intersections with four-way stop signs or traffic lights.

“If somebody makes a wrong manoeuvre in the circle, everybody stops. At a four-way or traffic signal, you usually see a collision. (Traffic circles) are at much lower speeds. When something happens unintentionally, the end result usually isn’t a collision — everybody slows down. This provides for a safer end result,” he said.

Escobar said he wasn’t surprised to see numerous tire marks on the centre islands. He said the curbs were purposely slanted because it was anticipated buses and trucks would ride up while going around the circle.

“We expect some larger vehicles to mount (the island’s curb). As drivers get more educated, those marks will start to disappear,” he said.

Escobar was peppered with questions regarding other changes to Winnipeg’s roadways, including a new barricade at Harrow Street and Academy Road. He said it was erected to eliminate “short-cutting” by drivers, but it still provides an opening for pedestrians and cyclists to get through.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2010 B1

A virtuous circle

We may not have many roundabouts, but according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, we would probably be safer if we did.

— A 2000 Institute report found roundabouts not only improve traffic flow and esthetics, they result in fewer crashes when compared to intersections with signals or stop signs.

— The report studied crashes and injuries at 24 intersections before and after construction of roundabouts and found a 39 per cent decrease in crashes and a 76 per cent decrease in injury-producing crashes. Fatal collisions or crashes that resulted in incapacitating injuries fell by 90 per cent. The safety benefit comes from the geometry of a roundabout, which reduces the chances for both right-angle or rear-end collisions.

— Added bonus — those safety benefits didn’t come at the expense of traffic flow as delays fell as much as 75 per cent when roundabouts replaced traffic signals or stop signs.

And in case you still weren’t convinced of the value of roundabouts, the non-profit U.S. organization notes the traffic circles are less expensive than intersections controlled by signals, saving up to $5,000 per year per intersection in electricity and maintenance.

Traffic circles causing confusion

Winnipeg Free Press, September 30, 2010

River Heights residents are getting a baptism by fire with new traffic circles but many figure it’s only a matter of time until somebody gets burned.

Staples of many bicycle-friendly cities, such as London, England, Montreal and Calgary, the mini-roundabouts on Grosvenor Avenue are causing confusion among motorists and pedestrians alike. Who goes in first? Who has the right of way? How do you make a left turn?

“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of education for drivers in Winnipeg,” said Helen Coughlin, who lives off Grosvenor and drives through the traffic circles every day. “This neighbourhood has a lot of young teenage drivers. I don’t think they’re going to be able to handle it.”

Coughlin said at least intersections with a four-way stop provide a window for pedestrians to cross the street. Now it’s far more dangerous.

“There’s a constant stream of traffic now and pedestrians are left out. How do you teach your kids to cross the street? I guess it will be a steep learning curve,” she said.

April Leitch, who was walking her Labrador cross, Rory, Wednesday night along Grosvenor, agreed.

“They’ve been confusing from the start. I’m very concerned. I had to watch out before and now I have to be extra-careful. I feel like (the city) didn’t take the pedestrian into consideration.”

Brian Smiley, a spokesman for Manitoba Public Insurance, said the Crown corporation isn’t expecting to see a rash of accidents at the new traffic circles even though the “familiarity isn’t there.”

“It’s considered a merge. You always enter on the right. If a vehicle is in the roundabout already, it has the right of way. The onus is on the driver to observe the rules of the road and be a little more diligent,” he said.

Smiley said under the Highway Traffic Act, motorists are expected to drive according to the conditions, whether they’re weather- or road-related.

“That’s the challenge of driving. You need to not only adjust your driving but be prepared to come across some new traffic devices. It will be no different than driving down Portage and Main during a blizzard,” he said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2010 A4

Anger mounts over St. James bike path

posted at September 29, 2010 19:49 (over 2 years ago)
September 27, 2010

Some St. James residents are furious over the city’s plan to build two 1.5-metre wide cyclist’s paths along the sides of a residential street.

It’s another battlefront in what’s shaping up to be divisive issue for Winnipeggers.

Bike path igniting anger.

The city is pushing to build more so-called active transportation infrastructure to encourage people to go green and leave their cars at home.

Berry Street resident Glenn Babcock said he feels the asphalt bike lanes on his street will reduce property values and prompt the removal of trees in favor of pavement.

He also disputes there are enough people who will use the paths to make the project worthwhile.

“We don’t want it, we don’t need it. It’s useless – for what? Six people who want to ride a bicycle?,” Babcock stormed in a Tuesday interview.

He said the project makes little sense and that the city should be focusing on fixing core infrastructure first. He said the street’s water main was only partially replaced last year.

“That’s our water main – this is the water we drink … they replaced half the watermain, not the other half. Now is that stupid or not?,” Babcock asked.

Babcock also wonders how his recycling pickup will be affected. Currently, residents place blue boxes in the areas where the paths are being constructed.

However Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) said the city’s top tax assessment official has said there will be no decrease in property values due to the bike lane.

“So the one person that’s in charge of that has clearly said he does not see any reason why there would be any change in valuation of the land,” Fielding said.

The Winnipeg Realtors Association backed Fielding’s claim, saying there’s no evidence home values would drop. With files from the CBC’s Mychaylo Prystupa

Bike-path work overkill: official

posted at September 29, 2010 17:43 (over 2 years ago)
September 29, 2010
Bartley Kives

Bureaucrat concedes workload daunting for city, residents

The official in charge of Winnipeg’s $20.4-million active-transportation upgrade that has sparked criticism and controversy says he hopes the city won’t attempt such an ambitious bike-and-pedestrian overhaul in a single year ever again.

In an interview with the Free Press, public works project manager Bill Woroby suggested what Mayor Sam Katz and other senior officials have refused to concede over the past week — that this year’s 36-project upgrade was too ambitious to tackle over the course of one construction season.

“Hopefully not,” said Woroby when asked whether Winnipeg should ever repeat this year’s attempt to add 102 kilometres of cycling routes to the city’s existing 274-kilometre network. All three levels of government paid for the project, the largest commuter-cycling upgrade ever attempted in Winnipeg.

“It’s hard to deliver 30-odd projects in one year. Not only are there 30-odd projects, you’re undertaking public consultation at the same time and introducing people to new facilities they’re not used to,” Woroby said.

“This has certainly challenged the delivery. It has not given the public the opportunity to appreciate the facilities we have in place. Once people see the completed project, they will see it as a great addition to the city.”

Katz and other officials have repeatedly said the tight time frame for the ambitious slate of projects had nothing to do with a public-consultation process both he and mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis have described as a failure.

Federal infrastructure-funding rules require the projects to be finished before the end of March 2011, which effectively means all but three parts of the upgrade must be finished before the winter, when snowfall makes it impossible to lay concrete.

One project, a $1-million bridge in Omand Park, was cancelled and replaced with $100,000 worth of path improvements. A second, the $250,000 Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway, is in limbo to allow more dialogue with residents and businesses.

A third, the Assiniboine Bikeway, is nearing completion despite a lawsuit six Broadway-Assiniboine businesses have launched. There’s also opposition to projects along Berry Street, Grosvenor Avenue, Sherbrook Street and Harrow Street.

As of Tuesday, 32 out of 34 green-lighted projects were either under construction or nearing completion, said Woroby. Construction on the final two will begin shortly.

Woroby dismissed suggestions a round of cuts to the public service last year had any effect on the projects or their public consultation. “We did what was required, with the resources we had in hand,” he said.

The city employed seven consulting firms to engineer what were originally 36 projects, while two other firms were hired to co-ordinate the upgrade. The city asked private firms to conduct the public consultations last November, but cancelled the search four days before it closed.

Former city communications manager Ed Shiller said he felt $125,000 was too much to spend on public relations consultants. He said the city did a good job engaging the public on its own early this year, beginning at Katz’s state of the city address in January.

“We produced fantastic literature, describing every single one of the projects then under consideration. Then we set up a whole series of public consultations,” said Shiller, who left the city at the end of March.

After his departure, private consulting firms took over the communications strategy as well as the public-consultation meetings. Woroby said the city responded to the advice it received at all of the meetings.

But even active-transportation proponents say the public ignored these events.

“I was at 99 per cent of those consultations and the turnout was minimal,” said Janice Lukes, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association. “No one reads the notices, but when the bulldozers are on the street, then people perk up. It’s too bad. I just hope someone has the balls to keep things moving forward.”

Others want more projects placed on hold. Ellice Cafe and Theatre manager Belinda Squance, for example, plans to meet with public works director Brad Sacher this week to convince the city to shelve the $228,000 Sherbrook/Maryland bike-lane project until parking issues in the West End are addressed. Squance said she supports cyclists but wishes the city actually studied where they go.

Other cycling advocates complain the upgrade was a rush job.

“A tight timeline for the project and the need to spend federal funds within this timeline no doubt was the issue in regards to actively engaging others,” said Downtown BIZ director Stefano Grande. “Active transportation has to be part of the overall infrastructure strategy, not an afterthought (that involves) trying to fit a peg in a hole.”

Katz’s campaign described the ongoing headaches as “growing pains.”


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2010 A3

Cash for cycling routes

Spending on active-transportation in Winnipeg over the past five years: 2006: $200,000 2007: $1.75 million 2008: $2.65 million 2009: $4.4 million 2010: $20.4 million (allocated)

The 2010 active-transportation plan

On Sept. 11, 2009, all three levels of government pledged to spend a combined $20.4 million on 36 active-transportation projects in Winnipeg. The cash was supposed to add 102 kilometres of cycling and walking routes to an existing 274-kilometre network.

Here’s what the project was supposed to build:

New pathways dedicated for cyclists: 28 kilometres, for 15 separate projects.

New separated bike lanes on city streets (the Assiniboine Bikeway): Two kilometres.

New bike lanes on streets with “sharrows” (the Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway): Eight kilometres.

Other new cycling routes on city streets (18 separate projects): 64 kilometres.

New bike-and-pedestrian bridge (Omand Park Bridge): One.

Here’s where the projects stand right now: Projects completed or nearing completion: Eight.

Projects under construction: 24.

Projects awaiting construction, with tenders awarded: Two.

Projects on hold: One. The city has put the brakes on the $250,000 Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway.

Cancelled projects: One. Wolseley residents rejected plans for the $1-million Omand Park Bridge. It’s been replaced by $100,000 worth of path upgrades in the park.

— Sources: City of Winnipeg

Not so fast, Mr. Katz

posted at September 29, 2010 07:03 (over 2 years ago)
September 29, 2010

Mayor Sam Katz, clearly hearing a backlash from neighbourhoods where streets are being torn up and redesigned for cyclists, tried distancing himself Monday from the city’s “active transportation” plan — an ambitious venture that this year saw 36 projects undertaken around Winnipeg. Not so fast, Mr. Mayor.

Mr. Katz said he was never a part of and did not see the plans for the street redesigns. Further, he has concluded not nearly enough consultation happened before shovels went in the ground on the bike lanes, traffic circles and curb bump-outs.

Mr. Katz’s conclusions on consultation are inescapable — inviting affected residents to come to a public information session does not substitute for good warning of the street alterations that happened as, or after, local projects went to community committees, where hearings and decisions on ward issues are made. As Mr. Katz concedes, some of the details discussed at initial information sessions varied substantially from the blueprints that rolled out in the neighbourhoods.

And postcards or flyers announcing change, but sent to some residents in affected areas, do not constitute sufficient notice to communities. Councillors agree that the process was rushed to qualify the projects for the federal government’s stimulus spending program, which ends in March.

But Mr. Katz’s explanation of how this one got past him is disingenuous — he is the mayor, he advocated for this active transportation plan, and he voted for the $20 million (and the city’s one-third share of it) as part of the capital budget. The plans are available on the city’s website, right under his nose.

Mr. Katz can sense a rising tide of anger — and this is election time. On Monday, he said he would have a talk with the chief administrative officer (who has quit and has been replaced with an interim CAO) on halting active transportation projects not yet underway. Within hours, a plan for McDermot Avenue was cancelled. Assiniboine Avenue, which raised the ire of residents and business owners dismayed about the implementation of a one-way control for a block there, is essentially complete and cannot be changed, Mr. Katz said.

The 11th-hour turnabout is an ominous message to send on active transportation. The mayor wishes to deflect blame to local councillors, who saw the details, and the administration, which executed the plans. But, as he admitted, the buck stops at his office. That the process saw redesigns pass with little notice to residents is a sign of poor communication. Residents rely on city council — a body led by the mayor, a man who brags that he gets things done with an often fractious council by consensus — for information about changing traffic patterns in their neighbourhoods.

Mr. Katz cannot claim on one hand to be a master of consensus, a maestro of a disparate group of politicians, and on the other plead ignorance of what has been the city’s largest active transportation project ever. And how can a mayor who has claimed credit for the building of more miles of bike trails than any other now back away from accounting for the biggest piece of active transportation rolled out to date?

The unfortunate cock-up of what should have been vigorous, early community engagement in a movement to share streets with bicycles has instead pitted motorists and residents — who lose traffic lanes and parking spaces — against cyclists trying to find their way to work while staying fit.

Mr. Katz has vowed that the next time such construction is contemplated the city will go “beyond above and beyond” what has been considered adequate in consultation. That’s admirable. But Mr. Katz on Monday sounded very much like a mayor pulling the rug out from underneath an administration (effectively two civil servants in charge of the $20-million project) that was left to implement a plan written hastily in 36 parts, under the nose of an apparently distracted mayor. Mr. Katz needs to find why the plan’s consultation and execution got muddled, and ensure active transportation does not again get bogged down in acrimony.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2010 A12

Bike-pedestrian project stalls

posted at September 28, 2010 08:04 (over 2 years ago)
September 28, 2010
Bartley Kives

Katz, Wasylycia-Leis call upgrade a public-consultation failure

The City of Winnipeg has put the brakes on another bike-and-pedestrian project as both of Winnipeg’s leading mayoral candidates described the city’s $20.4-million active-transportation upgrade as a public-consultation failure.

On Monday afternoon, incumbent Mayor Sam Katz told reporters he wants to halt construction on the $250,000 Bannatyne-McDermot bikeway, one of 36 active-transportation projects the city planned to conduct this year with the help of federal and provincial infrastructure money.

Hours later, the city placed the project on hold, citing the need to conduct more talks with residents and businesses along the route, which runs from Waterfront Drive to Sherbrook Street.

“During projects such as this, sometimes dialogue with the community results in improvements to the project through design change,” city spokesman Steve West said in a statement. “With regard to the McDermot Bikeway, we have concluded that more dialogue will be beneficial.”

The move comes as another blow to an active-transportation project all three levels of government have hailed as a long overdue upgrade to the city’s network of bike-and-pedestrian corridors. The $20.4 million in spending represents nearly an eight-fold increase over the $2.6 million the city typically spends every year to build recreational and commuter cycling routes as well as other pathways.

