Archived Local Media Stories (July 2006 – December 2009)

Pedal Power

posted at November 19, 2009 07:11 (over 3 years ago)
October 31, 2009
Assiniboine Credit Union

{Bike to the Future volunteers Holly Poklitar, Rib Cosco, and Mark Cohoe promote cycling at Winnipeg’s first Ciclovia event in September 2009.}

Winnipeg cyclists are cheering the recent news that $20 million in federal infrastructure spending will be used to create biking and walking paths throughout the city.

Cheering loudest are the committed volunteers of ACU member organization Bike to the Future, a non-profit group that encourages people to bike to work, provides cycling skills training, and advocates for better bike facilities.

“It’s fantastic news,” enthuses the chair of Bike to the Future’s City Committee, Mark Cohoe. “We view this as a tipping point. We are now moving forward into a new phase that will radically increase the number of people using active transportation in Winnipeg.” The trails should be completed within the next two years.

ACU helped Bike to the Future with start up funding for their website (www.biketothefuture.org), one of their main educational tools. As Cohoe says,“ACU has been with us the full way and helped us with funding and getting the word out.” He also gives ACU kudos for encouraging our employees to participate in Bike to Work Day and for our efforts to install bike racks at all branches.

For more information about the proposed bikeways check out www.onegreencity.com .

Developer has a bridge he’d like to sell

posted at October 30, 2009 11:04 (over 3 years ago)
October 30, 2009
Bartley Kives

Discouraged after failing to get provincial approval to build condos over the Assiniboine

If you ever dreamed of owning your own bridge over the Assiniboine River, you might just get a chance.

The developer behind a plan to build condominiums on an abandoned CN Rail bridge that connects Wolseley to River Heights has given up on the unusual project after five years.

In 2004, Alec Katz — no relation to Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz — received city zoning approvals to build 20 to 24 condos on the former rail bridge that crosses the Assiniboine immediately east of the St. James Bridge. The following year, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans followed suit with a water-quality approval.

But Katz was never able to get the provincial government to sign off on the plan, which required environmental approval from Manitoba Conservation, which owns the riverbed as well as the air rights above it.

“I made an application five years ago. They told me it would take 60 days,” said Katz, a retired architect now living in B.C. “I wish I still had the stamina to do it, but I just turned 65. I wanted this to be a legacy. I wanted it as a swan song.”

Katz claims the Manitoba government held up the environmental decision after area residents who tried and failed to derail the project at the municipal level complained to NDP MLAs Andrew Swan (Minto), Bonnie Korzeniowski (St. James) and Rob Altemeyer (Wolseley). Former Manitoba premier Gary Doer also disliked the project, the developer claims.

In 2006, when Katz began complaining of delays, Manitoba Conservation Minister Stan Struthers said the rail-bridge condos were being treated no differently than any other project.

“We’re not going to put false obstacles in place. We’re not going to prolong the process, but we do have a process to ensure this is safe for the environment,” Struthers said at the time. “We need to assure Mr. Katz that this will proceed fairly.”

On Thursday, a spokesman for the minister said Katz failed to submit development plans to the city. The province was waiting for him to do so, the spokesman said.

Katz now plans to offer the city the chance to purchase the bridge. If the city declines, he’ll place it and slivers of land he owns on either side of the river up for sale in the hope somebody will find a creative use for the unique property.

“I don’t care who does it anymore, but it should be done,” said Katz, noting the project is a planner’s dream, given the potential to convert a disused industrial site into infill housing or a mixed-use commercial development.

“Everyone thinks it’s ugly, but I think it’s beautiful. Everyone focuses on the bridge, but the fact is, the land runs from Academy (Road) to the right of way to Wolseley (Avenue),” Katz said.

River Heights Coun. John Orlikow, whose ward includes the south side of the former rail bridge, said he’d like to see the span become a bike and pedestrian corridor or even a busway that could help alleviate some of the congestion on the St. James Bridge.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2009 A6

Future bike trails: Let’s grab abandoned rail lines, Katz says

posted at October 23, 2009 11:54 (over 3 years ago)
October 23, 2009
Bartley Kives

Winnipeg should gobble up as many abandoned rail lines as possible to build more bike-and-pedestrian trails, Mayor Sam Katz says.

The popularity of the Northeast Pioneers’ Greenway — a 6.7-kilometre commuter path built over the former CPR Marconi Line — has led Katz to believe the city must work more closely with railways to purchase unused lines as soon as they become available.

“If it’s abandoned, the city should be grabbing it. They make ideal active-transportation routes,” the mayor said Thursday in an interview. “Nothing is more obvious than what we did with the Northeast Pioneers’ Greenway. If you go there you’ll see it’s used by all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, on foot, on bikes (and on in-line) skates.”

Winnipeg acquired what’s now the Northeast Pioneers’ Greenway in 2006, when philanthropist John Buhler bought the Marconi Line from the Canadian Pacific Railway for $1.5 million, flipped it to the city at the same price and kicked in $150,000 to help pave the trail, which runs through East and North Kildonan.

City documents show Buhler was able to whittle down the asking price from almost $4 million. Katz said the city could avoid tough negotiations in the future by working with railways to ensure the city always gets the first crack at abandoned lines.

The city’s failure to secure unused lines in River Heights that eventually fell into the hands of real estate developers was “a major, major blunder,” Katz said.

But the city has experienced rails-to-trails successes, most notably the community-led acquisition of Charleswood land that led to the creation of the Harte Trail, said Janice Lukes, executive director of the non-profit Winnipeg Trails Association.

Land acquisition is the most difficult part of creating any new trail, so a concerted effort by the city to pursue railway property will go a long way toward future trail-building efforts, she added.

“There are a lot of pieces we should be grabbing right now. There are little bits and pieces all over the city,” said Lukes, who praised Katz for the unexpected policy statement. “That’s fabulous. I’m practically having a heart attack.”

Katz declined to say which abandoned lines the city plans to purchase next, claiming the identification of specific properties might drive up prices.

Winnipeg is in the midst of the most aggressive trail-building spree in the city’s history. Over the past four years, the city has more than doubled the size of its network of multi-use pathways, bike lanes on streets and sharrows, adding 159.5 kilometres to an active-transportation network that now stands at 274 kilometres.


City sets aside $20 million for new bike paths

posted at October 17, 2009 21:03 (over 3 years ago)
September 21, 2009
Sarah Petz

$20 million dollars dedicated to increasing cycling routes and pedestrian paths around the city do not include one of the city’s main veins, Pembina Highway, a route that many students at the University of Manitoba use to get to the Fort Garry Campus.

“In one respect we’re absolutely thrilled about the $20 million, but we’re really disappointed that there’s no funding to address Pembina Highway to get people to the university safely,” said Janice Lukes, director of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

The road poses a number of problems for students who want to cycle to campus safely. “The whole length of it is troublesome. It’s a combination of cyclists having to share the same space as buses and parked cars.”

“We have buses that are not sharing the same sort of speed or road, and then we have weaving in and out of traffic in rush hour,” said Anders Annell, coordinator of the Bike Dungeon of the University of Manitoba Recycling and Environmental Group.

However, other projects included in the $20 million may produce an alternative to Pembina Highway.

“In fact, we’ve had a consultant through this year’s capital budget investigate the issue of Pembina Highway,” said Kevin Nixon, Active Transportation Coodinator for the City of Winnipeg Public Works Department.

“Of course it’s one of our biggest issues. It’s very difficult cycling and we have a great deal of cyclists on [Pembina Highway.]” The coordinator has suggested that streets in Fort Rouge be used as an alternative to Pembina Highway.

“This is a huge step up for the active transportation program, not only because it boasts 37 different projects. They were 37 of the most important ones, and some of them will affect the University of Manitoba,” said Nixon.

Of the 37 projects, four or five will affect the U of M, including a section of Bison Drive that will make Waverly and Waverly West closer to being connected.

“The city is hoping to have some of the projects completed by the end of the year, through most commence next year. In fact some of these things we’re hoping to do [ . . . ] before the snow falls this year,” said Nixon.

Currently, the biggest issue with active transportation in Winnipeg is connectivity between off-road pathways and on road infrastructure.

“Really, right now we’re at a very basic level of active transportation infrastructure [ . . . ] This $20 million is going to almost put us at the forefront [ . . . ] so it’s huge news,” said Lukes.

Proposed Changes to the rules of the road for Cyclists

posted at October 10, 2009 20:09 (over 3 years ago)
October 09, 2009
Nicole Dube

David Wieser rides his bike to work everyday.

He says he’d rather dodge traffic than take side streets because there’s just too many stop signs along the way.

“If we were allowed to treat it as a yield sign, i’d be more inclined to use the side streets,” says Wieser.

The city has now asked police to study other jurisdiction, like the american state of Idaho, where cyclists are allowed to slow down and yield at stop signs, but not come to a complete stop.

“It’s been suggested that maybe there’s room for a second set of rules for cyclists,”says Gord Steeves, councillor for St. Vital.

The suggestions come after some cyclists were ticketed for rolling through stop signs this summer. A police initiative that Steeves says came under unfair criticism.

Wieser is with Bike To The Future, a commuter-cycling lobby group.

He says the so-called “Idaho stop law” could work in Winnipeg, if it’s enforced.

“It’s going to allow cyclists to find alternative routes and avoid the main arterial routes.”

For now, the rules remain the same.

In 60 days the police service will report their findings on the Idaho stop law, and present them to city hall.

(See the Global TV newscast item.)

City’s cyclists may follow ‘Idaho stop law’

posted at October 06, 2009 07:54 (over 3 years ago)
October 06, 2009
Bartley Kives

THE city may consider letting cyclists roll through intersections with stop signs when there are no vehicles or pedestrians present.City council’s protection and community services committee is poised to ask the Winnipeg Police Service to study traffic regulations in Idaho and elsewhere that allow cyclists to slow down and yield at stop signs but not come to a complete stop when no other traffic is present.

On Friday, councillors Gord Steeves and Jenny Gerbasi plan to formally ask the police to spend two months studying the idea and recommend whether it could work in Winnipeg.