Several of the projects have angered residents and businesses, who claim the city failed to consult with them properly about the changes.

A $1-million bridge planned for Omand Park was struck from the project list this spring. At the end of the summer, six Broadway-Assiniboine businesses sued the city over the $125,000 Assiniboine Bikeway.

Work on the Assiniboine Avenue project continues, but the Bannatyne-McDermot project has now been shelved, leading Katz to criticize city staff about the project for the fourth time in six days.

“This city does not have to go the extra mile. It has to go the extra 10 miles in consultation,” Katz told reporters after a mayoral-candidate forum at the Fort Garry Hotel. “When anything like this happens in the future, you will see consultation above and beyond.”

Katz told reporters he did not personally vote in favour of the projects, which he said were approved by community committees. In fact, the mayor and 12 out of 15 councillors approved the active-transportation upgrade on Dec. 15, 2009, when council approved the 2010 capital budget.

And the project details merely came before community committees as information. Only the capital budget provides authority for the spending.

In a scrum with reporters, Katz accepted responsibility. “I am the mayor. No matter where you draw the line, the buck ends up at my table,” he said.

Mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis said Katz should also halt the Assiniboine Bikeway if he’s serious about public consultation.

“It’s a little late in the game, in an election period, saying he’s going to halt construction,” she told reporters. “He’s acknowledging he made a strategic error in planning and consulting.”

After a round of public-service cuts at the management level in 2009, the city has two senior staffers working on the active-transportation upgrade. Private consultants were also hired to engage in public consultation.

Katz has dismissed suggestions meagre resources are to blame for the city’s performance. He also said tight timelines associated with the federal funding for the active-transportation upgrade are to blame.

The projects must be finished before the end of March to qualify for federal infrastructure money. All but three must be completed before the snow falls because they involve laying concrete.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2010 B1

Mayor Katz to halt Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway

Winnipeg Free Press September 27, 2010 Bartley Kives

Mayor Sam Katz says he wants to stop another one of Winnipeg’s 35 active-transportation projects – and it’s not the Assiniboine Bikeway.

Katz told reporters this afternoon he plans to speak to acting chief administrative officer Mike Ruta about putting a halt to the $250,000 Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway, which is slated to run from Waterfront Drive to Sherbrook Street.

The mayor suggested people and businesses in the area were not consulted properly.

The city is in the midst of spending $20.4 million on a bike-and-pedestrian corridor upgrade with the help of the provincial government and Ottawa. Some of the routes have been the subject of criticism from residents who say they were not consulted properly about the changes. A group of Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood businesses even sued the city in an attempt to stop the $125,000 Assiniboine Bikeway.

That lawsuit likely won’t be heard before the bikeway is complete. Katz said there is no point halting it because the work is mostly done.

Today, however, he told reporters in a scrum at the Fort Garry Hotel that he wants to halt the Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway. He again lambasted city staff and consultants for the way the public was informed and said he did not vote on the specifics of the project.

The active-transportation upgrades were approved by council as a whole in late 2009, when council voted in favour of the 2010 capital budget. Katz has repeatedly trumpeted his role in expanding the city’s network of commuter-cycling and recreational trails.

Mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis also said the city failed to consult residents properly.

Katz said as mayor, the responsibility ultimately lies with him.

All the active-transportation work must be completed before the end of March, which effectively means most routes must be done before the snow falls. The mayor has denied the short timeframe has played a role in the headaches surrounding some of the routes.

He has also disputed the notion budget cuts at the middle-management level at city hall have contributed to the confusion.

Inspired to have only good and great days on my bike

posted at September 25, 2010 04:40 (over 2 years ago)
September 25, 2010
Margo Goodhand

I’ve been inspired by a lot of people these days. Collectively, they are the reason I ride two wheels to work now instead of four.

One of them, longtime Free Press colleague and cycling enthusiast Jon Thordarson, has been on my mind ever since I dragged the bike out of the basement.

He took it up years ago before he started battling cancer, but I think cycling kept him strong through some extraordinarily dark days. When he finally succumbed this spring, his brother and cycling colleagues attended the wake in his honour in their bright yellow cycling jerseys.

Jon is famous for scoffing at whiners with a “You’re not made of sugar.” And he toughed out that five-year fight with cancer like he toughed out a long-distance race with just one lung.

He led by example, a life of courage and singular grace, fiercely optimistic, kind, generous. He never proselytized. He always said there were “only good days and great days.”

Other cyclists have inspired by example.

My kids’ beloved elementary schoolteacher Andrea Stuart, who has the shape and the vitality to be a rolling advertisement for ‘active transport’, commuted every day for years. When I marvelled at her commitment, she simply said she loved it.

Many of my Wolseley neighbours cycle to work every day, and I always admired them as I clambered, frazzled, into my car.

Then I started running into colleagues who were also leading by example: Free Press reporter Geoff Kirbyson; page designer Leesa Dahl; publisher Bob Cox; copy editor David Fuller, photographer Wayne Glowacki. The head of U of W’s trendy new Global College, Marilou McPhedran, who doesn’t even own a car. The smart and sassy U of W prof Shannon Sampert, who is also a pretty impressive “biker chick” on the weekends.

My impoverished son (who points out that he “didn’t exactly have a choice”), last June took up a 40-minute cycling commute to his new workplace and is now in the best shape of his life.

None of them proselytized. None of them told me cycling to work would give me more energy, more strength, less stress, and make each day a little more fun.

I’m not nearly so subtle. I tell anybody who laughs at my bike-helmeted head that this is a no-brainer. It takes an extra 15 minutes to get to work by bike — in total, a 30-minute ride. But that extra 15 minutes on my morning commute works out to an hour of exercise and fresh air every day. An hour I didn’t have to pay to go to a gym, or work out in my basement, or try to tack something on to an already long day.

I can get even more sanctimonious. I am saving city roads, lessening traffic noise and pollution, not using up non-renewable resources such as oil or gas. Laugh at my helmet hair if you wish, but I am following in the panniered path of a lot of smart, interesting, healthy people.

It might be catching on. Comment editor Gerald Flood was checking out my bike the other day. Some colleagues have asked about my route. Two very dear friends tried out the new Bishop Grandin ‘active transportation’ trail last weekend, and both said they were trying to map out safe and not-too-scary cycling routes to their jobs.

I’ve vowed to stay on my bike as long as my other inspiration, buddy Diane Skogstad — who last year commuted to the end of October, and was back in the saddle by April.

I feel younger, stronger and more alive on a bike. I like to think that’s how Jon felt, too.

On windy days, I tell myself I’m just getting a better workout. On rainy days, I say I’m not made of sugar.

And on bad days? There are no bad days.

Only good days and great.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2010 A13

Ped/bike bridge will be built over the Northeast Pioneers Greenway

posted at September 24, 2010 09:25 (over 2 years ago)
September 24, 2010
CJOB / Winnipeg Free Press

Lukes is elated by the move

CJOB News Team

A pedestrian/bike bridge has been added to a 90-million dollar project announced last July…to extend the Chief Peguis Trail to Lagimodiere.

Winnipeg Trails Co-ordinator Janice Lukes couldn’t be happier.

17 second audio clip

Lukes told CJOB the addition of the “flyover” is a brilliant move.

Planners were able to find money within the existing budget to accommodate the pedestrian/bike bridge.

Pedestrian bridge for Chief Peguis Trail

(see the sidebar in the Free Press main story)

Winnipeg Free Press, Bartley Kives

A bike-and-pedestrian bridge has been added to the Chief Peguis Trail extension without increasing the council-approved $110-million project cost, North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty announced Thursday.

In July, city council voted to increase the scope of the Chief Peguis public-private partnership to allow the construction of an underpass at Rothesay Avenue, as area residents feared an intersection at Rothesay might endanger pedestrians.

At the same meeting, the Winnipeg Trails Association appeared before council to request a pedestrian bridge at the Northeast Pioneers Greenway, which runs parallel to Raleigh Street and Gateway Road. WTA director Janice Lukes said an intersection with the bicycle-commuter route would also be dangerous.

DBF2, the construction consortium responsible for the project, came up with a way to add the bridge without increasing costs, Browaty said.

“They were able to find a little more value with other aspects of the project,” he said. “Everybody appreciated the Northeast Pioneers Greenway is a well-used amenity.”

Chief Peguis Trail is being extended east from Henderson Highway to Lagimodiere Boulevard. The city hopes to extend it west from Main Street to McPhillips Street in the coming decades as part of an effort to complete an inner ring road.

Bikeway to be built before ruling

posted at September 23, 2010 22:01 (over 2 years ago)
September 24, 2010
Bartley Kives

An attempt to put the brakes on the Assiniboine Bikeway probably won’t make it to court until construction on the contentious Assiniboine Avenue project is complete.

Six businesses located near the Midtown Bridge have been trying to halt the $125,000 bikeway since construction began in late August, complaining that a recent tweak to the plan will cause traffic chaos in downtown’s Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood.

That amendment was made after a city council committee reviewed the plans for the bikeway, which changes the flow of traffic along Assiniboine Avenue to prevent motor vehicles from shortcutting through the neighbourhood.

But when the case came before the Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday, the City of Winnipeg filed a motion to have the claim dismissed as baseless — and also remove the plaintiff’s lawyer, Joey Pollock, from the case.

That effectively means it will take months before the case makes its way to court.

“There will be snow on the ground before this matter will be heard,” said Pollock, a partner in the law firm Campbell Marr. “It certainly could be December or later.”

The city wants to remove Pollock because his Campbell Marr partner Douglas Mackenzie swore an affidavit in the case, in his role as president of 10 Donald St., one of the six businesses suing the city. Campbell Marr is housed inside 10 Donald St.

“The city contends no member of the Campbell Marr law firm can represent the businesses because Mr. Pollock’s partner Doug Mackenzie has given evidence in this matter dealing with his role as counsel for the businesses about matters at issue in the litigation,” city spokesman Steve West said in a statement.

The city also wants to dismiss the claim itself because it contends the bikeway amendment did not have to come back before a council committee. The original report was “received as information,” which means it did not progress to council itself.

“The need to consult occurs when a street is closed, but the city is not closing a street. Assiniboine Avenue had motor-vehicle and bicycle traffic and it will continue to do so,” West said.

Pollock said he recognizes the city’s right to raise procedural issues but considers the city’s motion frivolous. Both he and the city’s legal counsel are due in court today to set the time frame to hear the city’s motion.

Although originally planned for 2008, the Assiniboine Bikeway is part of a $20.4-million city-wide bike-and-pedestrian upgrade that includes 34 other projects this year.

Several have been the subject of intense criticism from residents, leading politicians such as Mayor Sam Katz and River Heights Coun. John Orlikow to complain about the way the city notified the public.

“What pains me the most is that something that you wanted to be embraced by all citizens — I’m talking about active transportation — unfortunately turns out to not be the case and I think part of it appears to be with the way the public consultation was done,” Katz told reporters Thursday. “I’ve heard some stories that were extremely disconcerting to me, to be very frank with you.”

One of the plaintiffs on Assiniboine said he was notified by a notice taped to his door.

City active-transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon has said the city has held more consultation on the active-transportation upgrade than private developers ever do. Resistance in Wolseley to a bike-and-pedestrian bridge over Omand’s Creek led that project to be struck from the plan.

But there is no going back on the Assiniboine Bikeway, Katz suggested.

“If you were actually to take a walk, which I did this week, you’d see the majority of the work is done,” he said.

Katz has rejected the suggestion the headaches stem from tight timelines to complete the active-transportation project, which is funded by all three levels of government — provided all the work is completed before April.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca — With files from Mary Agnes Welch

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2010 B1

City delays Assiniboine Ave. court case


The City of Winnipeg has fired a legal shot back at some angry business owners on Assiniboine Avenue.

The business owners have taken the city to court to stop construction of a bikeway in the area of the downtown street, claiming the work is restricting traffic and access for emergency vehicles.

The court action was filed by a half a dozen businesses including Unicity Taxi, Dubrovnik Restaurant and the owners of several properties.

But city lawyers countered with a court motion Thursday that will effectively delay the court case into October.

“By the time the city’s motion is heard on those procedural matters the work on Assiniboine will long have been completed and I imagine there will be snow on the ground,” said Joseph Pollack, lawyer for the business owners.

Pollack said his clients will likely press the case, adding that even if the work is finished they will ask the court to force the city to rip up the work and restore the street to its former traffic patterns.

Business owner Doug MacKenzie said there’s little doubt the business owners will keep up the legal pressure.

“I don’t see us stopping and we are going to ask that the streets be put back into the position they were. Now that may not mean drill up all the concrete, but it does mean the traffic patterns have to be restored.”

Also see Businesses suing city over bikeway.

More than the sum of its parts — Push Pedal Stride Art Show

posted at September 23, 2010 09:26 (over 2 years ago)
September 20, 2010
Leif Larsen

Higgins Avenue in Winnipeg is well known . . . for all the wrong reasons. The Graffiti Gallery, nestled between Waterfront Drive and Gomez Street, is working to change that perception by adding “cool art” to you list of reasons to venture to this part of town.

I had the pleasure of visiting this unique gallery, which lives up to its name, as the outside of its brick walls are covered in colourful graffiti — is it still “graffiti” if it’s commissioned? —, to attend the opening of the Push Pedal Stride art show last Thursday.

The show — which is in partnership with Bike to the Future, an organization that promotes the benefits of commuting by bicycle — features submissions depicting bicycles, unicycles and other pedal-powered paraphernalia.

There were as many different mediums as there are different kinds of bikes, from photographs to oil paintings, acrylic on canvas and even what I can only assume was a sculpture, consisting of a child’s bike adorned with a helmet and goggles. Although that last one could easily have been just a child’s bike.

One piece that stood out in my mind was Takashi Iwasaki’s two piece “abbie” — a nickname for Iwasaki’s abstract drawings — and not just because at $2,400 this two painting set was one of, if not the, most expensively priced pieces in the gallery.

The only way I can think to describe it is as one part Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of straight lines and defined colour boundaries mixed with an equal amount of Frank Gehry’s complete disregard for such things.

It was mesmerizing.

Another piece that caught my eye was Robert Burton’s “Three Bicycles.” A colourful acrylic on canvas depicting three bikes in a mess of foliage, it reminded me of my youth, most of which was spent riding through heavily wooded trails near the river.

Since this show was a call for submissions, you could say that it lacks a cohesiveness that a show with a stronger mandate might have had, but this isn’t to say that it doesn’t work, although it took me a while to figure out why it did.

After leaving the show my first impression was that it was a rag-tag collection of art, each piece distinct, with no real relation to the others. Then I started thinking of my own trusty steed.

The frame: an old and unloved red Raleigh, rescued from the garbage heap. Wheels: new, shiny, true and sweet. The rest: a collection of parts I begged, borrowed or stole from sympathetic friends and shop owners with too much inventory and not enough space.

I realized that the Push Pedal Stride show was kind of a metaphor for my own bike and that, while I didn’t see it right away, all the parts do fit, even if the end result is more functional than pretty.

Pretty is over-rated anyway.

Push Pedal Stride is located at the Graffiti Gallery, 109 Higgins Ave., and runs until Nov. 4

Calming traffic is creating stress

posted at September 18, 2010 07:41 (over 2 years ago)
September 17, 2010
Catherine Mitchell

Man, calming traffic can really get the adrenalin going.

For those who thought we in sleepy River Heights were a boring, complacent lot, try building a “bump out” in the neighbourhood.

Construction at the intersections along Grosvenor Avenue, particularly the west end of that street, has tongues wagging. For some of us who have been around for a few years, it recalls Sandy Hyman’s foray into neighbourhood traffic planning some 15 years ago. Didn’t go so well then, either.

The golden rule of traffic engineering is that when you try to solve the problems of one route by pinching off vehicle access, you’ll enrage the residents of the nearby streets that are affected.

St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal rues the very mention of bump outs, which expand curbs a couple of metres into a street, intentionally slowing motorists way down. In 2001, he had the curbs on Lyndale Drive bumped out, hoping to push speedsters to busier arteries. Residents and motorists revolted and they were gone — all the bumps ironed out – in a year.

Now numerous routes in the city are undergoing reconfigurations with bump outs, this time as part of the city’s massive street works program to get more people on bikes and out of their cars.

There are 30-plus such projects around Winnipeg, and at a cost of $20 million they mark a huge leap forward in the active transportation agenda, which has had to settle for comparative chump change thrown at it over the years. But even at $20 million, this year’s construction bites off a small piece of an ambitious plan to turn Winnipeg into a more bike-able place for pleasure riders and commuters.

Parking lanes are being wiped off the streetscape, surprising residents and businesses alike. Sections of streets are being turned into one-ways and stops signs are being ripped out for traffic circles to make driving and cycling more fluid.

Some, such as cycling enthusiast Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, are thrilled by the investment, made possible by federal infrastructure spending.

Others, not so much.

How is a cyclist made safer by bump outs that force bikes left into traffic, a few skeptical commuters are wondering. On west Grosvenor, which will lose its street parking to accommodate dedicated cycling paths beside opposing lanes of traffic, the bump outs are smaller than usual and part of five intersection traffic circles, which are also smaller in diameter than is typical with roundabouts. That still pinches a lot of commuters (including buses) into the intersection of a fairly narrow street.

The way I see it, everyone will have to slow down, which, in theory, makes everyone safer — unless the aggressively stupid continue to insist that Grosvenor is a good stand-in for a thoroughfare.

On that point, I should come clean: As a resident of Grosvenor Avenue, which some drivers regard as a thoroughfare, I figure I’m a winner in all of this.

But if I were a resident nearer Kingsway, I’d be worried that motorists will swing my way instead of trying to merge onto the busy Corydon or Academy arteries.

Gerbasi and city planners stress that people should wait to see the final product. And, for the record, Vandal insists there was no trouble with snow clearing on Lyndale when the bump outs were in place. Gerbasi does concede that the one-year offer from the federal infrastructure spending deal meant this phase of the cycling corridors construction was done hastily, which left some neighbourhoods short on consultation. All three of the River Heights-Fort Rouge open houses, for example, were held in Fort Rouge.

The disruption in traffic patterns, as everyone adjusts, is bound to last awhile. This year’s $20-million expenditure was extraordinary — the Harper government has stressed this windfall was made possible only as a recession-fighting measure, and Canada has surfaced from the slump now. There’s a lot left on the to-do list, but when the rest of it (including Kingsway, also on the “active transportation” agenda) gets done is anyone’s guess.

No one ever said that mucking around with traffic patterns is easy (just ask Sam Katz, who vowed to synchronize traffic lights). But as Gerbasi points out, lots of cities have undergone much greater change and lived to tell about it. Strap in, enjoy the ride. Maybe pull out the bike, even?


Businesses suing city over bikeway

posted at September 18, 2010 05:45 (over 2 years ago)
September 17, 2010
Lindsey Wiebe

Area residents angered by changes

Complaints about Winnipeg’s massive bike-and-pedestrian infrastructure upgrades have entered the courts, as six businesses located near the Midtown Bridge are suing the City of Winnipeg over the new Assiniboine Bikeway.

The city is in the midst of a major active-transportation overhaul that will see 35 projects completed this year with the help of $20.4 million from all three levels of government. The projects must be finished before the snow falls, as the funding disappears if the work is not completed by March 2011.

But the upgrades have raised concerns among some businesses and residents in areas where work is underway, including complaints over River Heights road changes and a North End parking dispute.

On Assiniboine Avenue, recent traffic-flow changes to accommodate the bikeway-in-progress have upset some commuters.

“It’s an absolute nightmare,” said Jan Fontaine, who works in the area. “It’s complete and utter gridlock.”

And some area businesses — who earlier raised concerns about traffic flow — filed a statement of claim this week seeking damages and demanding the road changes be reversed.

“Our fundamental position is that the city has wrongfully undertaken the works on Assiniboine Avenue and the adjacent streets,” said Douglas Mackenzie, a lawyer with law firm Campbell, Marr.

Mackenzie said the businesses believe the city is “without the jurisdiction or the authority” for the sort of work undertaken on the street and worry about safety, fearing emergency vehicles will block traffic. They want the streets restored to pre-construction condition and are seeking unspecified damages, as well as $1 million in punitive damages.

Mackenzie is president of 10 Donald Street Ltd., one of the plaintiffs, but said he’s not personally handling the file. Other plaintiffs include Unicity Taxi, Dubrovnik Restaurant and Giovanni Geremia Architect.

In River Heights, the installation of curb extensions, called bump-outs, and traffic circles at points on Grosvenor and Fleet avenues are raising the ire of residents. The traffic-calming measures are meant to improve safety, but River Heights-Fort Garry council hopeful Michael Kowalson said he’s heard hundreds of complaints about them.

“I’ve run into a lot of people door-knocking who feel there should have been more public consultation,” he said. “I have yet to meet the first person who thinks it’s a good idea.”

Council incumbent John Orlikow admits the city didn’t do enough to engage residents. Letters were hand-delivered to those living on the corridors, he said, and the city held two open houses. But they only drew 10 or 20 people, he said, and a later mail-out to 15,000 residents doesn’t seem to have been widely read.

“It’s our fault,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to find ways to properly engage the community.”

Orlikow said the fact consultation happened in winter likely contributed to the lack of response. He said he thinks the public will still be happy with the end results.

Active transportation coordinator Kevin Nixon and Bill Woroby, acting manager of engineering for the city’s public works department, were not available for comment Thursday.

City spokeswoman Michelle Bailey said the city has done its best to inform the public about the 35 projects, holding open houses and information sessions, advertised in daily and community newspapers, posting information online and sending out flyers.

Some construction concerns stem from the loss of parking from planned curb bump-outs. Gord Brauer said original plans for Airlies Street would have eliminated all street-front parking at a building he plans to turn into office space, as well as that of a neighbouring salon.

Brauer said he didn’t know about the planned overhaul until a pamphlet came in the mail in July, and even then he didn’t realize he would lose parking.

Brauer said he found out about the parking loss at the 11th hour and, after contacting numerous officials, managed to convince them to modify the design to preserve his spaces.

Bailey confirmed a redesign was implemented on Airlies Street based on concerns of a man in the area.

Last-minute modifications aren’t possible for all routes, she said, but the city will accommodate concerns where possible.


Bike path project heads to court

posted at September 16, 2010 23:00 (over 2 years ago)
September 16, 2010
CBC News

A group of business owners is taking the city of Winnipeg to court over traffic issues on a stretch of Assiniboine Avenue downtown.

The city is building a bikeway on the street and has changed the direction of traffic on several streets.

The court action was filed by a half a dozen businesses including Unicity Taxi, Dubrovnik Restaurant and the owners of several properties.

In a statement of claim the business owners claim the changes are dangerous because they restrict access by emergency vehicles.

Unicity Taxi president Gurmail Mangat said the construction has caused serious delays for cab drivers. Moreover, the changes will devalue properties in the area. They want construction to stop.

“Basically we’d like to have it the way it was before,” he said. “We’d like to have the public to be consulted. We’d like to have our concerns addressed. And nobody talks to us. This is not a democracy we live in.”

Mangat says the construction has caused traffic jams on Broadway.

“We are angry, to be honest,” said Mangat. “We tried to talk to the politicians. They don’t listen. They have no time for this.”

The lawsuit claims there was insufficient public consultation on the street changes and traffic is gridlocked in the neighbourhood.

The business owners say the city should have passed a bylaw in order to make the changes but failed to do so.

Trade shorts for knickerbockers

posted at September 11, 2010 23:03 (over 2 years ago)
September 11, 2010
Carolin Vesely

Cyclists have long known the importance of wearing proper attire when putting the pedal to the mettle.

“If you have a wheel, gentlemen, you need a Bicycle Suit,” reads an advertisement from a popular Winnipeg retailer. “You need it because it is proper to be becomingly and fashionably attired, but chiefly because it will greatly add to your comfort while riding.”

The days of $5 Hudson’s Bay bicycle suits may be long gone, but a day of very stylish, old-fashioned bicycling is just up ahead.

Don some classic woollen duds and pack your parasols, ladies: Winnipeg’s first-ever Tweed Ride takes place Sunday, and that means we’re going to pedal like it’s 1899.

A tweed ride/run is when hundreds of impeccably dressed ladies and gents wheel across town on vintage and vintage-inspired bicycles because, well, it’s jolly good fun.

London reportedly had the world’s first tweed ride in January of 2009, when 150 dapper cyclists pedalled from Savile Row to Bethnal Green. San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, Sydney and other major cities have since followed suit.

The chap in charge of Winnipeg’s inaugural event is Steven Stothers, 48, a software manager and cycling enthusiast who also likes “history and old things,” and who decided it was high time we all went for a slow ride.

“In this fast-paced world of Spandex and Lycra, it just seemed like a kind of goofy and traditional thing to do,” says Stothers, who writes a dandy blog on the subject at www. winnipegtweedride.blogspot.com.

The 10-kilometre ride will sally forth from Assiniboine Park Pavilion at 2 p.m. sharp (come early to hear some old-time banjo tunes) and conclude at 6 p.m. with libations at the King’s Head Pub.

Tweed riders are encouraged to pack a snack for a scheduled stop at Memorial Park, which will also include a croquet game. Popping into the Fort Garry Hotel for tea is another option.

The Tweed ride coincides with Ciclovia, the city’s second annual bike-and-pedestrian festival, but is not officially part of it, Stothers says.

He invites riders to meet at the replica streetcar on Broadway at around 4 p.m. to pose for group and individual photos, which will be included in a Tweed Ride photo gallery to commemorate the outing.

As for what to wear, leave the fleece and stretchy shorts at home and opt for such fashionable (circa early 1900s) attire as newsboy caps, vests, knickers, pantaloons, cardigans and bow ties. Pipes, monocles, mutton-chop sideburns and handlebar moustaches are also a nice touch. Ladies will look sweet upon their bike seats in full-length skirts, high-necked blouses and flapper-style hats, perhaps twirling a parasol.

Vintage clothing stores and second-hand shops are your best resources. Visit Stothers’ blog for inspiration. It has links to photo archives that show what free-wheeling SSRqPeggers wore back in the day. (Yes, bike helmets tend to clash with tweed, but safety first. Don’t be a rapscallion.)

If you don’t have a vintage bike, weave some colourful streamers through your spokes.

“It just has to look like a period piece; it doesn’t have to be a period piece, says Stothers.

“But if someone could bring a penny farthing bike, that’d be awesome.”



Tweed Ride

Starts at Assiniboine Park Pavilion

Sunday, 2 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 11, 2010 C6


Businesses pushing city about bike-path change

posted at September 11, 2010 07:30 (over 2 years ago)
September 03, 2010
Bartley Kives

Six businesses in the Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood hope the City of Winnipeg will back-pedal on a recent tweak to the Assiniboine Bikeway because they fear they’ll be adversely affected by changes in traffic flow.

The city began construction this week on the $125,000 Assiniboine Bikeway, which has been part of the city’s active-transportation plans since 2008 but is being built this year as part of a city-wide $20.4-million bike-and-pedestrian upgrade that includes 34 other projects.

The Assiniboine Bikeway project includes changes in the flow of traffic along Assiniboine Avenue to prevent motor vehicles from short-cutting through the neighbourhood. Assiniboine will be one-way eastbound between Kennedy Street and Edmonton Street and one-way westbound from Edmonton to Navy Way. A half-block stretch of Hargrave Street will also be two-way.

But the plan presented last year to city council still called for two-way traffic on the block between Navy Way and Hargrave Street. The change in traffic flow on a single block, a seemingly minor project detail, has led six businesses to complain their ability to enter and exit their properties will be dangerously compromised.

In a letter sent Tuesday to city chief administrative officer Glen Laubenstein, the businesses — which include Unicity Taxi, Yellowquill College, Giovanni Geremia Architect and the law firm Campbell, Marr — argue they were not notified about the tweak until late July, five weeks before the start of construction.

Douglas Mackenzie, a lawyer with Campbell, Marr, argued the changes in traffic flow could create 20-minute delays for anyone leaving the businesses during rush hour, when the Midtown Bridge is heavily congested, and other headaches when emergency vehicles block a back lane that will become a sole access point.

He said city officials agreed to meet with the businesses, who presented an alternative, but were told no changes to the project will be made.

“Meaningful consultation requires some dialogue,” he said. “No one has listened to our concerns.”

Kevin Nixon, the city’s active transportation manager, said the Assiniboine Bikeway plan was tweaked when it became apparent Handi-Transit vehicles would be required to open their doors on the wrong side of Assiniboine Avenue on one of the blocks in the neighbourhood.

The change did not require council approval, as the plan was presented last year as information, not as legislation. And the alternative the businesses suggested would likely create even worse traffic problems, Nixon said.

The city has been struggling to satisfy the sometimes-competing interests of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and people with special needs as it proceeds with 35 separate active-transportation projects, he added.

“When you have all those things to balance, it’s almost impossible to make everyone happy,” said Nixon. “And we have done way more public consultation than we normally have, certainly more than developers would be required to do.”

The city has never spent more than $2.6 million in a single year on active transportation. The $20.4-million upgrade this year was made possible by federal infrastructure spending announced in 2008, in co-operation with the city and province.