The move follows calls from cycling groups to change Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act as well as a police initiative that saw cyclists ticketed for rolling through inner-city stop signs this summer, Steeves said.

“Nobody should complain about what police do when they’re simply enforcing laws,” said Steeves, noting it’s up to politicians to change the rules of the road if it’s deemed advisable to do so.

What’s being called the “Idaho stop law” could work in Winnipeg if it’s enforced, said Mark Cohoe, a director of Bike To The Future, a commuter-cycling lobby group.

“In the city of Winnipeg, it seems like stop signs are used for traffic calming. As a cyclist, it doesn’t make sense to stop every block along the road,” he said.

Bike To The Future also wants to see the provincial Highway Traffic Act amended to allow bikes to pass cars on the right, a move that’s currently illegal, even in curb lanes.

The group is also pushing the province to make it mandatory for motor vehicles to come no closer than one metre from cyclists when they pass on the left, especially in the shared lanes known as sharrows, Cohoe said.

While any regulatory changes would likely require the province to amend its rules first, there may be moves the city could make on its own, Steeves said.


Road rules for cyclists to be pondered

posted at October 06, 2009 07:52 (over 3 years ago)
October 05, 2009

Should the traffic rules Winnipeg cyclists follow be different than those for cars?

It’s a question Winnipeg Coun. Gord Steeves said he plans to ask Thursday at a meeting of city hall’s protection and community services committee, which he chairs.

Steeves told CBC News on Monday he wants to ask officials from the Winnipeg Police Service and municipal staff to survey the road rules for bicycles in other North American cities to see whether Winnipeg cyclists should be treated differently.

Currently, Manitoba cyclists are expected to follow the same road rules that cars do.

But in at least one U.S. state, Steeves said, cyclists are allowed to treat some stop signs as yield signs.

“Different jurisdictions have put in place kinds of parallel regulatory regimes where cyclists are held to a different standard than people on motor vehicles,” Steeves said.

The Idaho State code governing motor vehicles allows cyclists to roll through stop signs and run red lights when it’s safe to do so.

However, should Winnipeg want similar changes, it would have to lobby the provincial government to get them. The province is responsible for Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act.

More corridors planned for cyclists in northeast Winnipeg

posted at October 04, 2009 22:02 (over 3 years ago)
October 01, 2009
Jolie Toews

Cyclists who brave the ride down Henderson Highway will soon have an alternative route in a less traffic-heavy area of East Kildonan.

Last week, local politicians announced $350,000 in funding from all three levels of government for a bike boulevard that will run parallel to Henderson Highway down streets east of the major roadway.

The cash for a new route couldn’t come soon enough for those who bike to and from work on Henderson during rush hour— dodging construction, potholes and swerving vehicles along the way.

“It’s exciting news. It would be less intimidation of the lead foot,” said Louis Corbeil, an avid cyclist who works at Bikes and Beyond on Henderson near the Disraeli bridge.

Corbeil, who lives in Oakbank, has been biking to work for the past 25 years and is no stranger to the dangers of the road.

“I never take anything for granted,” said Corbeil, adding that just because the light is green doesn’t mean it’s safe to go.

“I respect the size of cars and trucks. The attitude you have to take is that you’re at the bottom of the food chain.”

Corbeil said he could take a safer daily route such as the Northeast Pioneers Greenway, a multi-use path between Raleigh Street and Gateway Road, but it’s not as convenient as Henderson.

“To take a bikeway, I have to go out of my way,” he said.

While major roadways such as Henderson Highway that have no dedicated bike lanes or so-called sharrows can be dangerous territory for cyclists, Corbeil said he understands the plight of the motorist. Not only have they “fought their way through construction and traffic,” Corbeil said drivers have to deal with passing a cyclist, which can be a nerve-wracking experience given the tight space.

The 7.5-km bike boulevard — a roadway shared between cyclists and motorists — is planned for Roch and Brazier streets from Sutton Avenue to Midwinter Avenue.

The route could eventually connect to or be located near the separate cyclist and pedestrian bridge planned for construction east of the Disraeli Bridge during its upcoming rehabilitation project.

“Henderson Highway is extremely busy and it’s very dangerous for cyclists to be on it,” said Kildonan-St. Paul MP Joy Smith at the funding announcement, adding the new route is a safe connection between the western part of East Kildonan and downtown.

Kevin Nixon, the city’s active transportation co-ordinator, said the three levels of government will contribute $20 million in funding for 37 active transportation projects in Winnipeg within the next year.

“It’s a huge statement from government that they’re taking active transportation seriously,” Nixon said.

A public consultation process for the planned bike boulevard in East Kildonan will begin this winter, he added.

Four of the 37 active transportation projects are planned for northeast Winnipeg.

In addition to the bike boulevard in East Kildonan, a 4.5-km one is planned for Transcona along Kildare Avenue East.

Transcona will also get two pathways, one 3.3 kilometers in length near Dugald Road and the other stretching 5.8 kilometers from Regent Avenue to the Perimeter.

The city, along with the federal and provincial governments, made the announcement in early September to inject cash into 102 kilometers of new paths, trails and lanes for those who choose to get from point A to B by walking, biking or in-line skating.

Yikes! City hall likes bikes

posted at September 24, 2009 14:46 (over 3 years ago)
September 24, 2009
Nicholas Hirst

Winnipeg’s plan to increase dramatically the number of bicycle paths is a cause for rejoicing, not just because it will make it so much easier and safer to cycle to work, but because of the culture shift that it indicates at city hall.

For the first time, city planners have firmly put the private car into second place. The federal government’s infrastructure program is providing $20 million for bike and pedestrian paths adding 102 kilometres to the present network of routes.

Winnipeg has been an attractive place to walk and cycle recreationally for some time. What the new money does is provide many routes for commuter-cycling. At long last, Winnipeg is to become a place where cycling to work is not just for a few, dedicated extremists, but a method of transportation that can be enjoyed by many.

Making the streets safe for cyclists means making the same streets far less appealing for cars. The city had already begun marking off cycle lanes in advance of the grant of infrastructure money from the federal government.

Bike lanes have been appearing throughout the downtown. As yet, they don’t link into a comprehensive network, but with the new spending, that should come.

The network won’t be perfect. Some cycles lanes are placed away from the curb to continue to allow cars to park — a positioning likely to make many cyclists feel vulnerable, but that is a niggling comment in an overall good plan that could change the face of the city.

My question is how far will the culture shift at city hall go?

Many of the new commuter bike-paths will be along routes that cyclists already use. The change is that these routes will be changed into “bike boulevards” with “traffic calming measures.”

Traffic calming already slows cars on some residential streets in Winnipeg and has been widely used in Europe for many years. Traffic calming makes straight roads curve, adds bumps and islands in a way that makes the streets more pedestrian and bike friendly than friendly to cars.

For a city that has largely designed its street system to allow cars to travel as quickly as possible, the switch to making some streets more appropriate to people power than the combustion engine is a major change. But it’s a change carefully made with the full understanding that while it provides an alternative to private car use, the private car still needs to be accommodated.

“You’re never going to get people out of their cars, but you have to get them on buses and bikes as well,” said property committee chairman Coun. Scott Fielding.

Hooray for that! It’s all about achieving a balance, not about making cars and car drivers the enemy,

In Winnipeg, walking and biking is going to remain mostly a spring, summer and fall activity. In the winter, most cyclists are going to revert to other forms of transportation. The plan has to be to provide alternatives to cars, not drive them from the streets.

The new bike lanes add to the building of rapid transit bus corridors as firm steps in a new direction.

More can be done. Winnipeg is a spread out city with a very large downtown. Getting from Portage and Main to the legislature, for example, is a fair walk and not very quick on public transport.

Many commuters with downtown offices will blanch at cycling all the way to work — a trip from south St. Vital to the new Hydro Building may be more sweaty exercise than many will want — but cycling around the downtown once they are there, may hold a far greater appeal.

Montreal and Washington, DC, both have bike-sharing rentals that allow bikes to be picked up at central spots and returned after a short trip.

Such a scheme in Winnipeg could add greatly to the use of the new bike lanes. City hall could provide space and invite entrepreneurs to bid on such a system. For the winter, the city could also look at adding smaller shuttle-buses to its fleet for short routes. The Taxi Board could examine how to provide taxis that could be hailed on the street and could be found at permanent taxi stands placed throughout the downtown.

It is always going to be difficult to live in Winnipeg and not own a car, but it could be far easier than it is now. By favouring bikes on some city streets, the city has taken a very important step. It needs to take more. The easier it becomes for commuters to find alternatives, the more the city will change.

The more it changes, the more Winnipeg will feel like a city for tomorrow and less like a city hanging on to the past.

Nicholas Hirst is CEO of Winnipeg-based television and film producer Original Pictures Inc.

City to dedicate more than 70 km to bicycle riders

posted at September 21, 2009 09:09 (over 3 years ago)
September 21, 2009
Bartley Kives

More than 70 kilometres of Winnipeg streets will be handed over to cyclists in the next year, as most of the new money the city is about to spend on active-transportation corridors will create “bike boulevards.”

Two Fridays ago, as part of a federal infrastructure-funding announcement, the city, province and Ottawa agreed to spend $20 million on 37 different active-transportation projects within Winnipeg.

The cash will add 102 kilometres of bike-and-pedestrian routes to an existing 274-kilometre city network comprised of multi-use paths, bike lanes on streets and extra-wide curb lanes called sharrows.

The projects include a new bridge over Omand’s Creek that won’t be submerged during spring and summer floods, 30 kilometres of new multi-use paths and 72 kilometres of bike boulevards, which are roads where cyclists receive priority over motor-vehicle traffic.

While bike boulevards do not separate cyclists from cars, they employ “traffic-calming measures” — essentially obstacles — to discourage all but local motor-vehicle traffic, said Kevin Nixon, Winnipeg’s active-transportation co-ordinator.

The boulevards will be on low-traffic streets cyclists already use. The first street slated for conversion is Assiniboine Avenue, from Osborne Street to the Midtown Bridge.