The federal funding will disappear if the projects are not completed before April, which effectively means they must be done before the snow falls this November. That has forced the city to engage in all planning and construction during a single season.

Nixon, however, said there was no rush to design the Assiniboine Bikeway, given the three-year lead time on this particular project.


Bike valets find support in Winnipeg

posted at September 10, 2010 05:51 (over 2 years ago)
September 10, 2010
Aaron Snider (Volunteer)

Free service adds convenience and security to list of bicycle benefits

Cyclists attending events around Winnipeg this summer may have noticed a new trend when parking their bikes. Bicycle valet services ensure that those who choose active transportation don’t have to worry about their bikes being stolen.

A bicycle valet works like any car valet – a cyclist drops off their bike at a convenient location and receives a ticket that is exchanged for their bike at the end of the event.

David Wieser, founder and project manager of Bicycle Valet Winnipeg, thought about starting a bike valet service after watching a Streetfilms.org video about a similar service offered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC).

“I called (Kash, SFBC’s valet bike parking supervisor) about two or three years ago to ask him about doing a bicycle valet. So that’s when I started putting stuff down on paper.”

This summer marked the first year of official operations for Bicycle Valet Winnipeg. The organization currently operates under a grant from Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) to offer the free valet service.

“They (MEC) provided the funds for us to get started, and we’re looking for other sponsorship so that we can offer subsidized rates to small, community-oriented groups,” Wieser said.

Large, for-profit organizations will also eventually pay for the service in order to keep the costs low or free for not-for-profit clients.

Wieser is open to offering the bike valet service at all types of events.

“If there are cyclists going there, I cannot see an event that we would not go to,” he said. Bicycle Valet Winnipeg can currently store up to 200 bikes at its events and hopes to increase that capacity for future engagements.

With the objective of making active transportation easier, Bicycle Valet Winnipeg accommodates cyclists as much as possible.

“People can leave their paniers, they can leave their helmets, they can leave their jackets,” Wieser said. “They can leave all the stuff that they would have to carry with them.”

Cyclists can also rest easy after leaving their bike with the valet, which reports zero bikes stolen.

The West End Cultural Centre (WECC) also offered a free bike valet service at two concerts so far this year. Michael Petkau, artistic director at the WECC, said the number of people biking increased significantly between the two shows.

“I think the first time you offer something no one really knows what it is or how it works,” Petkau said. “People are hearing about it and liking it. It’s a little, classy thing for cyclists (to have someone take their bike); and they don’t have to worry about it.”

This year’s annual Bikefest also saw the use of a bike valet service. Jared Falk, Bikefest co-ordinator, said approximately 400 people came out to the event, which took place at the Forks.

“It’s a time to gather and celebrate cycling and pick up some new ideas or see what’s out there,” he said. “(The valet) caught some people by surprise.”

He believes that the valet provides an effective bike security solution for riders.

“I know a lot of my friends who cycle go to extreme precautions to make sure their bikes are safe,” Falk said.

For more information on bike valets or to volunteer to be a valet, visit bicyclevaletwinnipeg.ca.

Broadway will buzz with series of fests

posted at September 02, 2010 08:22 (over 2 years ago)
July 22, 2010
Bartley Kives
Winnipeg Free Press

Last year’s Ciclovia grows into multi-event party

The largest street party to be held downtown since Glen Murray was mayor is coming to Broadway late this summer.

What began as a one-day bike-and-pedestrian festival in 2009 has mushroomed into five events over three days during the second weekend of September, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ plans to announce today.

Ciclovia, a celebration of car-free culture that started out as a pilot project last year, will be back for a second run on Sunday, Sept. 12, said Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown BIZ.

It will be joined by a Saturday-night dance that’s part of Winnipeg’s Cultural Capital of Canada festivities, a two-day wine-and-cheese tasting, a pair of road races and a two-day lighting competition between four firms vying to permanently illuminate the elms along Broadway.

The success of the first Ciclovia, which involves closing a network of city streets to make way for events such as bike demos and a farmers’ market, led the BIZ to consider expanding the event this year, Grande said.

The City of Winnipeg provided $20,000 worth of seed money last year on a one-time basis, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said. That funding will also flow this year, but the intention is for the Broadway events to be self-sustaining, through corporate sponsorships.

The original plan was to hold Ciclovia and the other events over four weekends, said Bruce Rathbone, a promoter who said he helped come up with lighting-competition idea.

“It was supposed to be a lot longer,” said Rathbone, who is not organizing any of the Broadway events. He is upset the city will not waive a series of charges intended to recover the cost of the street closures.

“As usual, the city is thinking about their coffers and it’s the public that actually gets shafted,” said Rathbone, a former business partner of the mayor’s. “These are events who won’t complain publicly, for fear of offending the city.”

Grande, however, said he is thrilled with the expanded lineup of events. Katz said he, too, supports the idea, but cautioned the city funding is not permanent.

Former mayor Murray was criticized heavily for spending approximately $700,000 in 2001 and 2002 to hold a pair of elaborate street parties called Get Together Downtown.

Street festivals return

Events planned for Broadway during the second weekend of September:

Taste of Downtown Winnipeg (Sept. 10-12): Seven wine-tasting stations and seven higher-end food vendors will set up on Broadway for three days, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Big Dance on Broadway (Sept. 11): The organizers behind Winnipeg’s Cultural Capital of Canada programming are presenting live music on two stages from 4 to 11 p.m. on the Saturday. Performers include the Ron Paley Big Band, Papa Mambo and The Wind-ups.

Lights on Broadway (Sept. 11-12): Four lighting-design firms will illuminate elms on Broadway as part of a contest to determine which company gets to create a permanent display in 2011 on the downtown artery. The lights will go on at sundown on both Saturday and Sunday.

10+10 Road Race (Sept. 12): A pair of road races — one 10 kilometres, the other 10 miles (16 kilometres) — will take place Sunday morning.

Ciclovia (Sept. 12): Winnipeg’s second annual celebration of bike and pedestrian culture will take place Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. A network of car-free streets will stretch from Assiniboine Park to The Forks. Broadway and other streets will have bike demos, crafts, fitness classes, a farmers’ market and kids’ activities.


Cycle projects get rolling

posted at August 30, 2010 12:13 (over 2 years ago)
August 30, 2010
Bartley Kives

City up against winter deadline

Almost two years after the city, province and Ottawa agreed to spend $20.4 million to improve Winnipeg’s bike-and-pedestrian pathways, a majority of the 36 projects planned for 2010 are finally underway.

The City of Winnipeg has finished three of the active-transportation projects, is in the midst of completing 19 others and has yet to start work on 13 more. All of the projects should be completed in October, city officials contend.

“We’re feeling pretty good about it,” active-transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon said.

The construction industry has been able to handle the amount of work the city has been throwing at it, he said. Costs remain within budget, he added. The upgrade involves eight times more construction on the bike-and-pedestrian infrastructure than the city conducts during a normal year, when infrastructure-stimulus funds are not available. The cash will run out if the projects aren’t done before April, but work is impossible once the snow falls, the city said.

Of the 13 projects that have yet to go ahead, tenders have already been awarded for six. The city is in the midst of advertising three other tenders and still needs to advertise four more.

Only one project is not going ahead: the pedestrian bridge over Omand’s Creek in Omand Park, which was cancelled due to community opposition. All three levels of government must figure out a way to divert the $1.2 million devoted to the bridge to another project, which may not be possible given the tight deadline.

While some of the upgrades involve dedicated paths for cyclists and pedestrians, most of the projects involve street work. Grosvenor Avenue in River Heights, for example, is being converted into a route for both bikes and vehicles by bumping out curbs at several intersections.

The bump-outs are intended to serve as traffic-calming measures, but vehicles will still be allowed to use the street.

Many residents only became aware of the work after construction started, despite a series of mailouts sent out early this year, River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow said.

“There was an enormous amount of attempts at public consultation by our office and the city, but I don’t think people were engaged prior to it happening,” he said.

The city also put up information displays in malls and at some public events. But due to the tight construction deadlines, much of the consultation was conducted in the winter, when people aren’t thinking about construction, Nixon said.


Upgrades zip along

The current status of 36 active-transportation projects planned for Winnipeg this year at a cost of $20.4 million:

Completed projects: Three small paths along Wilkes Avenue, Waverley Street and across the Manitoba Hydro corridor between Sommerville and Seel Avenue.

Projects under construction: 19, including the Dakota-Dunkirk pathway, the Grosvenor bikeway and the Transcona Trail.

Projects awaiting construction, with tenders awarded: Six, including the Assiniboine Bikeway, a path along Bison Drive and the Pandora Avenue path originally slated for Kildare Avenue.

Project tenders advertised: Three, including the Kildonan Golf Course path and the Bannatyne/McDermot Bikeway.

Project tenders to be advertised: Four, including the Sherbrook/Maryland and St. Matthews Bikeways.

Projects cancelled: One, the Omand’s Creek Bridge in Omand Park.

— Source: City of Winnipeg

Second annual bike festival celebrates Winnipeg’s cycling community

posted at August 09, 2010 16:53 (over 2 years ago)
June 29, 2010
Sonya Howard

Workshops, a bike swap and Winnipeg’s first-ever cycle-powered concert planned for event

All things cycling for all ages will roll into The Forks Sunday, July 18 for the second annual Bikefest.

Organized by Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), this free festival will feature a bike swap, bicycle maintenance and fitting workshops, “Yoga for the Cyclist” sessions by Moksha Yoga, and cycle commuting tips from local advocacy groups.

Work is also underway to build a generator from a combination of old stationary bikes and automotive parts to host Winnipeg’s first-ever cycle-powered concert featuring Mike Petkau, artistic director of the West End Cultural Centre and frontman for local rock band Les Jupes.

The concert, pending generator completion, will take place at 3 p.m. under the Forks Plaza canopy.

“This is a great idea that captures the imagination and possibility of what musicians and environmentalists can do together,” Petkau said by e-mail.

Art City will welcome everyone to decorate their bikes with homemade vinyl stickers, plastic flowers and art cards attached to spokes with clothespins. Kids of Mud will be providing information about their off-road learn-to-ride and learn-to-race youth programs.

There are really two purposes for Bikefest. One is to gather the community and celebrate all things cycling; the other is to inspire cyclists at every level.
– Jared Falk, Bikefest co-ordinator

Organizations like Bike to the Future will provide information about routes, resources and updates on cycling route infrastructure improvements.

“Cycling is a realistic alternative for more and more Winnipegers,” said Rob Cosco of Bike to the Future.

The number of cyclists on the road has gone up with the increase in gas prices, the popularity of healthy lifestyles and the desire to find green alternatives, both Cosco and Falk noted. With the expansion of Winnipeg’s alternative transportation program and more bike lanes being set aside, cycle commuting will become safer and more convenient for those interested in trying it out.

The bike swap will help cyclists buy or sell a used bike or bike parts that they can’t find anywhere else. Meeting the seller face-to-face gives fest-goers a chance to ask questions and try out the bike or parts first hand. There is no charge to sell at the bike swap.

Those interested in taking part must first reserve a spot or table to display their products by calling MEC at 943-4202 or e-mailing Jared Falk at jfalk@mec.ca. All sales are private sales and have no relation to MEC.

“There will be a wide variety of people at Bikefest, everyone from the experienced cyclist to the person who hasn’t touched a bike in five years,” said Falk. “Perhaps this event will inspire them to ride that extra 10 kilometres on their next ride or bring out that old, neglected bike and head out to the park for a ride.”

Bikefest 2010 happens Sunday, July 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m at The Forks.

Bikefest 2010 participants

Mountain Equipment Co-op
Mike Petkau of Les Jupes
Moksha Yoga
Bike to the Future
Kids of Mud
Art City

Saddle up, it’s Bike to Work Day

posted at June 26, 2010 18:32 (over 2 years ago)
June 25, 2010
Staff Writer

City streets are likely boasting a few more bicycle commuters today, many scrambling for free T-shirts and danishes.

Mayor Sam Katz has declared this Bike to Work Day. He is biking into the office himself today, his communications director confirmed.

“Bike to Work Day is … is changing attitudes and getting thousands of Winnipeggers commuting by bicycle,” Katz said in a statement. “Cycling is not just good for the planet, it’s good for people — our health and well-being.”

The third annual event is being co-sponsored by several organizations, including Bike to the Future, Climate Change Connection, Manitoba Cycling Association, Resource Conservation Manitoba and and Winnipeg Trails Association.

The first 300 people to register on the event website, www.biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org, will receive a Bike to Work Day T-shirt, and Manitoba Lotteries will be providing a pancake breakfast to the first 300 cyclists to reach the Forks this morning.

Ron Brown, executive director of the Manitoba Cycling Association, said he was looking forward to the $21 million being pumped in to the city’s cycling paths.

This year the event will include five locations in the city where cyclists can gather to start or end their commute to work until 9 a.m.

Drinks and snacks courtesy of Stella’s Café & Bakery will be available to the first 30 people at each oasis and prizes and T-shirts will be available on a first come first serve basis at all five locations:

  • Assiniboine Credit Union Oasis at Grapes on Pembina (1890 Pembina Hwy.).
  • CityTV Oasis at Portage and Raglan (in the parking lot of the Portage Mennonite Brethren Church).
  • Manitoba Public Insurance Oasis at St. Mary’s and Fermor (in the parking lot of the Junior’s restaurant).
  • Natural Cycle Oasis at Northgate Shopping Centre (1399 McPhillips St.).
  • Winnipeg Free Press Oasis on the Northeast Pioneers Greenway (north of Munroe on the path between Gateway and Raleigh).

Walk, cycle to fight obesity: study

posted at June 25, 2010 21:44 (over 2 years ago)
August 20, 2010
CBC News

People who walk or cycle for transport tend to be slimmer than those who rely on a car to get around, according to a new study of 15 countries.

The study looked at the relationship between “active travel” — bicycling or walking instead of driving — and physical activity, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

More than half of the differences in obesity rates among countries was linked to walking and cycling rates, Prof. David Bassett Jr. of the department of kinesiology, recreation and sport studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his colleagues report in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Our results suggest statistically significant relationships — in the expected direction — between walking, cycling and health at the country, state and city levels,” the study’s authors concluded.

“Among the 14 countries in our international comparison, those with higher levels of walking and cycling tended to have lower levels of adult obesity, whether self-reported or clinically measured.”In Europe, about half the trips people made — for whatever purpose — were on foot or bike compared with eight per cent in Canada and 10 per cent in the U.S., the researchers found.

“Not surprisingly, the European countries had obesity rates that were half [those] in North America,” Bassett said.