That will be followed by downtown bike boulevards on Bannatyne and McDermot avenues between Waterfront Drive and Sherbrook Street, St. Boniface boulevards on Eugenie and Des Meurons streets between the Norwood Bridge and Fermor Avenue and boulevards on Alexander and Pacific avenues, which will connect Red River College’s Notre Dame and Princess Street campuses.

Many of the other projects are small connections between existing routes and trails, Nixon added.

“Some of these pathways are tiny little things, but they have been highlighted to us (by cyclists) as important connections.”

The infusion of new trail-building cash effectively multiplies the annual city trail-building budget by a factor of eight, as Winnipeg devoted $2.5 million to active transportation this year, not including another $1.9 million spent on trails built as part of road rehabilitation projects.

As recently as 2006, the city only spent $200,000 a year on active transportation. Since then, the city has more than doubled the size of its network, as every member of council embraces human-powered transportation.

“We are committed to this, not just as a quality-of-life initiative, but as a green initiative,” said St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding, city council’s property chairman. “You’re never going to get people out of their cars, but you have to get them on buses and bikes as well. You have to do both.”


Spending on active transportation

After years of indifference, Winnipeg has started devoting real money toward its human-powered transportation system. Here’s what’s been spent on recreational and commuter paths for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as bike lanes and sharrows in recent years:

2006 $200,0000

2007 $1.75 million

2008 $2.65 million

2009 $4.4 million

Spending on active transportation this year

When Winnipeg fixes regional roads, new trails are built as well.

Money spent on new active-transportation corridors in the 2009 capital budget: $2.5 million

Additional money spent on activetransportation corridors alongside road rehabilitation projects this year: $1.9 million

What we have right now

Winnipeg has 274 kilometres of active-transportation corridors. The vast majority of this network — 159.5 kilometres — has been laid down over the past four years. Here’s how those kilometres break down:

Multi-use paths: 149 kilometres

Neighbourhood paths: 61 kilometres

Bike lanes on streets: 12 kilometres

Separated bike lanes: none

Sharrows: 35 kilometres

Bike boulevards: 16 kilometres

What we’re going to build

On Sept. 11, Ottawa, Manitoba and Winnipeg pledged to spend a combined $20 million on 37 active-transportation projects in Winnipeg. The cash will pay for 102 kilometres of new active-transportation corridors, which will go a long way toward the city’s goal of adding 450 more kilometres of paths and trails. Here’s what the money will build:

New bike boulevards: 72 kilometres

New pathways: 30 kilometres

New active-transportation bridge: Over Omand’s Creek at Omand Park.

What do all these terms mean?

Active-transportation corridor: Any path, trail or lane intended for human-powered transportation, such as cycling, walking or in-line skating.

Multi-use path: A pathway separated from the road for use by both cyclists and pedestrians.

Neighbourhood paths: Older paths in city neighbourhoods designed before trail connectivity was a big consideration in city planning. These typically are not very useful for commuter cyclists.

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

Sharrow: An extra-wide curb lane intended to be shared by cars and bikes. These are strongly disliked by many cyclists.

Bike boulevard: A shared roadway that gives priority to cyclists over cars, usually through the installation of barriers that slow or “calm” motor-vehicle traffic to the point where only local vehicle traffic will use the boulevards.

— Compiled by Bartley Kives

City, province favour new Disraeli Bridge: Maloway

posted at September 21, 2009 08:15 (over 3 years ago)
September 21, 2009
Mary Agnes Welch

The deal to keep traffic flowing across the Disraeli Bridge hinges on whether to build a brand-new span or fix the old one — and MP Jim Maloway says the city and province are leaning towards building new.

The NDP MLA-turned-MP, who led the campaign to keep the bridge open during repairs or reconstruction, said the city has all but decided to build a new, four-lane span just east of the existing bridge.

Once the new bridge is built, the decaying span would be torn down.

That would allow Elmwood, North Kildonan and Transcona traffic to cross the Red River into downtown normally during construction.

However, Maloway said a separate bike and pedestrian span may be a non-starter. Instead, bike lanes will be built on the new span, which Maloway said makes more sense anyway.

“In some ways, it’s even better than I wanted, but it doesn’t have six lanes,” said the MP, who helped orchestrate a petition and lobbying campaign to get the city and the Doer government to keep the bridge open during construction.

Despite Maloway’s optimism, political and administrative sources say the city hasn’t yet decided whether to build new and keep the old bridge totally open, or repair the existing span, which would cause traffic delays.

After residents in the northeast corner of the city balked at the proposed 16-month closure of their main downtown connection, the city asked contractors to find a way to shorten the Disraeli closing or even eliminate it. That could cost more than the original $140-million price tag.

The city is still weighing the financial pros and cons of each option to ensure any extra cash required is justified. A provincial spokesman says they’re close to a deal and Premier Gary Doer plans to meet with Mayor Sam Katz next week on the issue.

Maloway said there is still some wrangling over the amount and timing of provincial funding.

The province has so far committed $50 million.

Ottawa has not expressed an interest in funding the bridge repairs or reconstruction, and the city has not put the bridge on its wish list for federal infrastructure funds.

On Friday, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz insisted no deal is in place to prevent Disraeli from being shut during construction, though he has committed to looking at all options to keep the bridge open.

— With files from Bartley Kives


Cyclists long for more good news

posted at September 16, 2009 18:08 (over 3 years ago)
September 14, 2009
Mary Agnes Welch

Traffic plans need work: bike festival attendees

Fed up with dangerous drivers and piecemeal bike paths, the city’s cyclists are hoping an avalanche of new funding will radically improve the city’s bike routes.But some of the thousands of cyclists who cruised through Sunday’s Ciclovia festival said bike-lane funding needs to become an automatic part of any new roads built or expanded in the city.

Sunday’s festival, which shut Broadway down to traffic, was based on a similar event in Bogota, Colombia, where every Sunday as many as two million people bike through 120 km of streets closed to cars.

Winnipeg’s event, the first one of its kind in Canada, was organized quickly by city cycling groups, the Downtown BIZ and the city, but it brought dozens of craft kiosks, information booths, kids’ activities and entertainers downtown. And it also meant cyclists could ride for the first time from Assiniboine Park to The Forks on a traffic-free route.

The Ciclovia festival came just days after a big, pre-election funding announcement late last week from the federal Tory government. The Conservatives, along with the city and province, earmarked a total of $20 million for bike and walking paths and on-street bike lanes in 37 different Winnipeg locations.

Kevin Nixon, the city’s active transportation co-ordinator, was parked in the middle of Broadway Sunday next to maps and schematics of all the paths he’d like to build. He said the infusion of federal and provincial cash means the city will be able to add dozens of bike trails next summer, filling in huge gaps in commuter lanes.

At the top of his agenda is a two-way, on-street bike lane down Assiniboine Avenue that he hopes can get built before the end of the year.

But some found it a little irksome that the city continues to build new roads, including the $55-million extension of Kenaston Boulevard to the Perimeter Highway, without automatically including commuter bike paths as part of the plan. The small steady changes the city has seen so far, like new recreational trails and the new bike lanes on some downtown streets, are helpful but don’t go far enough.

“I would like to see some really big changes,” said Kati Nagy, a nurse and fine arts student at the University of Manitoba. “They build new roads all the time. Most of the tiny changes to bike paths you don’t even notice.”

Nagy said the worst part of her commute is the Jubilee underpass, where tight traffic moves so fast that it pretty much kiboshes her ability to cycle to school. Bridges and underpasses are perennial trouble spots for cyclists.

Recreational cyclist Kerry Stevenson said the city needs to create a bike-path system that’s as seamless and safe as possible if people are going to leave their cars at home.

“You’ve got to make it dead easy and people will use it,” he said.


Winnipeg cyclists, pedestrians big winners; 74 projects get green light

posted at September 12, 2009 10:25 (over 3 years ago)
September 12, 2009
Bartley Kives

$83.2M for Manitoba wish list

Winnipeg cyclists, pedestrians big winners; 74 projects get green light

Winnipeg cyclists and pedestrians are the biggest winners in Ottawa’s rush to dole out federal stimulus funds in Manitoba before the Liberals in Ottawa can defeat the Conservative minority government.

On Friday afternoon, senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews and several Manitoba and municipal counterparts unveiled $83.2 million of infrastructure projects in every corner of the province, funded by all three levels of government.

The biggest component was $20 million worth of dedicated bikeways, bike-and-pedestrian paths and bike lanes on streets in 37 different Winnipeg locations.

The massive infusion of new funds for “active transportation” — government-speak for cycling, walking or any other means of self-propelled travel — effectively increases Winnipeg’s trail-building budget by a factor of eight and allows the Conservatives to answer critics such as Liberal MP Anita Neville and NDP-affiliated city councillor Russ Wyatt, who have complained Winnipeg has been left out of federal stimulus announcements.

To place the trail funding in perspective, Winnipeg has devoted just $2.5 million to active-transportation corridors, sidewalks and recreational paths this year, according to capital budget documents.

“I am awestruck. Twenty million is phenomenal. Twenty million is very big news when we were sitting at $500,000 (in annual funding) five years ago,” said Janice Lukes, director of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

Other components of Friday’s announcement include $32 million for water and waste upgrades across Manitoba, $16 million for cultural institutions, $14 million for roads and $1 million for solid-waste upgrades. There are 74 projects in all, ranging from an arts centre in Stonewall to new roads in Ste. Rose du Lac to a waste-water upgrade in Norway House.

In Winnipeg, the most significant new project aside from the trail funding was $4.5 million toward the voluntary amalgamation and expansion of Sturgeon Creek and Silver Heights community centres. The project, which has long been the top priority on Winnipeg’s recreation-funding list, had previously been overlooked by federal and provincial funders for political reasons.

“We were No. 1 on the list and we’re thrilled this is getting done,” Sturgeon Creek community centre president Linda Smiley said.

The entire $83.2-million infrastructure kitty was put together with $27.6 million from Ottawa, $28.3 million from Manitoba and another $27.3 million that must be raised by Manitoba cities, towns and rural municipalities, possibly with the help of private funders.

Toews said “it took months of negotiations” to approve all 74 projects and promised more infrastructure announcements in the near future.