The findings do not prove that walking and cycling lower obesity but support the hypothesis that active travel encourages more physical activity and leads to lower rates of obesity and diabetes, the researchers said, particularly when considered as part of the mounting body of evidence on the health benefits of active travel.

European countries with high rates of walking and cycling have far less obesity than Australia, Canada and the U.S. that are more dependent on cars, the researchers noted.

To encourage walking and cycling, the researchers suggested that governments and land use planners:

  • Provide safe, convenient and attractive sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths and lanes.
  • Modify intersections to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Restrict car use with approaches such as car-free zones, traffic calming in residential neighbourhoods, speed limits, and limited and more expensive car parking.
  • Foster compact, mixed-use developments that generate shorter trip distances that are easier to cover by walking and cycling.

An earlier study by Canadian researcher Prof. Lawrence Frank found that for each additional hour in a car, there was a six per cent increase in likelihood of obesity, which he said was because of the time spent sitting in the vehicle instead of being physically active.

The work proves that transportation decisions are also health decisions, said Frank, Bombardier transportation chair at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“The argument we’re making is to let’s bring the health-care costs into the transportation decision-making arena because those costs are real, they’re measurable and they’re huge,” Frank said.

Research also showed that by walking and cycling instead of driving, Europeans burned up to nine pounds of fat a year.

Pedestrian, cyclist friendly

An earlier study by the researchers concluded that despite the colder climate, Canadians cycle about three times more than Americans.

The difference was attributed to Canada’s higher urban densities and mixed-use development; shorter trip distances; lower incomes; higher costs of owning, driving and parking a car; safer cycling conditions; and more extensive cycling infrastructure and training programs.

Still, Canadian cities can do a lot more to improve cycling conditions, said Suzanne Lareau of the Montreal-based cycling group Vélo Québec.

“We have to reduce the vehicle traffic in town because the worst enemy for the cyclist and pedestrian [is] too heavy traffic,” Lareau said.

Over a year ago, Sheena Hyndman of Toronto started riding her bike everywhere. She’s lost 40 pounds that she says is mainly thanks to changing how she gets around.

“I’ve lost a lot of weight, first of all, but that aside, just my mental well-being,” Hyndman said. “I feel a lot healthier and happier in general, and I think people notice that about me.”

Obesity prevalence and rates of active transport — graph

Get ready to cycle to work on June 25

posted at June 17, 2010 19:18 (over 2 years ago)
June 12, 2010
Staff Writer

Oil your bicycle chain and dust off your helmet — June 25 has been declared Bike to Work Day in Winnipeg.

“Bike to Work Day is a great initiative that… is changing attitudes and getting thousands of Winnipeggers commuting by bicycle,” Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said in a statement Friday.

“Cycling is not just good for the planet, it’s good for people — our health and well-being. .”

“This is our third year and excitement continues to grow,” said Ron Brown, executive director of the Manitoba Cycling Association. “We are very much encouraged by the number of commuters we see and the $21 million of infrastructure advances we’re seeing for cycling in the city.”

Bike to Work Day highlights the environmental, health and economic benefits of cycling and to encourage Winnipeggers to cycle to work or school.

This year, five “bike oasis” locations also will be set up around the city where cyclists can gather to start or end their commute (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.). Drinks and snacks will be available to the first 30 cyclists to arrive at each location, and prizes and T-shirts will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Escorted group rides (Bike Waves) will also be leaving each location for the downtown and a pancake breakfast that will be get under way at 7:15 a.m. at The Forks. The first 300 cyclists will get pancakes.

To register and to learn more, visit: www.biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org.

West End rolls out bike valet service

posted at June 17, 2010 19:07 (over 2 years ago)
June 12, 2010
Carol Sanders

The West End Cultural Centre introduced a valet service with a twist Thursday night — it’s exclusively for bicycles.

Volunteers sporting bow ties jockeyed concertgoers’ bikes at Thursday’s show — the WECC’s first annual 100 Mile Musical Diet rock tribute, featuring local hip-hop outfit Magnum K.I. and pop band Paper Moon.

The introduction of bicycle valet service seemed to fit with the concert’s theme and the venue’s values, said Jacquelyn Hébert, the centre’s marketing and production co-ordinator.

“We want to encourage people to take advantage of active transportation,” she said. “It’s within the mandate of the organization. If we could encourage more people to ride their bicycles, why not?”

The cultural centre’s artistic director Mike Petkau came up with the idea, she said.

“It’s a free service we’re going to be offering for certain shows,” Hébert said. Thursday night was to be a test run with five volunteers. One person out front was to take the bike and give the owner a ticket. Other volunteers would ride the bike to the back and take it into the basement. There, the bicycles were locked up safe and sound during the show until owners presented their ticket to the valet, who would retrieve it for them.

“I think sometimes people were scared to ride bikes here and leave them outside,” said Hébert. “Their seat might get stolen or their wheel.”

The West End Cultural Centre has enough racks to hold about two dozen bikes, she said.

“We’re just kind of going to see how it goes,” said Hébert. “We can have more racks if it’s really successful. We’ll be doing it throughout the summer.”

Patrons can go to the centre’s website to see which events offer the service.


He rescued bike, seeks owner

posted at June 09, 2010 21:47 (over 2 years ago)
June 08, 2010
Gabrielle Giroday

Man chased down brazen thief, wants Peugeot to go home

IT’S a Cinderella story complete with a knight in a pickup truck, except Marty Halprin isn’t looking for the owner of a lost shoe.

Instead, the jewelry store owner is looking for the Winnipeg woman with the key that fits the lock on a turquoise Peugeot bike he rescued from a thief Friday morning.

The Celia’s Jewellery owner was in his truck at the corner of Smith Street and York Avenue about 11 a.m. when he saw a man about 30 years old knock over a steel pole on the north side of York. The thief then dragged away a 10-speed bike that had been chained to the pole.

That’s when Halprin pulled up alongside.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Halprin, 59, an avid biker who’s cycled for over four decades and isn’t shy about calling himself a rabble-rouser.

The man dropped the bike and took off on foot after Halprin gestured he was going to get out his truck.

“I guess he didn’t want to get involved with me and he was having trouble with the bike, so he just left,” he said.

Halprin then put the bike in the back of his truck and took it home for safekeeping.

“Whoever (the bike owner) is obviously had to walk home from wherever she worked. I’d sure like to meet her, find her, and give her her bike back.”

The Peugeot’s about 20 to 25 years old and still has a cable locking its front wheel and frame together. Its fender was twisted like “spaghetti” after the attempted theft.

“He just figured that (he had) every right to take this bike,” he said.

He’s confident he’ll know he has the rightful owner when he finds the woman whose key fits into the lock.

A sign Halprin put near the intersection with his name and number — as well as information about the theft — has so far gone unanswered.

Halprin said he’s shocked the thief tried such a brazen theft in the middle of busy downtown, and that people nearby didn’t intervene.

“I know how sick it feels to go to where your bike was and it’s gone,” he said. “It’s a sick feeling.”


Businessman foils bike theft


A Winnipeg business owner is hunting for the owner of a bicycle that he stopped from being stolen in the city’s downtown late last week.

On Friday, Marty Halprin was passing by the corner of York Avenue and Smith Street when he spotted a man furiously rocking a parking sign out of place to steal a 10-speed bike that was locked to it.

Halprin, an avid cyclist who has been the victim of bike theft in the past, said he had to step in and stop what was happening. He pulled his car up next to the man.

But the would-be thief kept on tugging at the pole, eventually lifting it and dragging the bike away.

“I pull up a little further as he’s moving,” Halprin said. “I open my car door to get out. And then he decides it just not worth it.

“This was 11 a.m. Everybody was ignoring this guy. Friday. Nobody seemed to care,” Halprin said.

The thief eventually dropped the bike and ran off. Halprin snatched it up and took it to his store — Celia’s Jewelry at 194 Osborne St.

He’s appealing for the rightful owner of the bike, which is light blue in colour, to come forward and collect it as long as the person has the right key to unlock it.

“I’d like to give it back to them,” Halprin said.

He refuses to think that he did anything extraordinary, saying he feels that simply ignoring thieves sends the wrong message.

“That’s why people are getting away with what they’re getting away with,” Halprin said.

Easy Rider — Doing it right in rite of spring

posted at May 26, 2010 13:09 (over 2 years ago)
May 15, 2010
Jacquie Crone, Unexpected Manitoba

For me, one of the rites of spring is to extricate my bicycle out of storage, give it a bit of a tune-up, and then head out for a test ride. I’ve been spinning my wheels since I was about this high. I pedalled my way through a succession of (now) vintage hand-me-downs: the blue glider is still a legend among my many sisters.

Then in the ’70s, the 10-speed racer burst onto the scene and Simpson Sears was the place to get one. I talked to an expert — a guy who sold vacuum cleaners — and soon I was away on a white, multi-geared beauty. The bike weighed a ton and the crossbar was crotch-numbingly high, but I looked good. I graduated to better quality 10-speeds, then a mountain bike, then another — and each time I talked to an expert. Only this year did I learn that none of those bicycles fit me.

So what happened this year you might ask? In the dead of winter, while my two-wheeler gathered dust in the basement, my partner and I participated in a six-week bicycle mechanics course offered by the Natural Cycle Worker Co-op. The shop is buried in an ancient grotto downstairs from Mondragon (a political bookstore and vegan restaurant) on Albert Street in the Exchange district of Winnipeg.

Each class zeroed in on one component of the bike: wheels, brakes, steering, multi or single gear, drive train, saddles and frames. We took bikes apart (which is easy), and put them back together (not so much). We evaluated what components were necessary for every type of riding, (commuting, offroad, road racing, etc.) and considered fashion versus function. The folks at NC demystified the suckers. I won’t suggest that in six weeks I morphed into an expert, but I did come away from the course with a solid, basic education.

When I mounted my bike for this spring’s inaugural ride, it was running like clockwork. I was pleased with its behaviour; the gears shifted smoothly, the brakes engaged like never before. There are already more than 200 kilometres of cycling trails in Winnipeg and this year, a record-breaking budget has been assigned to the task of connecting existing trails and developing additional ones with an eye on the ultimate goal — a functioning network.

We have four major rivers running through Winnipeg: the Red, the Assiniboine, the La Salle and the Seine. The city is acquiring land for trails along these waterways as it becomes available and I appreciate that they are choosing a variety of trail surface dressings. But even though there are a lot of choices as to where to ride, for the first outing of the season I usually defer to the tried and true route.

So, off I head down the tree-lined avenue of Wellington Crescent, host to many of Winnipeg’s most stately old homes. The street is closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays and holidays during the summer, so you can take your time gawking.

At the old railbed near Renfrew Street, I leave the road and cycle along the dedicated path all the way to Assiniboine Park. The park is a destination unto itself and you can tool around the 1,100 acres all day if you want to. I don’t — and instead choose to slip past the hibernating Lyric Theatre, over to the pavilion to check for early arrivals at the duck pond. I give a nod to the busts along the Citizens Hall of Fame, and then take a gander at the frigid-looking nude sculptures hanging around the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. I backtrack along the riverside trail to the footbridge opposite Overdale Street, turn right at the north end of the bridge, and follow the path to Deer Lodge Place, and a rural-like road affectionately called Fitzgerald’s Walk. The walk commemorates the famous artist, Lionel Lemoine Fitzgerald who was an auxiliary member of the Group of Seven and lived close by on Lyle Street.

From there I pass through Albany Park, Bourkevale Park, cut up to Portage Avenue, head under the St. James Bridge and re-join Assiniboine Avenue. At Omand’s Creek the path takes you across a footbridge to Wolseley — another street that is closed to vehicles on Sundays and holidays. There are some terrific side streets and back lanes to explore along the way, but once I get to the Maryland Bridge, I cross and head back home.

We all have our spring rituals and that is mine — but you can plan out your own route and get into touring the streets and trails of Winnipeg by picking up a pocket-sized, 2009 Winnipeg Cycling Map from just about any bicycle store, (or you can download your own at the City of Winnipeg’s website).

Jacquie Crone writes a blog for Travel Manitoba and you can read more of her stories at www.unexpectedmanitoba.com/author/jcrone

Active trails to be extended to Transcona

posted at May 15, 2010 05:53 (over 2 years ago)
January 10, 2010
Jolie Toews
The Herald, Canstar Community News

Transcona will soon have a vast network of trails linking its neighbourhoods with one another and itself with the rest of the city. More than 12 kilometers of new trails, pathways and bikeways are expected to be ready for use in Transcona by this fall. It’s all part of a major active transportation project this year that will see 35 new active corridors constructed around the city. All three levels of government are funding the more than $20-million project. The existing Transcona Trail will be extended as part of the project.

The 5.75-km multi-use pathway will connect the eastern suburban area of Transcona with the rest of the city. It will be constructed south of the CEMR Pine Falls rail line corridor between Regent Avenue and Day Street and along the recently purchased abandoned rail line, located between the Manitoba Hydro right-of-way and the northern edge of Transcona, between Day Street and the Perimeter Highway. The Dugald Road Pathway will be a 3.3-km paved, multi-use pathway. In addition, a 4.5-km bikeway will run along Kildare Avenue.

Val Cousineau, chair of the Transcona Trails Association, is thrilled the city has taken an interest in expanding active transportation to provide better, safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists. “It’s a very big year for active transportation in Transcona. It’s probably the biggest year we’ve had to date,” said Cousineau, who joined the local non-profit organization when it started in 2003 to help develop and promote a recreational trail system in Transcona. “It’s way overdue. We just had a few tiny little paths in some parks,” Cousineau said of the year the organization formed.

The 30 or so residents who are members of the Transcona Trails organization helped the community get several trails, including the Transcona Trail, which provides a link between the Rotary Prairie Nature Park and the Transcona Bioreserve, the Cordite Trail along the Cordite Ditch and the Manitoba Lotteries Fitness Trail in Buhler Recreation Park. Although the number of trails throughout Transcona has grown significantly over the past several years, Cousineau said there is still a shortage. “This year we’re building wonderful trails within Transcona, to get around Transcona,” Cousineau said. “An effective trail system is one that you can get onto near your home to get to where you want to go that day, whether it’s school or work or the grocery store or the hairdresser. “I can see three years from now we will have an amazing system that will be easy for people to use. I can see a trail that goes all the way around Transcona.”

Kevin Nixon, the city’s active transportation co-ordinator, said this year’s project will better connect Transcona with other communities in the city. “Geographically, it’s a little bit isolated, so I think these facilities are going to be very well used in Transcona,” he said.

Cyclist says new bikeways will be blissful

posted at April 30, 2010 11:44 (over 2 years ago)
April 29, 2010
Simon Fuller

Stimulus program to create safer streets, freedom for cyclists

As part of its 2010 Active Transportation Stimulus program, the city recently announced a summer construction frenzy that will include four bikeway developments at Grosvenor Avenue, Harrow Street, Nassau Street and Fleet/Warsaw.