The Treasury Board president also claimed his government needed to put the funding commitments on the record before a new election is called. When Parliament goes back to work on Monday after its summer break, the government intends to introduce a budget-implementation bill that could trigger an election, if all three opposition parties vote against it.

If the minority government survives the week, it’s unlikely to last beyond the end of September, unless the Conservatives make a deal with the NDP or Bloc Québécois. The Liberals have vowed to defeat the government at the first opportunity.

Future funding announcements may be jeopardized by an election, Toews said.

Winnipeg is expecting more. The city has asked Ottawa for $200 million to help Winnipeg Transit leapfrog over its bus rapid transit plan and begin building light rail. Winnipeg has also requested $34 million from Ottawa to help pay for a component of its $1.8-billion sewage upgrade.

Toews declined to comment about rapid transit, but said discussions about waste water are still taking place.

— With files from Mia Rabson


Projects to be funded under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund

Community Centres and Cultural Infrastructure (more than $16 million in total eligible costs)

* Stonewall - Quarry Park Heritage Arts Centre
* Silver Heights/Sturgeon Creek Community Centre Amalgamation
* Lubavitch Centre
* Neechi Commons Community Business Complex

Local Roads and Highway Infrastructure (more than $14 million in total eligible costs)

* RM of Rosser - King Edward Reclaimed Asphalt
* RM of Reynolds - Lenchuk Creek Bridge Replacement
* RM of Langford - Culvert Replacement and Road Renewal on PR Road 85W
* Altona - 14th Avenue NE Hard Surfacing and Intersection Improvements
* Minitonas Bridge Repair and Improvement Project
* RM of Morris - Rosemor Industrial Park Infrastructure
* RM of Rosser – Grosse Isle Asphalt Paving
* RM of Bifrost - Municipal Road Upgrade
* RM of Swan River - Potten Drive Area Paving
* RM of St. Laurent - Municipal Road Upgrading
* Town of Ste. Rose du Lac
* City of Thompson - Asphalite Renewal Process
* RM of Tache - Gendron Road Redevelopment
* RM of Coldwell - Asphalt Paving
* PTH 2 Paving West Limit RM of South Norfolk to PR 244

Solid Waste Management (nearly $1 million in total eligible costs)

* City of Thompson Recycling Facility Expansion
* RM of Shoal Lake - Oakburn Lagoon

Water and Wastewater Infrastructure (nearly $32 million in total eligible costs)

* Niverville - Water Treatment Plant Upgrade
* Town of Ste. Anne - Sewer System Upgrade
* Winnipegosis - Lift Station Upgrades
* St. Francois Xavier - Cartier Regional Co-op Plant Upgrades
* Cooks Creek - Trans Canada Prairie Grove Drain Reconstruction
* Stonewall - Water Main Expansion and assoc Street Renewal
* RM of North Cypress - Brookdale Sewer System
* Macdonald - Sanford Water Treatment Plant Conversion and Expansion
* RM of Lakeview - Langruth Water Treatment Plant
* RM of Louise - LUD of Clearwater Water Treatment Plant
* Norway House Wastewater Collection and Water Distribution Renewal
* RM of Whitemouth - Elma Water and Wastewater
* St. Lazare – Water Treatment Plant Upgrade
* Emerson – Wastewater Treatment Upgrade
* Crystal City – Wastewater Stabilization Pond Expansion and Upgrade
* Gilbert Plains and Grandview - Town Reservoirs

Parks and Trails – City of Winnipeg (more than $20 million in total eligible costs)

* Eugenie/Des Muerons Bikeway
* Kildonan Golf Course Pathway
* Somerville to Seal Pathway
* Dugald Pathway
* Brazier/Roch Bikeway
* Assiniboine Bikeway
* Dakota/Dunkirk Pathway Phase I
* Sherwin Road Pathway
* Moray Street Pathway
* Omand's Creek BridgeHarrow Street Bikeway
* Ellice/St. Matthews Bikeway
* Bannatyne/McDermont Bikeway
* Grosvenor Bikeway
* Pritchard Bikeway
* Silver Avenue Bikeway
* Wilkes Avenue Pathway
* Sherbrook/Maryland Bike Lanes
* Machray Bikeway
* Seine River Pathway
* St. Charles/Flora Bikeway
* Jubilee Bikeway
* Dakota/Dunkirk Pathway Phase II
* Nassau Bikeway
* Hay Street Bikeway
* Lagimodiere Pathway
* Fleet/Warsaw Bikeway
* St. Mary Avenue Bike Lane
* Transcona Trail Phase I
* Archibald Pathway
* Waverley Pathway
* Berry Street Bikeway
* Kildare Avenue Bikeway
* York Avenue Bike Lanes
* Alexander/Pacific Bikeway
* Transcona Trail Phase II
* Bison Drive Pathway


Cyclists feel unwelcome, threatened in the city

posted at August 25, 2009 12:39 (over 3 years ago)
August 24, 2009
2 letters

I recently had the unfortunate experience of earning a ticket for $190 for rolling through a stop sign. The difficult part is that I was on my bike and the stop sign was on a curve in front of Balmoral Hall School on Wolseley Avenue. I am not sure if this was a way for the police department to protest their apparent shortfall in tickets or simply a means to collect some easy revenue. Either way, it is dishonest and a smear on Winnipeg’s cyclists. Why is the ticket the same value as a vehicle violation? Would they have issued the same ticket to a 10-year- old? For those who proclaim that a bicycle on the streets should be treated the same as a vehicle, they have clearly never spent any time on a bike. First, unless I missed something, you don’t need a licence to ride a bike. I have been a cyclist for more than 50 years and on the streets your senses are sharp and you develop a close interaction with your immediate environment. Any mistake is hazardous to the cyclist, certainly not any vehicle. And while on a bike, I cannot drink coffee, text or talk on my phone, or play with my CDs. Winnipeg’s challenging streets for cyclists just got a little more unfriendly.

Mick Jarrett


I’m a relative newcomer to the great city of Winnipeg. However, I did not have to be here long before I discovered that it is a city where motorists have absolutely no respect for pedestrians or cyclists. I first realized this when I saw one of those signs that I’m sure every Winnipegger has seen: CYCLISTS ARE REMINDED THAT MOTORISTS ALSO HAVE A RIGHT TO USE THE ROAD. Wait a minute. Like there isn’t a motorist in Winnipeg that doesn’t assume that is an absolute right? What is really needed are easily visible signs reminding motorists that cyclists have just as equal a right to the road.

At least two states, Montana and Idaho, I believe, permit bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs and red traffic lights as flashing reds. Together with those rules they have zero tolerance for not obeying them, and I’m for that. We are always bragging about what a great city Winnipeg is, but is it really, in the way it treats cyclists and pedestrians?

Keith McDougall


Councillors pave way for mixed-use trail

posted at August 23, 2009 10:03 (over 3 years ago)
August 23, 2009
Matt Preprost

Yellow Ribbon Greenway celebrates Canadian Forces

Construction is underway on the first phase of a seven-kilometre mixed-use trail that will stretch from Sturgeon Creek all the way to Polo Park Shopping Centre.The trail is the brainchild of Couns. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) and Grant Nordman (St. Charles). They say the path will offer their constituents an alternate east-west route through their wards, away from traffic-heavy Portage Avenue.

“Let’s be honest — there’s no room for a bike path on Portage Avenue,” said Nordman. “This is an alternative without the threat of being mixed in with Winnipeg Transit, 18-wheelers and family automobiles.”

Lack of paths in the area was a common complaint the two heard on the campaign trail in the last civic election.

“People were telling us ‘How is it that Charleswood and other parts of the city are getting these bike paths and we’re not?'” Nordman said. “It wasn’t high on the previous councillors’ agendas so we made a move to make that happen.”

“This is something people in St. James have been waiting for for a long time,” Fielding added.

Both Fielding and Nordman fronted $100,000 each from their ward’s parks budget, while the remaining $175,000 came from the City of Winnipeg’s active transportation fund. The two councillors are also looking to obtain federal stimulus money to help pay for the project.

The trail will be paved in three separate phases — roughly $400,000 per phase, Fielding said — over the next three years.

“We’re doing it in bite sizes as we can afford it,” Nordman said.

Ground was broken on the asphalt trail’s first phase three weeks ago at Hamilton Avenue and Silver Avenue near Sturgeon Creek. The path will be built up to Skatepark West at Sturgeon Road. Eventually, the trail will snake its way through city-owned property, including Murray Industrial Park, a strip near the airport and the Assiniboine Golf Course, until it reaches Polo Park.

Fielding and Nordman have dubbed the path the Yellow Ribbon Greenway Trail, to celebrate the Canadian Forces in St. James and St. Charles. St. James has been home to 17 Wing since 1922. The airforce base is one of the largest in the country, employing over 3,000 people.

“The name represents the proud tradition of military in the community,” Fielding said. “We’re very excited to honour them for their contributions to the community.”


Cyclovia coming to downtown

posted at August 21, 2009 15:10 (over 3 years ago)
August 21, 2009
Bartley Kives

Inaugural street festival to celebrate day without automobiles

A portion of Broadway will be closed for one Sunday in September as the city holds a new bike-and-pedestrian street festival called Cyclovia.

In what amounts to the first large downtown street party since the Get Together Downtown events held during the Glen Murray years, the westbound lanes of Broadway will be closed Sept. 13 between Main Street and Osborne Street to make room for buskers, food vendors, a farmers’ market, a straw maze and activities such as skateboarding, street hockey and sand sculpting.

Cyclovia, which means “bike path” in Spanish, is modelled on a festival that began in Bogota, Colombia and has since taken root in dozens of Latin American cities as well as U.S. centres such as New York City, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland and Portland, Ore.

“It’s a day for people to get acquainted with their communities and celebrate a day without a car,” said Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, the event’s main organizer. “This is a pilot project, and if it’s successful, we’ll extend the (street closures) north, south, east and west next year.”

Winnipeg’s version of Cyclovia, which will wrap up with a concert at The Forks, comes with a $50,000 price tag to cover the cost of policing, barricades and bus rerouting. Grande said the city and corporate sponsors will split the cost, which is a small fraction of the $700,000-plus price tag for the Get Together Downtown festivals, which took place on Portage Avenue in 2001 and 2002.