In the case of the Grosvenor Bikeway, several mini traffic circles will be placed along the route to help calm traffic in River Heights.

Not be confused with roundabouts, the traffic circles will effectively replace stop signs for a smoother ride.

“This should help slow down traffic on Grosvenor,” said local resident Mark Cohoe, who lives on Corydon Avenue and works on Grosvenor as a software developer.

“Firstly, it will benefit cyclists because we won’t need to keep stopping and starting on our journey. And the corner of Stafford and Grosvenor can be tricky at the best of times. Even as a pedestrian, I’ve had a few near misses with vehicles.”

Cohoe, who is also the city committee director of Bike to the Future, added that the proposed 3.5-km. bike boulevard will include a “spare lane for cyclists” after a certain point.

The Grosvenor Bikeway will provide an alternative active transportation route to Corydon, which has traditionally been considered a poorly suited road for cyclists because of its narrow lanes, heavy traffic volumes and relatively high speed limits.

“I think we’ll see a lasting benefit to our city,” said Cohoe, noting that his bicycle is his main mode of transportation, though he also enjoys walking and occasionally takes the bus.

“We’ll see more cyclists, who will be happier and healthier and save the city money with long-term healthcare costs. But it’s a double-edged sword, as cyclists will still need to respect the rules of the road,” he said.

In all, the proposed expansions will add 101 kilometres to the existing network, which measures 274 kilometres. The total cost of the program will be $20.4 million and split equally between all three levels of government.

At the civic level, active transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon said the traffic circles, which will measure four metres in diameter, will be designed on a much smaller scale than roundabouts commonly found in places like England.

“On the route, they will be placed where they have maximum visual impact, as the idea is to force traffic to slow down,” Nixon said.

“In community terms, we want people to have an easier life, as well as a safer and more active one.”

Meanwhile, avid cyclist Anders Swanson, who has also lived in the Corydon area, says it’s important to put the latest news into perspective.

“Considering the thousands of roads here in Winnipeg, this announcement is not all that huge,” said Swanson, who is a bicycle mechanic at Natural Cycle Worker Co-op.

“I’m hoping these changes will make cyclists a lot less nervous. And the change in space should create a little more sense that the streets, and the environment, belongs to all of us.”

For a comprehensive breakdown of the active transportation program, visit www.winnipeg.ca/publicworks/MajorProjects/ActiveTransportation/HikeItBikeItLikeIt.asp


North end gets look at transportation network

posted at April 23, 2010 05:36 (over 2 years ago)
April 22, 2010
Rob Brown

North Winnipeg residents recently had an opportunity to see the city’s final blueprint for a series of new and improved active transportation trails.

City officials hosted an open house April 15 at Ralph Brown Community Centre in the North End to give area residents a chance to view details of the project and provide feedback.

The city will begin work on 35 trail projects later this spring. The federal, provincial and civic governments have contributed $20 million for the projects, which must be completed by March 2011.

North Winnipeg Commuter Cyclists representative Greg Littlejohn said he liked what he saw at the open house.

“We’re glad to see our feedback has been listened to,” he said, noting the city’s inclusion of a bike path through Powers Park is a key development from his point of view.

Another north Winnipeg-based project, the Powers Street project, will provide pedestrians and cyclists with a north-south connection linking the North End with other areas of the city.

Civic active transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon said the city tried to incorporate the suggestions it received from residents into the final plan.

“We’ve done our homework on this one. That’s the reason we received the grant in the first place,” Nixon said.

“Residents have identified what is important and we have been working with an advisory committee.”

Winnipeg City Council approved the active transportation projects in December 2009.

The list of projects included in last year’s announcement include the Alexander-Pacific Bikeway from King Street to King Edwards Street and a link from Kildonan Park to the Kildonan Bridge on Chief Peguis Trail. Work on the Machray and Pritchard bikeways, which will stretch from Main Street northeast to Keewatin Street, will also be undertaken this year.

The north end plan has not come without changes. Many forced right hand turns as well as traffic circles that were proposed have been deleted from the plan after feedback from school bus drivers who would not have been able to negotiate some of the proposed new turns.

St. James resident Fred Morris said he would have preferred that the city dealt with each of the 35 transportation projects individually.

“These plans should not be lumped together, rather dealt with one by one,” he said.

“If something isn’t working, I would rather see individual projects delayed rather than being pressed ahead.”

Nixon said finalizing plans for the North End proved a little more challenging than in other parts of the city.

Winnipeg’s Active Transportation project dates back to 2006, when it was approved by city council. Council adopted an implementation plan in April 2007.


Residents talk active transportation

posted at April 23, 2010 05:34 (over 2 years ago)
April 15, 2010
Ryan Crocker

Residents of northeast Winnipeg took advantage of opportunities to review the city’s active transportation plans for their neighbourhoods last week.

The city held two public consultations, the first at Miles Macdonell Collegiate on April 6 regarding Elmwood and East Kildonan, the second at St. Michael’s Parish Hall on April 8 regarding Transcona.

Kevin Nixon, the city’s active transportation coordinator, said the public consultations are important because they allow the city to gauge residents’ opinions on this year’s active transportation projects.

“Whatever we design, we have to make sure it fits with the neighbourhood and we need input to do that correctly,” he said. “So far the response has been very positive and we’ve redesigned some things based on neighbourhood input.”

At the April 6 meeting, the discussion focussed on the Brazier/Roch Bikeway, a 7.5 km bike boulevard designed to offer an alternative to cycling on Henderson Highway.

On April 8, the discussion focussed on the Transcona Trail, a 5.75 km multi-use pathway connected eastern Transcona with the rest of the city; the Dugald Pathway, a 3.3 km connection between Transcona and downtown Winnipeg; as well as the Pandora Pathway and Chief Peguis Trail.

Participants filled out surveys and Nixon said the city will review their comments and any criticisms before finalizing the design of each project and starting construction. All the active transportation projects discussed at the public consultations will be completed by the end of this year.

Louise Balaban of the River East Neighbourhood Network Trail Committee attended the April 6 meeting and was very impressed with the city’s plans.

“It’s great that the city is starting to do things like this,” she said.

“It will help cyclists and it will encourage more people to cycle. It really is a no-brainer.”


Bike-path, walkway boom

posted at April 20, 2010 10:27 (over 2 years ago)
April 20, 2010
Bartley Kives

Cash for active-transportation routes nearly outstrips budget for roads

For the first time in Winnipeg’s history, the city will spend almost as much money building bike and pedestrian routes this summer as it will fixing local and regional streets.

The city plans to stagger the construction of 34 active-transportation projects over the next six months, as engineering and construction firms race to build $20.4 million worth of new bike and pedestrian routes before Halloween.

The unprecedented expansion of Winnipeg’s active transportation network will add 101 kilometres of new AT routes — 30 kilometres of dedicated bike and pedestrian paths and 71 kilometres of cycling routes on streets — to the city’s existing network of 274 kilometres.

During a regular year, the city only spends $3.25 million to expand its active-transportation network. But the availability of federal infrastructure funds convinced the city and province to shell out more for AT in 2010.

Since all the money must be spent by the end of October, the city’s public works department and outside consulting firms found themselves under pressure to complete the initial design and engineering work.

Construction tenders and the actual work will be staggered between late April and October to prevent any one company from struggling beneath the weight of too much work, active-transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon said.

Most of the projects will be completed by the deadline, he predicted. But it’s unclear what will happen in Omand Park, where opposition from several dozen Wolseley residents scuttled a $1-million bridge over Omand’s Creek.

Another route planned for Kildare Avenue was moved to Pandora Avenue following consultation with Transcona residents, Nixon said.

The city has one more public consultation planned for the project. New routes along the Seine River, Dakota Street, Dunkirk Drive, Eugenie Street, Lagimodiere Boulevard and Archibald Street will be on display at a Morrow Gospel Church open house on April 29.

But Winnipeggers may still be unaware some lanes of existing city streets will be converted into bike routes featuring either bike lanes or separated bike boulevards.

For example, three or four roundabouts will be placed on Grosvenor Avenue to calm traffic in River Heights. Portions of Nassau Street North will only allow motor vehicle traffic in one direction. A downtown stretch of Assiniboine Avenue will also include one-way sections to prevent the loss of parking spaces alongside a new bike boulevard.

One of the side benefits of the project is preventing cars from shortcutting through residential neighbourhoods, explained Nixon, who worked alongside city transportation managers. But the main goal is to make it easier and safer for cyclists to commute through Winnipeg.

“We’re not trying to replace the automobile. We’re not trying to get anyone on a bike,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is give people options.”

Some motorists, however, remain skeptical. Mike Mager, president and CEO of CAA Manitoba, said even though most drivers support the expansion of cycling infrastructure, they’re also annoyed by increasing congestion on Winnipeg’s streets.

An informal survey of consultants working on the AT project confirmed Nixon’s prediction of project completion by the end of October, albeit with a caveat: There will be gaps on several routes, as some legal easements have yet to be obtained.

The creation of trail signage also may have to wait until 2011, Nixon added.

274 kilometres

Winnipeg’s existing active-transportation network

30 kilometres

Additional bike-and-pedestrian paths the city plans to build by the end of October

71 kilometres

Additional bike boulevards and bike lanes the city plans to build on city streets by the end of October

$20.4 million

Cost of the active-transportation infrastructure stimulus program, shared equally by all three levels of government

$21.3 million

Money devoted to fixing streets this summer, not counting sidewalks, back lanes, gravel roads and major projects

— Source: City of Winnipeg

Scrap the lanes (Scrap the idea)

posted at April 05, 2010 14:57 (over 2 years ago)
April 01, 2010
Rowena Fisher

Re: City may open diamond lanes to more users (March 17). If the objective is to return the entire road space back to being the exclusive enclave of motor vehicles, then this is the way to go. It’s certainly not reconcilable with any genuine (yet professed) attempt to increase cycle-commuting, and the tangible benefits that that brings to our community.

I can only hope that the city’s transportation planners exhibit some common sense and recognize that allowing more vehicles into the diamond lane will essentially squeeze out the cyclists, and relegate this idea, ever so respectfully, to the scrap heap.

Rowena was responding to this story.

The full text of her letter (before the Free Press editted it) was:

As an all-year bike-commuter from WK to downtown, commuting on north Main Street has been great since last November when the bike/ bus diamond lanes opened. Alternate bike routes through Point Douglas are nice in the summer when you have the time, but impossible in the winter as they’re not ploughed.

Now, absent from 7 a.m. onwards in the Main Street diamond lane are the 60 – 70 kph speeders who historically gravitated to this kerb lane and, illegally, shot past close enough to give any cyclists leg a gratuitous shave. Vehicles using the diamond lane legitimately as part of a left-turn are mostly respectful of the slower-moving bikes. In the last five months these bike/bus diamond lanes have been a great step forward towards ensuring bike/vehicle safety and encouraging cycle-commuting – which should increase even more now with the warmer weather.

I was, therefore, gobsmacked when I read the March 17th article in the WFP “City may open diamond lanes to more users”; the first thing that came to my mind was “Mayor Katz what are you thinking?”

If the objective is to return the entire road space back to being the exclusive enclave of motor vehicles, by stealth, then this is the way to go – it’s certainly not reconcilable with any genuine (yet professed) attempt to increase cycle-commuting, and the tangible benefits that that brings to our community.

I can only hope that the City’s Transportation Planners exhibit some common sense – recognize that allowing more vehicles into the diamond lane will essentially squeeze out the cyclists, and relegate this idea, ever so respectfully, to the scrap heap.

Cycling his way to a legacy

posted at April 05, 2010 11:23 (over 2 years ago)
April 05, 2010

Legacies are a funny thing. You never know how or for what you will be remembered after you’re gone.

Often it’s for something completely unforeseen.

The late Winnipeg mayor Steve Juba is still famous for championing something that was never even built, a Jetsons-cool rapid-transit monorail system.

Former mayor Glen Murray was scorned for his “million-dollar toilet” on the Esplanade Riel, but then again, the elegant bridge has become one of Winnipeg’s most beloved landmarks. Mr. Murray is also renowned — or reviled, depending on one’s perspective — for his $100,000 Get Together Downtown events, which drew thousands to Portage and Main for fun.

Mayor Sam Katz’s legacy remains to be seen. But curiously enough, it may be for something he, too, could never could have envisioned.

Over the last five years, an “active transportation” lobby in the city has slowly gained ground. The goal is to create throughout the city a network of cycling commuter trails. It’s a pretty basic philosophy. Create better and safer ways to travel through the city on two wheels, or two feet, and fewer people may drive. That in turn leads to less traffic on the roads, better air quality, healthier people.

Winnipeg has been way behind on this trend, despite its easily cycled (i.e. flat) terrain. Calgary has some 900 kilometres of bike routes. Until recently, Winnipeg had about 100.

But under Katz’s watch, the city has extended that network to some 275 kilometres.

Only four years ago, the city’s spending on active transportation was $200,000. It’s now up to $3.5 million, a huge increase on trails, bike lanes and pedestrian path upgrades.

Did the mayor launch his first election campaign in Spandex and a bike helmet, vowing to transform the city into a less car-dependent, more active-transportation mecca?

Well, no. He took office in 2004 and immediately cancelled a proposed rapid-transit system. But Mr. Katz has come a long way since then.

He has changed his tune on rapid transit; after years of debate, construction for the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor finally began last summer. And just three months ago, the city pledged $6.8 million (matched by the province and the federal government’s infrastructure fund, to a total of $20.4 million) to create dozens more people-friendly routes in Winnipeg.

One of these projects made the news recently when Wolseley residents opposed the size and scale of a proposed bridge over Omand’s Creek. Judging by the debate that ensued, there’s a growing passion for active transportation. It’s relatively new, and it’s nowhere near critical mass, but it’s gaining momentum.

Mayor Katz’s city doesn’t hold expensive Get Togethers. But it did sponsor a Ciclovia last year, a $50,000 bike-and-pedestrian street festival that was such a hit, four more Sunday festivals are planned this summer. It started sponsoring Bike to Work Day in 2008, in which thousands — including Mr. Katz — proudly participated.

And trail advocates were both pleased and surprised last fall when the mayor boldly vowed to buy up more abandoned rail lines to transform into bike trails. “They make ideal active-transportation routes,” he said.

Mr. Katz has never been regarded as a visionary. His reputation is that of a pragmatist and a promoter rather than a leader.

But there is no doubt the wheels have started to turn at city hall — inspired, no doubt, by a growing number of Winnipeggers bent on making the city a more bike-friendly place.

So it’s a funny thing that the man who’s taken so much heat over things like rapid transit or Assiniboine Park condos may find himself with a surprising legacy years from now.