The Cyclovia plan calls for the Broadway street festival to be connected to The Forks with a closed curb lane on northbound Main Street. West of Osborne Street, closed curb lanes on Broadway, Balmoral Street, Young Street, Westminster Avenue, Furby Street, Sherbrook Street and Maryland Street will connect the festival with regular Sunday street closures on Wolseley Avenue and Wellington Crescent. The event is being held in conjunction with Manitoba Homecoming 2010, a provincially sponsored effort to boost tourism in the province by targeting former residents. But the main impetus is to encourage more people to explore downtown without using a car.

St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves, city council’s community services chairman, said he likes the idea of a festival that might encourage people other than hardcore bike commuters to ride downtown.

Steeves said he’s both amazed and pleased by the increased interest in both recreational and commuter cycling in wintery Winnipeg over the past four years.

“It’s almost to the point where (commuter cycling) is mainstream,” he said. “It’s not quite there yet, but for cycling to even be considered as a viable mode of transportation is a big deal, because that’s definitely a challenge in the Canadian climate.”

An officially sanctioned cycling festival may also be seen as a response to Critical Mass, the unsanctioned cycling demonstrations that have occasionally appeared on Winnipeg streets. But that was not the organizers’ intention, Grande said.

“We just want to encourage people to come downtown, on foot or on a bike,” he said.

Almost two dozen businesses, environmental organizations, cycling groups and other non-profit organizations plan to participate in the festival.


Cyclists breaking the rules

posted at August 19, 2009 15:00 (over 3 years ago)
August 18, 2009
CBC Radio One, Information Radio

Cyclists breaking the rules (MP3)
Anders Swanson’s interview on CBC Radio One’s Information Radio on August 18th (7:00 minutes)

Police traffic sweep nabs cyclists too

posted at August 18, 2009 21:45 (over 3 years ago)
August 18, 2009

Winnipeg police, tasked by their chief to enforce traffic laws and issue more tickets to law-breaking drivers, have also been busy nabbing cyclists.

“It just felt like a very deliberate attack, and a very easy way to fill their quota and just a further way of alienating cyclists,” said Laina Hughes, who received a $190 ticket for rolling through a stop sign on her bicycle Aug. 5.

“I was shocked — I didn’t know how to feel. I was very upset and frustrated,” said Hughes

Mike Caslor, a cycling advocate who commutes the 60 kilometres to Winnipeg from Portage la Prairie several times a week, said Winnipeg is becoming increasingly unfriendly for cyclists. Some cyclists, he said, have taken to riding on sidewalks because they are afraid of riding on the streets.

“See the problem is, it’s also dangerous for us to be on the road, so there’s a real quandary around where is the safest place for a cyclist. Legally, we’re supposed to be on the road, but there’s safety concerns there.”

Cyclists shouldn’t be equated with other drivers on the road, he contends.

“There’s a big difference between a car running a stop sign and a cyclist. A bike is not going to do anyone any harm — especially in an intersection … whereas a car could be a lot more dangerous.”

Chief calls for more tickets Keith McCaskill, Winnipeg’s chief of police, recently sent a memo to all officers on the force, including tactical squad members, instructing them to issue more traffic tickets to stop-gap a recent drop in revenue.

Revenue from traffic tickets has fallen 70 per cent this year compared to 2008, the chief said.

Const. Jacqueline Chaput said the Winnipeg Police Service has no quota for nabbing cyclists in particular. But police have a mandate to enforce traffic regulations.

“But there are some (cyclists) out there who will go through stop signs, travel through red lights, you know, they’re putting their lives at risk of danger, they could be compromising other people’s safety — motorists as well.”

Cycle Network to Grow

posted at August 10, 2009 14:50 (over 3 years ago)
August 10, 2009

The city is looking at expanding its network of bike lanes, including possibly adding new ones physically separated by curbs from the rest of the road.

Winnipeg has four types of bicycle paths and lanes. Its preferred type is a totally separate path off the road, like the ones that run alongside Bishop Grandin Boulevard.

Those are impractical to install in older, established parts of town, though, so over the past couple of years the city has installed three other forms of lanes. Those include the shared bus/bike diamond lanes, like the one just north of the Osborne Bridge; the “sharrow” lanes, like the ones along Higgins Avenue that are wider than normal traffic lanes and designed to be shared by bikes and vehicles; and the true, dedicated bike lanes now present on Fort, Garry, Carlton, Hargrave, Ellen, Princess and Annabella streets.

Those are separated from vehicle lanes by a solid white line, and since they began springing up in 2007, have been welcomed by cyclists.

“We’re really happy to see them. I think they’re really helping. It’s a spot for cyclists where people are expecting them. Generally motorists have been respecting the lanes,” said Mark Cohoe, city chair of the cyclist lobby group Bike to the Future, who noted sharrow lanes were not terribly well-received by cyclists.

Neil Myska, a transportation engineer with the city, said the dedicated lanes — created without compromising the number of vehicle lanes simply by narrowing them — have not hindered vehicle traffic in any noticeable way.

“We haven’t noticed any difficulty for motorists. They still have the same number of lanes,” he said. “In the downtown where traffic operates at lower speeds, people can deal with narrower lanes.”

No plans

Myska said the city is looking to add dedicated bike lanes on McDermot and Bannatyne avenues either this fall or next spring, but has no plans to extend them beyond the downtown area.

Myska also said the city is considering installing a curb on the downtown portion of Assiniboine Avenue to create a bike lane that is physically separated from vehicle traffic, a common practice in other cities.

“That’s part of a study that’s going on right now,” he said.

There has been some confusion about legal enforcement of Winnipeg’s new bike lanes.

The Highway Traffic Act does not explicitly state vehicles can’t drive in bike lanes, but a spokeswoman for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation said one fairly general section of the act does allow police that power.

The fine for such an offence could be up to $190, the spokeswoman said, noting provincial officials will soon meet with Winnipeg police to clarify enforcement options.


Two cyclists injured in separate incidents

posted at August 05, 2009 07:12 (over 3 years ago)
August 04, 2009

Two cyclists are in hospital after being hit by cars in two separate incidents this morning, police say.

A female cyclist was hit at Academy Road and Stafford Street just before 7:15 a.m., police said. She was taken to the hospital in stable condition.

A second cyclist was hit an hour later at 8:30 a.m. in the 400 block of Osborne. The cyclist was taken to hospital and appears to be in stable condition, police said.

City will need to pedal harder

posted at August 05, 2009 07:05 (over 3 years ago)
August 05, 2009
Dan Lett

Bike-path upgrade worthwhile; bike-sharing program necessary

Once again Winnipeg is at a crossroads, only this time it’s mounted on a bicycle as it stares down its destiny.

At first blush, bike lanes may not seem like a make-it-or-break-it issue of urban planning. To be sure, increased use of bicycles is important for the environment and making cities work better. But in this town, the issue is typically portrayed as gravy — not the meat and potatoes.

However, this conventional wisdom wilts after visiting a city that embraces the bike, rather than just tolerates it. A city such as Montreal.

It had been some years since I had spent quality time in Quebec’s largest city, and while I always remember Montreal as a city that featured more than its fair share of bike commuters, the city has gone above and beyond in making itself bike-friendly.

The first major development that I spotted were the buffered bike lanes. Not just white lines on the side of major routes downtown, but distinct two-way thoroughfares separated from vehicular traffic by a concrete median. Although it presents a challenge for pedestrians — you have to look both ways, twice — it is clearly safer and more efficient for cyclists.

But Montreal also features a Bixi bike-sharing system that allows Montrealers to pick up bicycles in one location downtown and drop them off in another. The stations are located no more than 200 metres apart from each other.

Racks of Bixi bikes can be found with alarming regularity; there are more than 3,000 bikes at 300 individual stations. One year of Bixi access is just $78, taxes included.

In total, Bixi has 8,000 members. It registered about 250,000 individual rides last year. The system was named one of Time magazine’s Top 50 inventions of 2008 and is being replicated in Toronto and Ottawa.

It’s not an entirely new idea, of course. Paris boasts a similar program, Velib, which supplies more than 20,000 bicycles throughout the core of the city. And each and every year, more and more cities are taking steps to promote bikes and public transit, especially in city cores that simply cannot absorb an endless supply of vehicular traffic.

Which brings us back to Winnipeg. Congratulations must go out to the city and province for extending Winnipeg’s dedicated bike-lane system and for including bike lanes alongside the new rapid-transit bus corridor. Unfortunately, there was a hitch.

City traffic engineers could not find a cost-effective way of negotiating the Osborne Street underpass, which essentially cuts the downtown-bound bike lane in half. The underpass cannot be expanded to include a bike path, so cyclists would be forced to share the underpass with buses and other vehicular traffic at some risk.

Cycling advocates cried foul, claiming that they weren’t getting a safe, uninterrupted route from southern neighbourhoods into the downtown. The city has responded with a promise to rebuild the underpass some time in the future, but not in the near future.

The absence of a solution for the Osborne underpass dilemma does not undo the good done by the city and province on this issue. It does, however, demonstrate Winnipeg’s capacity for falling short on good ideas.

It also suggests that civic officials are stuck in that mindset that says bike lanes are gravy, not meat and potatoes when it comes to urban planning.

They would be wrong, of course.

Bigger cities with greater population density have little choice but to consider radical approaches to moving people in and out of core areas. Winnipeg is not under that kind of pressure, but that does not mean we can take a leisurely approach.

There is a downtown renaissance going on in this city, even if it is moving at a glacial pace, and one of the new trends is the growing number of people travelling downtown for work.

The new Manitoba Hydro headquarters will be full by this fall. Red River College is expanding in the Exchange District and the University of Winnipeg is doing likewise. There are continuing rumours that another government entity (Manitoba Lotteries?) could occupy the top floors of the Hudson’s Bay store at Memorial Boulevard and Portage Avenue.

The time is right for the city to move aggressively on bike lanes, bike-sharing programs, and improvements to mass transit in and out of downtown. The rapid-transit program is a move in the right direction, but it should be coupled with efforts to make parking more expensive and rapid transit more affordable and convenient.