A greener, cleaner city, built one kilometre at a time.

Opposition kills Omand’s Creek bridge

posted at April 05, 2010 11:00 (over 2 years ago)
April 05, 2010
Melissa Martin

A beloved neighbourhood sledding hill may live to see many more winters, as the city shies away from a proposed $1-million bridge over Omand’s Creek.

Last week, Wolseley residents received word that the city’s active transportation planners won’t push for the bridge to be part of the city’s $20-million active transportation initiative. This came after 500 area residents crammed into a March 18 community meeting at Portage Avenue Mennonite Church to voice their concerns about the bridge, which would cover part of a popular sled hill in Omand Park.

A final decision will be made by city council in the coming weeks, but the city’s active transportation co-ordinator agreed that the bridge isn’t exactly the most popular item right now. “It’s really important that all these projects fit into the neighbourhood,” Kevin Nixon said. “We’re not about to jam something into the neighbourhood that the neighbourhood can’t accept.”

Of the original five options on the table for Omand’s Creek Park, upgrades to lighting and pathways were favoured by more people at the March 18 meeting than any of four bridge-related plans, one of which would have improved the existing footbridge. Only four per cent approved of the hilltop-spanning bridge.


Wolseley residents protest bridge plans

posted at March 25, 2010 09:56 (over 2 years ago)
March 25, 2010
Trevor Suffield

Residents of Wolseley say the city should leave well enough alone and scrap plans for a proposed new bridge in Omand Park.

That was the sentiment shared by the majority of area residents who attended a March 18 public meeting at Portage Avenue Church.

Approximately 500 individuals attended the meeting, which was organized by city officials to discuss options for replacing or rehabilitating the bridge.

The city originally proposed a 75-metre replacement for the bridge, which is flooded every spring. Opposition to the plan prompted the city to reconsider its plans and propose five alternate options.

Alison Norberg, who has lived in Wolseley for close to 50 years, said she opposes any changes that might harm the park’s natural beauty.

“I’m concerned that whatever happens that it not only address the issue of year-round accessibility, but that it retain the natural features of Omand Creek Park,” she said.

Long-time resident Helena Stelsovsky agreed and said she opposes the city’s original design for a new bridge because it would reduce the amount of green space in the park.

Stelsovsky added that the yearly flooding of the footbridge south of Portage Avenue isn’t a concern to her because she can walk up and cross at Portage.

The bridge project is to be funded through the Active Transportation-Infrastructure Stimulus Program that was approved by city council last December.

About $1-million has been earmarked for the project as part of the city’s $20.4-million in capital funding to improve 35 active transportation routes around the city.

Kevin Nixon, the city’s active transportation co-ordinator, said he was pleased by the turnout for last week’s meeting. He added said that the strong interest by the community will ensure the best option is chosen.

“Some of the issues that were brought up we weren’t aware of, like the importance of tobogganing, and we weren’t aware of the unsavoury activity that goes on at night,” he said.

“Now that we know about these things we can use them to make the design.”

The five designs presented included three options with a new bridge, one that provides upgrades to the park only and one that upgrades the existing bridge.

The latter two options are not eligible for AT-ISP funding. However, Nixon said the city will find a way to fund them if that’s what the majority of residents want.

City officials are currently assessing feedback and exit surveys from the meeting and hope to determine a final design soon. Nixon said a final design will likely have to be chosen in the next couple of months in order for the project to quality for active transportation funding.


Council committee approves stop sign removal plan

posted at March 08, 2010 17:27 (over 2 years ago)
March 08, 2010
Bartley Kives

City council’s protection and community services committee has approved a plan to remove “unwarranted” stop signs from busy bike routes.

Heeding the advice of city transportation managers, councillors voted not to proceed with a plan to allow cyclists to roll through stop signs when no pedestrians, vehicles and other bikes are present.

But the traffic managers recommended the committee ask Winnipeg’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee – which provides input into trail-building efforts – to come up with a list of streets to review with respect to possibly removing some stop signs.

Some older stop signs may not be needed, traffic managers said. Removing them would also benefit motorists and people who live along these routes, they said.

The committee vote was unanimous. The plan still faces approval from executive policy committee next week and council as a whole on March 24.

Planned bridge to ruin toboggan hill? Bike-span idea worries Omand’s Creek-area residents

posted at March 07, 2010 21:22 (over 2 years ago)
March 07, 2010
Melissa Martin

The city is preparing to spend $20 million on new active transportation routes. But could one of its ideas steal away one neighbourhood’s most active spot?

At the edge of Wolseley, residents are mobilizing to protect a popular toboggan hill they say is threatened by two city proposals for a $1-million bicycle bridge over tree-lined Omand’s Creek Park. “(The toboggan hill) is part of our life here,” said resident Laura MacDonald as she walked up the hill. “As soon as school’s out, it’s packed.”

Two weeks ago, the city floated two proposals at a small meeting with residents. One would put a 75-metre-long cyclist bridge high over the creek, anchoring on what is now the toboggan hill on the west side and Raglan Road on the east. The other would move the bridge further south, but block a smaller hill used by younger children.

Either option would mean concrete supports could potentially be located in an area where children zoom down the hill, also creating a worrisome target for graffiti and a dent in the rolling natural landscape, residents said.

“The social cost of the way the park is currently used is too high,” said Raglan Road resident Chris Roe, who said she is organizing “hundreds” of residents to speak out against the proposal. “We can do better. We have something beautiful here.”

The bridge crossing Omand’s Creek was proposed because a current, low-lying footbridge is underwater about two weeks out of the year. But some local cyclists feel nipping up to nearby Portage Avenue when the flooding happens is not a major detour.

“It’s not worth the loss of natural habitat, the interference with the toboggan hill in the winter and definitely not the expense of a major construction project,” said cyclist and resident Ian Hughes, in a letter to the city.

Although residents may disagree with the proposals, Roe stressed that meetings with city developers have been “very constructive,” and praised their openness. Other plans on the table include setting a new bridge one to two metres over the current one, reducing the flood risk but maintaining the hills.

On Saturday afternoon, kids tackling the toboggan hill were passionate about keeping it bridge-free. “It’s part of the community,” said Quinn Friesen, 11, who was sledding with brother Isaac. “If you put a bridge across it, not as many people are going to come.”

Roe’s son Cameron, 11, agreed. “I’ve been sliding on it since I was born,” he said. “You make friends here. It’s good for us not to be playing video games all day.”

A community meeting with residents and city organizers is scheduled at the Portage Avenue Mennonite Church Thursday, March 18. The open house begins at 5:30 p.m. and a meeting will start at 7 p.m. City planners will be on hand to discuss the bridge proposals.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2010 A5

Fewer stop signs for cyclists eyed, but don’t expect law to allow coasting through

posted at March 05, 2010 13:43 (over 2 years ago)
March 05, 2010
Bartley Kives

City traffic managers don’t want to let cyclists roll through intersections, but are willing to remove some stop signs from busy bike routes.

In a report to city council’s protection and community services committee, transportation manager Luis Escobar says Winnipeg should not pursue the “Idaho stop law,” a traffic practice that would allow cyclists to coast through stop signs if no motor vehicles, pedestrians or other cyclists are present.

St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves, the former chairman of the committee, asked the public service last year to investigate the feasibility of letting cyclists roll past stop signs when no one else is around.

But the public works department concluded only Manitoba Highways would have the authority to change the way road rules are interpreted — and said it would be unwise to attach any ambiguity to the meaning of stop signs.

“Having one definition of a stop sign for motorists and different definition for cyclists would introduce an element of uncertainty regarding the expectation of approaching cyclists and may reduce the compliance of stop signs by all users,” Escobar writes in the report.

Cyclists who desire some relief from the start-stop pedalling routine on some of the city’s formal bike routes aren’t entirely out of luck.

The same traffic report suggests the active transportation advisory committee — a group that assists the city’s trail-building effort — come up with a list of bike routes to review for the purpose of getting rid of some stop signs.

Some older city stop signs may not meet modern criteria for establishing stop signs, the report states. These criteria involve traffic and accident counts.

“Reducing the number of unwarranted stop signs on streets identified by ATAC will improve the efficiency of these routes for cyclists as well as reduce unnecessary vehicle stops, reduce fuel consumption and emissions, reduce traffic-noise levels and may promote overall compliance at stop signs in general,” Escobar writes.

The report comes before council’s protection and community services committee on Monday. A spokesman for Winnipeg’s most politically active cycling group said he’s disappointed city traffic managers are recommending against the “Idaho stop law,” but appreciates the alternative suggestion to get rid of some stop signs.

“Certainly this city has far more than its share of four-way stops. Maybe they’ll replace them with yields,” said Kevin Miller, co-chairman of Bike To The Future.

It may be safer for cyclists to slow down instead of actually stopping in some instances, he said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2010 A3

Active transportation gets going

posted at February 13, 2010 04:56 (over 2 years ago)
February 11, 2010
Marlo Campbell

Winnipeg’s cycling infrastructure is about to get a major facelift thanks to an unprecedented financial investment in active transportation.

Last September, as part of the federal government’s stimulus plan, $20.4 million was committed to the expansion and improvement of Winnipeg’s AT network, an amount confirmed by city council in December when it approved the 2010 capital budget.

The money will be provided by all three levels of government (each will give $6.8 million) and will pay for 35 new projects – everything from improved signage to the adaptation of certain residential streets for cycling usage (what are known as “bike boulevards”) to the creation of stand-alone, multi-use pathways. The projects will add approximately 70 km of various on-road infrastructure and 30 km of new paths to the 275 km of assorted people-powered transportation routes already in existence.

The funding announcement came as a happy shock to those who have been lobbying for years for better AT options in Winnipeg since it far exceeds any previous civic investment in such facilities; the 2010 capital budget, for example, earmarks just $2.75 million for active transportation – and that’s actually up significantly from 2006 when the city allocated only $200,000 to such projects.

There’s a catch to the good news, however. Because it’s tied to federal stimulus dollars, the $20.4 million must be spent completely by the end of March 2011 – a use-it-or-lose-it stipulation that has the city working hard to finalize plans in advance of the 2010 construction season.

Kevin Nixon, Winnipeg’s active transportation coordinator, says priority routes were identified through an extensive consultation process that began in July 2007 – the same month he was hired and an 11-member civic AT advisory committee was struck. The city is now looking for feedback on the proposed projects, particularly from residents of the communities that will be most affected by them.

“The neighbourhood has to be comfortable,” Nixon says. “If you’re going to make some changes, you’ve really got to make sure it doesn’t inconvenience people any more than it has to.”

Winnipeggers are being encouraged to share their opinions online at winnipegatrans.wordpress.com, and a series of open houses has also been launched to gather public input. One such event was held Feb. 4 at St. Matthews Anglican Church. Of the dozen area residents who stopped by during the hour Uptown was there, several expressed concerns that the proposals under consideration – such as the plan to paint bike lanes on Sherbrook and Maryland – will do little to improve cyclists’ safety, especially in the winter when the designated lane markings will be covered in snow.

“I wish there were more physical barriers,” said Heather Stewart, who cycles from March to November. “It seems like a lot of paint and signage right now, rather than infrastructure changes.”

Winnipeg Trails Association coordinator Janice Lukes sits on the city’s AT advisory committee. She’s also a member of Bike to the Future, a grassroots commuter cycling advocacy group, and chair of the province’s recently formed AT advisory committee.

Lukes is thrilled by the funding and excited about the connectivity it will provide to the city’s existing AT network, which some cyclists complain is fine for recreational bike trips but inadequate for commuters.

She’s also realistic about the work that’s about to begin, noting the city has never before attempted to build the kinds of on-road AT infrastructure now being considered.

“If they get 75% of it right, we’re lucky,” Lukes says. “It’s not all going to be done right and they’re going to have to fix it here and there, and that’s just the way it is – but it’s a good kick-start to having people embrace (cycling) as a real form of transportation verses fun.”

The next open house is Thursday February 16 at Dakota Community Club, 1188 Dakota Street, from 4 to 7 p.m. More information on the city’s AT plan, including a list of projects and detailed maps, can be found at winnipeg.ca/publicworks/MajorProjects/ActiveTransportation/HikeItBikeItLikeIt.asp.

City looking at adding bike lane on Pembina

posted at February 09, 2010 22:02 (over 2 years ago)
February 09, 2010
Bartley Kives

The City of Winnipeg will try to find a way to build bike lanes on a stretch of Pembina Highway that’s slated to be resurfaced this summer.

St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel and several Winnipeg trail groups asked city council’s public works committee if bike lanes could be added to Pembina Highway between Crescent Drive and Plaza Drive.

The cost of the lanes could be $650,000. That stretch of Pembina is considered a nuisance by commuter cyclists because there are no north-south side streets they can use to avoid motor-vehicle traffic.

Council’s public works committee voted to attempt to add bike lanes using cash already within the city’s budget and seek additional funds from outside sources, if necessary.

Bike Lanes Along Pembina

CJOB — February 9th

Winnipeg’s Public Works Committee is going to try to fund the construction of bike lanes along Pembina Highway with money already in the city’s budget. Winnipeg trail groups lobbied for the lanes saying there’s no alternative for cyclists along Pembina between Crescent Drive and Plaza Drive. That stretch of Pembina is scheduled to be resurfaced this summer. The cost of the project is around 650-thousand dollars.

Councillor requesting bike lanes on Pembina

Winnipeg Free Press — February 6th

St Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel has asked city council’s public works committee to consider a plan to add bike lanes to a stretch of Pembina Highway that’s slated to be resurfaced. Cyclists who commute down Pembina Highway have long complained about having to traverse a treacherous stretch of road between Plaza Drive and Chevrier Boulevard, where there are no side streets parallel to Pembina.

Adding bike lanes to this stretch would add $650,000 to a city resurfacing plan. Council’s public works committee will consider this idea on Tuesday.

BttF note:
It’s not “bike lanes” that are being proposed, but rather “cycle tracks”.

Buy a bus pass

posted at February 07, 2010 19:49 (over 2 years ago)
February 06, 2010
Harold Shuster

Greg Keller’s comments are reflective of the attitude of a growing number of Winnipeg automobile drivers who view cyclists as a mild irritant at best, or at worst something akin to an al-Qaida militant who needs to be eradicated from the face of the earth.

Let me offer Keller a couple of reasons why we might drive our bicycles in January: We are fit and healthy so we can; we care about the future of the world so are making an unselfish decision to not drive a car; we have made an intentional decision to live close enough to our place of work or study so we don’t need to drive a car.