And let’s not forget safety.

On Tuesday, two cyclists were struck by cars. Carnage like that is reason enough to look at alternatives.

Modern, progressive cities move more people on bikes and rapid transit than in minivans and sedans. They do that because they have to.

Winnipeg may not need the same kind of amenities for cyclists now. But we’re going to need them soon and there’s no good reason to put off the inevitable.


Cyclist dies from injuries in crash

posted at July 06, 2009 20:36 (over 3 years ago)
July 06, 2009

A 73-year-old man struck by a car while riding his bicycle on Jefferson Avenue, near Airlies Street, Saturday has died.

A vehicle turning onto Jefferson struck the man, causing him to fall and strike his head.

The man was conveyed to hospital in critical condition and succumbed to his injuries.

Let’s learn to travel together

posted at July 06, 2009 11:30 (over 3 years ago)
July 06, 2009
Marlo Campbell

Judging from the hue and cry that arises whenever anything they do makes the news, it would appear some Winnipeggers continue to harbour a deep resentment towards cyclists.

This attitude makes no sense, of course; cycling is an activity that should be encouraged for all sorts of exceedingly obvious reasons — it’s environmentally sustainable, it gets people physically active, it helps alleviate traffic congestion, etc., etc.

Yet animosity clearly exists. Irrational though it may be (at times confoundingly so), it exists. Bring up the topic of cycling in any public forum and I guarantee you’ll encounter it.

In a typical discussion on the topic, those who ride bikes are pitted against those who drive cars — as if the two camps are somehow mutually exclusive and always will be — and, more often than not, the conversation involves one or more of the following themes:

  1. Cyclists are reckless idiots who don’t follow the rules of the road. Therefore, they deserve no respect or accommodation.
  2. Tax dollars should not be spent on cycling infrastructure because the majority of Winnipeggers don’t cycle. (a.k.a. “If they want a damn bike path so badly they should have to pay for it themselves.”)
  3. Investing in cycling infrastructure is stupid because it will only get used during summer months.
  4. Winnipeg cyclists make up a radical special-interest lobby group that has infiltrated city hall to advance an agenda no one else wants.

It doesn’t matter that all of these statements are easy to discredit — and really, all of them are. (The last one is particularly funny to me; I agree that the cycling community has got its act together over the last few years and has been working hard to get its issues heard by those with the power to do something. But when did being engaged in civic politics become a bad thing?) They will be trotted out nonetheless. Indeed, each made an appearance — yet again — in the public response to a demonstration held recently by members of several local cycling groups.

Cyclists were trying to draw attention to what they perceived as a serious flaw in the active-transportation pathway being built by the city in conjunction with the first leg of the long-awaited bus rapid transit corridor. They were concerned — rightfully so — that the planned AT pathway will stop at the South Osborne underpass, forcing those on bikes to use the sidewalks to get to the other side or gamble their lives and brave the road.

Their stunt was successful in that it forced the city to clarify its plans, such as they are. While things remain nebulous, it seems a continuous AT route will be built sometime in the future and, in the meantime, city engineers are looking into redesigning one of the sidewalks for bike use. I should hope so.

However, in much the same way that the Critical Mass bike rides of 2006 were a flashpoint — remember how riled up everyone got about them? — all this talk about active transportation initiatives also serves to highlight the rift between those who see value in supporting cycling and those who don’t. Three years later and the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here’s the thing: Cyclists and car drivers are more similar than they are different.

In each group, you’ll find those who act like idiots. (Show me a cyclist who runs red lights and I’ll show you a driver who doesn’t understand the concept of a turning signal.) Both are comprised of people who pay taxes — if not on gas, then certainly on property, goods and services — and, on any given day, whether they’re in a car or on a bike, they have the same goal: get to where they need to go, preferably in a safe and efficient way.

It’s time we all dropped the counter-productive, divide-and-conquer approach to this issue. We all live in this city together.

The sooner we realize this, the happier we’ll all be.

Marlo Campbell writes for Uptown Magazine.

Letters to the Editor: June 23rd, June 26th, July 3rd

posted at July 04, 2009 12:59 (over 3 years ago)
July 03, 2009
7 letter writers
Winnipeg Free Press

Create bicycle sidewalks, June 23, 2009

During Glen Murray’s tenure as mayor, I wrote to him and his council to complain about bicycles riding at excessive speeds on the sidewalk. Then-police chief Jack Ewatski wrote me a courteous letter assuring me that he was aware of the problem and that cycling on a sidewalk should result in a $40 fine. Unfortunately, the law remained unenforced. On one occasion, I saw three policemen manning a radar gun and issuing tickets to car drivers for speeding. Several cyclists drove right past them at relatively high speeds on the sidewalk. When I asked the police why they allowed cyclists to break the law so blatantly, I received only blank stares.

Recently, while driving my car on Main Street, I witnessed a strange traffic drama. Cycling slowly in one of the lanes and seriously impeding traffic was a young woman wearing a bicycle helmet on her head. Very good, I thought. Unfortunately, attached to the rear of her bicycle was an extremely flimsy and dangerous child buggy. It contained a tiny and totally unprotected child. The advent of these buggies should have resulted in strictly enforced laws to regulate their use. Many now appear on our sidewalks.

So how can this problem be solved? Most streets have sidewalks on both sides, so why not designate one side of certain streets to be for the exclusive use of pedestrians, and the opposite side for bicycles. These “sidewalk bicycle paths” should have signs reminding cyclists of speed limits and other laws. If this experiment is not successful, it can be abandoned without large capital losses. Why not give it a try? The present situation is chaotic, dangerous and intolerable.

Michael Czuboka

I vote for cycle sidewalk, June 26, 2009

I would like to applaud the idea put forth by Michael Czuboka in his letter Create bicycle sidewalk (June 22). Czuboka suggested designating one side of certain streets to be used by pedestrians, and the opposite side for bicycles.

I find the streets in Winnipeg are too narrow to accommodate bicycles and vehicle traffic. I would ride my bike to work if I felt it was safer. I would prefer to ride on the sidewalk.

It is true we have many sidewalks and the idea of having one side for pedestrians and one side for cyclists would be a very cheap alternative to creating a cycling friendly city. I’m all for it and I would be on that sidewalk the first day were it to be accepted.

Joanne Lussier-Demers

Cyclists sound off, July 3, 2009

Re: the letter I vote for cycle sidewalk (June 26). I have to disagree with the notion that converting sidewalks for bicycle use makes sense. Cycling on the sidewalk is a bad idea on many levels.

For starters, in designating a sidewalk for cyclists, you would have to establish right-of-way between motorists and cyclists. Essentially, one group or the other would be forced to recognize each intersection between street and sidewalk as a one-way stop, otherwise accidents would become a regular occurrence.

Secondly, not all sidewalks are properly graded. An inexperienced or inattentive rider could get seriously hurt by failing to notice that the curb is not scooped to the level of the street. Further, would pedestrians be forced to run the gauntlet if their destination happened to be in the middle of a long block opposite the side of the street they are permitted to walk on?

Imagine how the street-level businesses on Portage, Corydon or Osborne would feel if you told them there was to be no more pedestrian traffic on their side of the street because it had been re-designated for bikes.

Ryan Kinrade

Re: I vote for cycle sidewalk (June 26). Those cyclists who illegally ride on the sidewalk will have little or no regard for a law that restricts them to use one on a designated side of the road. This proves itself out on the Norwood Bridge where cyclists ride among pedestrians even though they have a dedicated lane for themselves.

I am personally sick and tired of this attitude that because one is upon a bike that they are immune to the rules of the road. Particularly dangerous are the Lance Armstrong wannabees living out their Tour de France fantasies on the sidewalk. I am speaking both as a pedestrian and a cyclist. I have more close calls with cyclists than motorists while riding my bike on the road.

As a cyclist, I would support purchasing a licence for my bike if the fees go to a “Cycling Services Agency” whose mandate is to enforce bicycle-related bylaws. Fines collected could go to cycling-related infrastructure.

The cycling community has demonstrated that it has endless energy to devote to demanding bike trails, but has not backed this up with offers of a financial contribution. It’s time for them to earn the respect on the road that the majority of them don’t deserve and to put their money where their mouth is.

Debbie wall

I must say I am encouraged that the Free Press has come out to support active transportation. As a longtime cycle commuter, I have noticed improvements in cycling infrastructure and awareness. I have even noticed fewer incidents of driver road rage. Cyclists can be thankful for the hard work of advocacy groups like Bike to the Future and the city’s Active Transportation Department.

My greatest frustration remains the road surface on Winnipeg streets and, in particular, on streets marked as cycle routes. It is impossible to navigate around the thousands of potholes and maintain a predictable riding line that car drivers should expect of cyclists. Cycling routes have to be prioritized for new asphalt if Winnipeg is ever to become a safe cycling city.

Howard Ryant

So Mayor Sam Katz rides to work and back one day, then declares that Winnipeg streets aren’t as bad as some cyclists suggest. That would be like me suggesting that because the elm tree in my front yard isn’t suffering from Dutch elm disease, that Dutch elm disease is not a problem in Winnipeg.

As a regular commuter cyclist, I can assure Mr. Katz that many of the streets in Winnipeg are as bad as some of us suggest, and I challenge the mayor to take a ride on a few other streets in Winnipeg before he make such a proclamation.

I’d recommend he go for a ride along McPhillips Street from Notre Dame to Inkster. The underpass is a real treat to ride through, whether you take the narrow roadway and jostle with cars for position or better yet, try the sidewalk and hope nobody is coming the other way. Oh I forgot — it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

Once safely through the underpass, he can enjoy the ride past the casino, including all the heaved asphalt and broken pavement. Hopefully there won’t be any cars honking at him as he swerves to avoid these obstacles. And if his wheels and body have managed that all right, he’ll have the benefit of the diamond lane from Selkirk Avenue to Inkster. With any luck he’ll have the opportunity to meet a few of Winnipeg’s more courteous drivers, the ones who ignore diamond lane rules and squeeze cyclists to the curb.

The real point of my letter is that the mayor should not make blanket statements on the conditions of streets in Winnipeg, and how they relate to cyclists, based on a one-day photo op trip to work and back.

Don Sourisseau

Yet again Winnipeg is faced with a lack of leadership and a lack of vision from the mayor’s office. The failure to build a dedicated bike lane at the Osborne rail underpass is almost criminal. The hollow promise that “we will build it later” doesn’t inspire confidence.

Many years ago, Toronto had a vision when they built the Bloor Street viaduct. Years before the subway system stretched that far east, the city planners built the bridge over the Don Valley with the capacity to hold a train. No doubt they had to be creative and dig deep to get the monies, but that style of visionary leadership proved its worth decades later.

Let’s do this right from the start, build the transit corridor such that in 20 years from now, when we are known as a city with vision and creativity, that people write “Boy did they ever get that right in 2009.”

Gary T Hook

Winnipeg can become cycling city

posted at June 28, 2009 19:14 (over 3 years ago)
June 27, 2009

Bus rapid transit was sold to Winnipeggers as a concept with multiple benefits. Among other things, it would reduce traffic congestion, cut greenhouse gas emissions and encourage alternative forms of transportation. The plan included a dedicated route for commuters on foot, inline skates or bicycles to help achieve some of these goals.

Cycling groups now say they feel they were sold a bill of goods because of a flawed feature in the overall plan. A gap in the route at the Osborne Street rail underpass will separate the northern and southern sections of the bicycling path, forcing cyclists from both directions to use the narrow sidewalks or the roadway beneath the CN Rail tracks. Cyclists, of course, already use the underpass, but the bike trail will funnel many more people into a potentially dangerous bottleneck with pedestrians and motorists.

For its part, the city says it will rebuild the entire underpass sometime in the future, but it’s not in the budget now. In the meantime, civic traffic engineers have a variety of ideas for solving the problem on a short-term basis, including dedicating one sidewalk for pedestrians and the other for bikes, and possibly even expanding a sidewalk, but they are unsatisfactory answers to a problem that has been on the table for many years. It is also hard to imagine cyclists sharing a single sidewalk in a safe manner.

The three levels of government are spending $138 million for the first phase of the Southwest Transit Corridor, but they should dig a little deeper to ensure the project is done right now, rather than waiting for the crumbling underpass to die of old age. If not, they may want to consider other options, rather than building a pathway with a giant pothole in the middle. The province has already said it’s prepared to help with extra cash.

It is in the city’s interest to get more motorists out of their cars and onto buses. Another way to get people to leave their cars at home is to develop good infrastructure for cyclists. In fact, there’s no reason why Winnipeg can’t develop a reputation as a cycling city, which would be a significant promotional tool.

Some skeptics say the city’s severe winters are an obstacle to achieving that goal, but the observation is uninformed.

Minneapolis is a winter city, too, yet it has been named the No. 2 cycling city (after Portland) in the United States, boasting 65 kilometres of dedicated bike lanes along city streets, and 130 kilometres of off-street bicycle paths. That’s in addition to other measures to encourage and support cycling. As a result, an estimated 7,200 people regularly commute to work by bicycle, including many in the winter. The city has pledged that by 2020, everyone will have convenient access to a cycling route.

Winnipeg already has many passionate cyclists, but the lack of infrastructure is a deterrent to convincing more people to give it a try. The average person is just too intimidated by the poor roads and close proximity to cars to consider travelling very far by bicycle.

The city has been talking about rapid transit for decades. Now that we are ready to begin a small leg of the project, let’s get started on the right foot. A transportation initiative that discourages cyclists is no way to launch a project that wants to get cars off the road and encourage alternative modes of transportation.

Cyclists won’t share roadway with cars: Katz

posted at June 26, 2009 00:35 (over 3 years ago)
June 25, 2009
Bartley Kives

The so-called gap in the bike-and-pedestrian path Winnipeg plans to build alongside the southwest rapid transit corridor will not force cyclists to share a narrow underpass with motor vehicles, the city’s construction boss and Mayor Sam Katz insist in response to claims by a coalition of non-profit organizations.

Today, The Forks, the Winnipeg Trails Association and five other groups plan to hold a noon demonstration to decry a 500-metre gap in the active-transportation pathway that will run from Queen Elizabeth Way to Jubilee Avenue by 2011 and then on to the University of Manitoba by the middle of the next decade.

The $138-million city plan to build the 3.6-kilometre first phase of the southwest bus corridor includes a bike-and-pedestrian path dedicated entirely for people on foot, bikes or inline skates, except for a section in and around the Osborne Street CN Rail underpass south of Confusion Corner.

The Forks-led coalition claims the city and province have reneged on a promise to build a dedicated bike path alongside the forthcoming busway. But the so-called gap is only temporary — and will not require cyclists to drive on any roads, said Brad Sacher, the acting director of Winnipeg’s public works department.

When transportation engineers drew up the busway plans, the cost of a bike bridge over the CN Rail line turned out to be $20 million, given the height of the clearance required above moving trains, Sacher said.

An alternate plan to build a bike-and-pedestrian tunnel below the rail line would only cost $15 million, but would be pointless because the city is already planning to replace the Osborne underpass within five or 10 years, he added.

The city will build a dedicated active-transportation path through the underpass when it widens the Osborne underpass, he pledged. In the meantime, one of the sidewalks will be redesignated for cyclists and a new traffic signal for bikes and pedestrians will be built at Osborne Street, south of the underpass, said Sacher, noting cyclists will only have to stop once during the entire ride on the new pathway.

“The reality of this is (the gap is) only a stretch of 500 metres in a 3.6-kilometre section of the first phase and ultimately a 10-kilometre full phase,” he said.

Spending $15 million on a temporary fix that will cost next to nothing within a decade would be a waste of money, added the mayor.

“I would like to think no level of government wants to take taxpayers’ money and flush it down the toilet,” said Katz, adding cyclists and pedestrians should appreciate the major strides Winnipeg has made in active transportation in recent years.

The mayor also said Winnipeg’s streets are not as dangerous as some cyclists suggest. On Bike To Work Day on June 19, he got home from a trip to Israel and drove downtown and back from his home in Tuxedo without incident, he said.

“I’m here today talking to you. I’m not the most advanced cyclist. If I can do it at my age, then people can do it,” he said.

Nevertheless, the city should have made more of an effort to communicate its plan to deal with the gap in the new active-transportation corridor, Winnipeg Trails Association director Janice Lukes said in an email.

Cyclists upset over changes to bike paths

posted at June 26, 2009 00:30 (over 3 years ago)
June 25, 2009
Stacey Ashley

Cyclists were rallying at the south Osborne underpass Thursday at noon.

They are upset about changes to the city’s new Rapid Transit Corridor.

Original plans called for a 3.6 km bike trail, but part of that bike trail near the south Osborne underpass has now been cut out of the plans.

Paul Jordan of the Winnipeg Trails Association says the underpass is too dangerous for cyclists to use.

The trails association is now launching a campaign to try to get the word out about the changes.

2:18 video clip

Rapid transit plan ignores cyclists at Osborne, says trails association

posted at June 24, 2009 21:13 (over 3 years ago)
June 24, 2009

The chair of the Winnipeg Trails Association says the city and the province aren’t delivering on a promised commuter cycling route along the city’s rapid transit corridor.

Construction began Monday on Phase 1 of the 3.6-kilometre high-speed bus lane that will run from The Forks to Jubilee Avenue.

Paul Jordan, chair of the trails association, said for years the plan presented by the city included a bike lane alongside the corridor, but during public consultations a few weeks ago, the most recent plan showed the bike lane dead-ending at the Osborne Street underpass, just south of Winnipeg’s “confusion corner”.

According to Jordan, the underpass is too narrow for cyclists to keep a safe distance from traffic. “We’re just going to be putting a lot of people into a dangerous situation,” he said.

Continuing the bike lane through the underpass may be costly but it will be well worth it for the safety of cyclists, Jordan said.

He wants transit planners to consider more cycle-friendly alternatives.

“We’ve never really been involved in the process — ‘we’ meaning the bike groups and the recreational trail users,” he said.

“Can we take a look at it? Are you aware, the planners of this thing, that you really are creating a dangerous situation? And have you got a plan for that? Because right now we don’t see it.”

Officials with the city and transit were not immediately available for comment.

Bike-trail betrayal alleged

posted at June 24, 2009 20:23 (over 3 years ago)
June 24, 2009
Bartley Kives
Winnipeg Free Press

The city and province have reneged on a long-held promise to build a commuter-cycling route alongside the southwest rapid transit corridor, a senior official with The Forks claims in a letter to Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Gary Doer.

The active-transportation pathway, slated to be built alongside the first phase of Winnipeg’s forthcoming bus corridor, will prove circuitous or even dangerous to commuter cyclists because of a gap at the Osborne Street CN Rail underpass, according to Paul Jordan, chief operating officer of The Forks and the volunteer chairman of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

On Monday, the city began construction on Phase One of the southwest rapid transit corridor, a $138-million, 3.6-kilometre busway that will run from Queen Elizabeth Way near The Forks to Jubilee Avenue near Pembina Highway. According to plans unveiled by Winnipeg Transit in May, a paved bike-and-pedestrian pathway will be constructed alongside the corridor, except for a gap near the Osborne underpass.

The underpass is not wide enough to accommodate a dedicated bike corridor, according to Winnipeg Transit. But a new busway bridge that will cross Osborne Street will be long enough to allow a bike path to run below it, should the city decide to spend millions on a wider underpass in the future, transit officials said in May.

That promise is not good enough, charges Jordan, who is best known for his work in extending the winter skating and walking trail on the Assiniboine River.

“The safe, connected pathway has disappeared,” he writes in a letter criticizing the busway plans on behalf of The Forks, the Winnipeg Trails Association and five other Winnipeg non-profit organizations. “The fragmented remains of the pathway will (funnel) people into a treacherous bottleneck.”

Jordan argues Winnipeg Transit’s pathway design will force cyclists attempting to ride from either side of the Osborne underpass to either compete for space with motor vehicles on a four-lane roadway or ride on a narrow stretch of sidewalk.