Keller’s attitude clearly indicates he feels he has a right to own and operate his vehicle whenever and wherever he likes, even in “snowing, blowing, icy and -20 temperatures.” By taking the completely inconsiderate decision to drive during poor winter driving conditions, Keller not only puts his life in his own hands but those of other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Drivers like Keller had better quickly realize cyclists have as much right to be on our streets as anybody else. We have to deal with a growing number of irresponsible drivers who don’t know a green light from a red light, who can’t find the turn indicator on their steering column and turn into NASCAR drivers every time they get behind the wheel (if you take issue with this, cycle along with me to work every day and watch for yourself).

Keller, and the drivers like him, need to understand that we will all be better off once we have more of us on the road and fewer of them. Do everyone a favour, Keller, get out of your car and buy a bus pass.

Build 37 trails to connect cyclists and walkers across Winnipeg

posted at January 30, 2010 08:41 (over 2 years ago)
January 27, 2010
Ian Tizzard

With only a year to spend a windfall on a city-wide network of bike and walking trails, local advocates invited two experts to visit and advise us on building it.

“If you told me even two years ago that we’d have $20 million to spend on an active transportation system, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Winnipeg Trails Association coordinator Janice Lukes. But she added that the money comes with pressure from a time limit: restrictions on the federal portion say we have to spend it by March 2011. “That gives us one construction season to build 37 trails.”

So Lukes’ group partnered with One Green City, the Province of Manitoba and the Forks to host a public forum called Build it Right, at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People last Tuesday.

Peg spoke to them to get input on the fast-track job ahead:

The Montreal expert

Marc Jolicoeur is research coordinator with Velo Quebec, a 42-year-old organization that helped start the active transportation trend in Montreal. That city leads the country in non-automotive transportation opportunities, with more than 500 kilometres of trails and bike routes. And the new Bixi public bike system offers 5000 bikes at 300 sites around Montreal, for reasonable fees, 24/7, from May to November. The forum sponsors brought Jolicoeur from Montreal for two days, to meet and advise the consortium of consultants and civil engineers involved in the imminent trail building.

“There are no set rules for building a system, except to be doing something about it,” Jolicoeur said after the forum. Impressed by our start, he says we are in a good position to build a busy bikeway system.

“We know that if you make bikeways accessible, people will use them,” he said, “and Transport Canada figures show that 40 per cent of Winnipeggers live within five kilometres of where they work.”

As a start, Jolicoeur suggested a ‘road diet’ for Winnipeg, which involves changing many four-lane streets into three-lane streets with a centre turn lane and room for two bike lanes.

The Minneapolis expert

Minneapolis-based Jay Walljasper is a prolific writer and speaker who specializes in community and urban issues. “In the United States, we call it ‘non-motorized transport’,” he told the crowd. “But I think I’ll go back and start calling it ‘active transportation’. It’s better to focus on what we’re doing rather than what we’re not doing.”

Lukes said the forum’s sponsors brought Walljaspers to also speak on CJOB and give a more relevant perspective on our trailbreaking work. “We do get push back when we talk about active transport models in Copenhagen or Portland,” said Lukes, “But Minneapolis is similar in size and climate.”

“You have to expect some backlash,” said Walljasper, recognizing the still-strong attachment most people have to cars. To counter that, he focuses on cross-community benefits that bike commuting can offer. “For example, a family in the suburbs with access to viable bike routes can get with only one car and a family living downtown can get around without a car.”

A year-round bike commuter, Walljasper told the audience about his city’s recent work spending its own $22 million for path and trail funding. “Most important is to make busy connections — to the malls or to downtown from the suburbs,” he said, adding that a smooth safe ride attracts more riders than decreased mileage does.

Our options

Minneapolis active transportation plans adopted the road diet idea, and included a variety of other “cycling treatments” and “traffic calming strategies” such as bike boxes and bike boulevards. pegmag covered a range of options available for local cyclists in this post.

Have a say

Lukes expects active transportation funding to continue and sees this year as a chance to set a firm basis for future path and trail development. The city is hosting public consultation working sessions around Winnipeg starting this Saturday:

Fort Rouge/River Heights routes Saturday, January 30, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM Earl Grey Community Centre, 360 Cockburn Street N

Yellow Ribbon Trail connection to the east Tuesday, February 02, 4:00 to 7:00 PM Silver Heights Community Centre, 2080 Ness Ave

Sherbrook/Maryland South routes Wednesday, February 03, 4:00 to 7:00 PM Westminster United Church, Maryland St and Westminster Ave

Sherbrook/Maryland North routes Thursday, February 04, 4:00 to 7:00 PM St. Matthews Anglican Church, Maryland St and St. Matthews Ave.

Berry/Ferry bikeway Thursday, February 04, 4:00 to 7:00 PM Bourkevale Community Centre, 100 Ferry Road

Who do we look to for examples?

Both speakers cited Copenhagen and Montreal as leading cities of active transportation. Other impressive cities include Madison, Wisconsin; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon.

Big Year For Pathways And Bicycle Routes In Wpg

posted at January 28, 2010 12:34 (over 2 years ago)
January 28, 2010
Clay Young

Winnipeg residents are being asked to attend drop-in sessions early next month to give their input into a new batch of multi-use pathways and bicycle routes planned for this year.

{31 second audio clip]

Bikes versus cars

posted at January 16, 2010 20:57 (over 2 years ago)
January 14, 2010

As a year-round commuter cyclist, I take exception to some of the assumptions in Rae Butcher’s letter, Winter cycling dangerous (Jan. 11). Winter cyclists do not make judgment calls regarding the safety of their chosen mode of travel. I make judgments about how and where to ride on a daily basis, based on weather, road conditions and, most importantly, on traffic volume. Butcher can rest easy that I do not want to end up under his car and choose to ride safely.

The second assumption is a little more troublesome. Throughout the letter he repeatedly speaks of “our” roads, meaning that the roads are only for motorists — “these cyclists are being allowed to remain on our streets and in our driving lanes …” As far as I know, city roads belong to everyone. I have a job and a house. I pay taxes. I believe that gives me at least some right to claim the roads as “mine” and legally ride on them.

As for bike paths, the assumption is that they actually go somewhere and are safe to ride on. Wrong on both counts. They are largely recreational and are never plowed. Side streets are also troublesome because parked cars inhibit plowing, causing a buildup of snow in that lane. Sidewalks are intermittently plowed. Paradoxically, the safest place to ride is on the busy main streets, which are plowed and salted with every sprinkling of snow.

As for assuming that I feel morally superior, I don’t. I ride for many reasons, some of which are ecologically related, but the big two are economy and convenience. I don’t care whether Rae Butcher rides or not — I just want to get to work and back as safely and economically as possible. On my roads.

Ian Toal
I have to respond to the person complaining about having to put up with bicyclists in the winter. It would be easy to say we have to put up with his attitude and car all year round, so what is his beef? The other answer is that the world is changing. The car is no longer king. Winnipeg is doing transit corridors and looking at light rail. Gas is a finite resource. It is clowns like me that bike all year round that are actually not using gas and thus keeping the price down.

Anyhow, thanks for the warning. I know you are out there and I’ll be on the lookout (as always).

Doug Lang
Three words for Rae Butcher and all others who feel that “our streets” and “our driving lanes” are the personal private property of motorists: share the road!

Howard Ryant

New Disraeli plan satisfies drivers, cyclists. Closure avoided; bike, foot traffic to get own span.

posted at January 14, 2010 17:19 (over 2 years ago)
January 12, 2010
Bartley Kives

Northeast Winnipeg motorists and cyclists both got what they want from the final design for a rehabilitated Disraeli Freeway: No extended closures during the construction period and a bike-and-pedestrian bridge that doesn’t require a detour.

The Disraeli Bridge over the Red River will be replaced by a brand-new, four-lane vehicle bridge with a sidewalk and a separate, lower span for bikes and pedestrians, the city announced on Monday, as it unveiled the configuration for the rehabilitation of the 1.1-kilometre Disraeli Freeway, which connects downtown to Elmwood.

Motorists will be able to use the existing Disraeli Freeway during the construction of a new vehicle bridge over the Red as well as a new vehicle overpass above the CPR Keewatin line in Point Douglas. The new design replaces a previous rehabilitation plan that would have seen the busiest link between downtown and northeast Winnipeg closed for about 16 months.

Northeast Winnipeg residents resented the proposed closing, while cyclists were annoyed by a plan to build a separate active-transportation span three blocks to the east.

The new design was commissioned this fall, after the Manitoba government pledged to spend an additional $53.3 million on the Disraeli Freeway rehabilitation, effectively increasing the budget to around $195 million.

City officials then asked three private construction consortia to come up with creative ways to spend that money. “We said, ‘This is what our budget is; you guys come forward with the best possible solution,’ ” said Henry Hunter, the city’s procurement manager on major projects.

Winnipeg wound up choosing a design by a group called Plenary Roads Winnipeg, comprised of financier Plenary Group, PCL Constructors, Wardrop Engineering, Stantec Consulting and Borland Construction.

Plenary Roads’ design calls for a new Disraeli rail overpass to rise to the east of the existing overpass, while a new Disraeli Bridge will be built to the west of the existing span over the river.

Piers from the existing bridge will be trimmed down and used for a new bike-and-pedestrian bridge, while roadways in Point Douglas, Elmwood and downtown will be reconfigured to match up to the new curving freeway design, according to a promotional video on the city’s website.

“Re-using the piers from the river bridge for active transportation is quite innovative,” said North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, one of four city councillors who voted against the previous Disraeli plan.

The rehabilitation plan remains a public-private partnership. The city plans to borrow money to spend $75 million up front, while the remaining $120 million will be financed by Plenary Roads, which will design and build the new freeway, then maintain it for 30 years. The city will then make service payments to cover both the capital costs and maintenance fees, Hunter said.

While the city did not initially intend to build a new vehicle bridge over the Red River, the recession helped make the new design possible within a $195-million budget, Hunter said.

“When we originally looked at this project, we were experiencing unprecedented cost escalations,” he said, adding construction inflation has since cooled off.

Construction on the project will begin in 2011 and likely be completed in 2013. It will take another year to finalize the design and obtain environmental approvals, Hunter said.

The existing freeway is safe to use. “If it wasn’t safe, it wouldn’t be open,” he said.


Disraeli Bridge will see bike and pedestrian span

posted at January 12, 2010 07:12 (over 2 years ago)
January 11, 2010

Winnipeggers can continue to drive over the Disraeli Bridge during construction in 2011, the city said Monday.

The proposed plan to replace the two bridge spans is expected to cause minimal disruption to motorists, the city said. It will also see construction of a new pedestrian and cycling bridge over the Red River beside a new traffic bridge.

“This was the highest scoring proposal and the best value for money choice in terms of costs and benefits,” said Henry Hunter, the City of Winnipeg’s procurement manager for the Disraeli Bridges Project.

Key features of the estimated $195-million project include:

Traffic along the Disraeli will not be interrupted during peak travel times Mondays to Fridays, with a minimum of four travel lanes being available. The existing bridges will be replaced with new structures. The roadway will be realigned, and exits and entrances will be redesigned to allow for smoother traffic and pedestrian flow. A group of engineering and construction firms are partnering in the project: PCL Constructors Canada Inc., Wardrop Engineering Inc., Stantec Consulting Ltd. and Borland Construction Inc.

The Disraeli Bridges were originally built in 1959-1960.

Note: Mark Cohoe, Bike to the Future’s City Committee Director, appeared on CBC Radio One’s Up to Speed with Margaux Watt on Monday January 11th at 4:50 for a 5 minute interview. A 10 second snip of that interview was played during CBC Radio One’s Information Radio local news the next morning.

Traffic along the Disraeli will Continue to Flow During Construction of the Disraeli Bridges Project

posted at January 11, 2010 14:18 (over 2 years ago)
January 11, 2010

Winnipeggers will continue to drive over the Disraeli Bridges during construction of the City’s Disraeli Bridges Project under the terms of a proposal submitted by Plenary Roads Winnipeg, the team the City chose today as the project’s preferred proponent.

The proposed plan will see minimal disruption to motorists and features construction of a new separate Active Transportation (pedestrian/cycling) bridge over the Red River, built alongside a new vehicular bridge, allowing Winnipeggers to use all forms of Active Transportation while crossing the Red River, away from traffic.

“This was the highest scoring proposal and the best value for money choice in terms of costs and benefits,” said Henry Hunter, the City of Winnipeg’s procurement process Lead for the Disraeli Bridges Project.

Key features of the Plenary Roads Winnipeg proposal include:

  • During construction, traffic along the Disraeli will not be interrupted during peak travel times Mondays to Fridays, with a minimum of four travel lanes being available.
  • The existing bridges will be replaced with new structures.
  • The roadway will be realigned, and exits and entrances will be redesigned to allow for smoother traffic and pedestrian flow.
  • A separate new Active Transportation bridge will be built over the existing river bridge piers, providing an accessible, functional and aesthetically pleasing crossing of the Red River. This dedicated bridge will contribute to the City’s overall Active Transportation network.

The Plenary Roads Winnipeg team comprises Plenary Group (Canada) Ltd., PCL Constructors Canada Inc., Wardrop Engineering Inc., Stantec Consulting Ltd. and Borland Construction Inc. The team has global and local experience.

The Disraeli Bridges Project follows the “design-build-finance-maintain” (DBFM) model of procurement. Under this model, the private-sector partner is responsible for all financing, design, construction and maintenance costs during the term of the contract, which in the case of the Disraeli Bridges Project is 30 years. For its part, the City will make a commissioning payment and then annual performance-based service payments to the private-sector partner. The new bridges have a design life of 75 years.

The City’s capital budgets have allocated a total of $195 million for the project. This is a preliminary estimate, and the actual amount may change as plans are finalized. The Governments of Canada and Manitoba have also contributed funding towards the Disraeli Bridges Project.

The Disraeli Bridges were originally constructed in 1959/60 and have served the City for 50 years. Construction of the new Disraeli Bridges is expected to begin in 2011 following finalization of project agreements, detailed design and environmental approvals.

City of Winnipeg’s Disraeli Bridges Project page

Winter riding is fun

posted at January 09, 2010 06:18 (over 2 years ago)
January 07, 2010
Stuart Williams

Stephen Sutherland in his letter Take the bus (Jan. 5) says: “I just cannot understand why someone would want to ride their bike on snow-packed streets.”

Most people can only imagine biking as a summer activity. I bicycle to work year-round and often get asked about riding in winter. I answer by asking if they know anyone who cross-country skis, because it’s very similar. I’m outside, dressed appropriately and exercising on packed snow — it’s very enjoyable.

On top of the enjoyment, I pollute less, save money, get to work faster than the bus, get daily exercise and I’m warmer than I would be walking to a cold bus shelter to wait. Given the option of riding my bike to work, why would I want to ride the bus?Archived Local Media Stories (January 2010 – December 2012)