He argues the concerns of cyclists and pedestrians have been ignored as part of a project that was supposed to benefit active transportation. “This is being designed by transit guys, so they want to move buses,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “They’re not interested in building bike lanes.”

In May, transit officials said cyclists who don’t want to negotiate the Osborne underpass can use the South Winnipeg Parkway, an existing gravel path that runs southwest from The Forks along the Red River. That route is too circuitous and is also submerged during the spring flooding season, Jordan said.

City officials in charge of the bus corridor were unavailable for comment on Tuesday. But Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, a bus-rapid transit proponent whose ward encompasses the Osborne underpass, said she understands why Winnipeg Transit would be reluctant to spend additional millions on an underpass-widening project.

The construction of a busway bridge over Osborne Street, a tunnel below CN’s Fort Rouge Yards and the purchase of 11 pieces of private property accounts for a large portion of Phase One’s $138-million price tag. There is no room in that budget to widen a motor-vehicle underpass, surmised Gerbasi, although she said she’s heartened non-profit organizations are pushing for better active-transportation amenities.

All seven organizations — The Forks, the Winnipeg Trails Association, the Prairie Pathfinders Walking Club, the Manitoba Cycling Association, One Green City, Bike To The Future, and the Winnipeg Rapid Transit Coalition — plan to hold a demonstration at the Osborne underpass on Thursday at noon.

Cyclists not impressed with rapid transit corridor

posted at June 24, 2009 19:09 (over 3 years ago)
June 24, 2009

An official with The Forks is upset with the way Winnipeg’s rapid transit corridor is coming together, especially as it pertains to cyclists.

Paul Jordan, who has written a letter to the Mayor and Premier on behalf of a number of interested organizations including the Winnipeg Trails Association, says a cycling route alongside the southwest rapid transit corridor was promised and that current plans don’t add up to that.

At issue is the intended Osborne Street bus overpass, which Jordan says will create a dangerous bottleneck for cyclists.

Winnipeg Transit says it isn’t wide enough for a separate bike path.

Premier Gary Doer had this reaction: <18 second audio clip>

Doer adds he hasn’t had a chance to talk to Mayor Sam Katz about this issue yet, but plans to in the near future.

Bike to Work Day – Friday, June 19, 2009

posted at June 04, 2009 16:41 (over 3 years ago)
June 04, 2009

Today, the City of Winnipeg joined partners from Bike to the Future, Climate Change Connection, Manitoba Cycling Association, Resource Conservation Manitoba, and Winnipeg Trails Association, at the Forks today to announce “Bike to Work Day” to be held on Friday, June 19, 2009.

“Bike to Work Day” is an active and energetic opportunity to highlight the environmental, health, and economic benefits of cycling by encouraging Winnipeggers to cycle to work or to school. The City acknowledges the individual and community benefits of cycling and is working hard on the City of Winnipeg Active Transportation Plan launched last year by creating additional on-street and pathway cycling routes.

“Winnipeggers want safe and direct transportation alternatives, and we have shown our commitment and leadership to expanding our active transportation network,” said Councillor Russ Wyatt. “This initiative is an opportunity to educate and promote cycling in our city and I encourage all members of City Council, the Public Service, and our citizens to join in on June 19 as we get active and bike to work.”

“Like a growing number of Winnipeggers, I have started cycling to work. The transition from motorist to cyclist has been easier than I would have imagined”, said Ron Brown, Executive Director of the Manitoba Cycling Association. “I support the work done by our civic leaders in following through with the Active Transportation Plan, and I look forward to participating in Bike to Work Day.”

Winnipeggers are encouraged to visit www.biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org to register and learn more about the event and active transportation in Winnipeg.

This year the event will include four “Bike Oasis” locations in the city where cyclists can gather to start or end their commute to work (6:30 a.m. until 9 a.m.). Drinks and snacks courtesy of Edna Fedya Restaurant will be available to the first 50 people at each Oasis and prizes and Bike to Work Day t-shirts will be available on a first come first serve basis at all four locations:

  • Natural Cycle Oasis at Polo Park (on Portage Avenue)
  • Free Press Oasis at Northgate Shopping Centre (on McPhillips)
  • Manitoba Public Insurance Oasis at Kildonan Crossing (in front of Moxies at Narin and Lagimodiere)
  • Alter Ego Sports Oasis at Smart Park (off Chancellor Drive) at the University of Manitoba (in front of Edna Fedya Restaurant)

“Catch the Wave” (escorted group rides) will be leaving from all four Oasis locations to downtown and the pancake breakfast at 7:15 a.m. (gathering at 7 a.m.). These rides will be along routes of the Active Transportation network that are highlighted in the 2009 Winnipeg Cycling map. People can “Catch the Wave” from the Oases, from anywhere along the routes, or just go directly to the Manitoba Lotteries Pancake Breakfast at the Forks.

The first 300 people to register on the website 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 the morning of the event.

Commuter cyclist group’s appeal rejected

posted at May 05, 2009 21:44 (over 3 years ago)
May 05, 2009

City council’s property and development committee has rejected an appeal against a small aspect of the $400-million IKEA development.

Commuter-cyclist lobby group Bike To The Future wanted furniture retailer IKEA to place more than 50 bicycle parking spots at its store proposed for the southwest corner of Sterling Lyon Parkway and Kenaston Boulevard and also redesign the site to reduce the potential for collisions between bikes and motor vehicles.

Couns. Mike O’Shaughnessy (Old Kildonan) and Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) quickly rejected the appeal after project consultant Paul McNeill stated IKEA stores in Vancouver and Calgary receive no more than 12 and six bike visits a day, respectively.

McNeill said IKEA would be happy to add more spaces if a demand is demonstrated and is also willing to work with cyclists to amend the site design.

No representative from Bike To The Future showed up at the appeal hearing, which took less than 15 minutes to complete.

Note: Our rep was out of town and didn’t get back in time. Regardless, an appeal is supposed to be heard whether you are there or not, but judging from the Free Press story, they only talked about the number of spaces, which we hadn’t appealed.

Our appeal

Cyclist group pushes for small fixes to IKEA development

posted at May 03, 2009 19:08 (over 3 years ago)
May 02, 2009
Bartley Kives

A commuter-cyclist lobby group wants to change two tiny sections of the massive IKEA project city council approved in March. Bike to the Future has appealed a pair of zoning provisions contained in the Tuxedo Yards Redevelopment, a $400-million project that may eventually see 1.5 square million feet of commercial space rise on what’s now industrial land alongside Sterling Lyon Parkway west of Kenaston Boulevard.

On March 25, council voted 14-2 in favour of the complex proposal, which includes an amendment to the city’s long-term planning blueprint, zoning variances, land subdivisions, a street closing and a $26.5-million development agreement with Winnipeg’s Fairweather Properties and IKEA Canada.

While Bike to the Future does not oppose the project, the group wants to see more bicycle-parking spaces located at the 350,000-square-foot IKEA store that will anchor the project and also wants to amend the site design to reduce what it claims is a high potential for collisions between cars and bicycles where the existing bike-and-pedestrian trail alongside Sterling Lyon Parkway crosses future motor-vehicle access points.

“With all the private access they’re putting through the development, you’ll be stopping three or four times on the bike path, whereas now you’re stopping once,” said Mark Cohoe, a Bike to the Future director. His group claims the existing site design creates the potential for “right-hook accidents,” which are caused when right-turning motor vehicles collide with bicycles heading straight down a parallel bike route.

That potential could be cut by construction of four raised crossings that may cost up to $10,000 each, Cohoe said.

Bike to the Future also claims the IKEA store, which may be completed by 2011, needs more than 30 bicycle-parking spots for visitors and would like them closer to the front of the store.

Winnipeg’s MMM Group, the consultant representing the developer, said 50 stalls at the site are more than enough for bike traffic to the furniture store. But the firm is more than willing to discuss the overall site plan with Bike to the Future, spokesman Paul McNeill said.

The appeal is slated for Tuesday morning’s meeting of city council’s property and development committee.


Cyclists sought for project on improving Winnipeg pathways

posted at May 01, 2009 12:37 (over 3 years ago)
April 30, 2009
CBC News

The City of Winnipeg is looking for volunteers to strap a GPS device to their bicycle and let officials track their course.

The project, being done with the Centre for Sustainable Transportation, is intended to generate information that will help the city expand its active transportation network. The network offers routes for cycling and walking that are convenient alternatives to busy city streets.

The project co-ordinators want more than 900 cyclists to participate. The volunteers — people who cycle more than once a week — will be asked to attach a GPS unit, called the Otto Driving Companion, to their bikes.

They will also be asked to answer some questions about their travel.

“All this information, combined with the GPS units — which can be uploaded to Google Maps, or Google Earth maps — will be provided back to the City of Winnipeg as information to help them identify the priority uses of cycling routes in Winnipeg,” said Terry Zdan, a sustainable transportation policy consultant who is in charge of the project.

The Ottocycle project runs from May 1 until Oct. 30. Each volunteer will be asked to carry the pocket-sized device for about two weeks.

For more information, or to volunteer, people are asked to call 204-988-7182 or email ottocycle@uwinnipeg.ca.

Bike to Work Day In other cycling notes, the city will hold its second annual Bike to Work Day on June 19. It’s a day when motorists are encouraged to leave their cars at home and instead cycle to their places of business.

The city also released a new cycling map on Wednesday. It shows Winnipeg’s current active transportation network, and has been updated for the first time since the city hosted the Pan American Games in 1999.

The map is available at retailers across Winnipeg. For the closest location, call 204-925-5686.

Bike and bus program Winnipeg Transit’s Bike and Bus Program is returning, effective May 1 until Oct. 31. Most Route 60 buses will be equipped with bike racks, so cyclists can switch their green commute between two wheels and four.

The racks, which are on some other routes as well, are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There’s no cost to use the rack, just the usual bus fare.

The program complements transit’s bike locker pilot project happening this year. Lockers that can accommodate two full-sized bicycles are available at two locations: St. Vital Shopping Centre (in the Transit bus bay) and Osborne Junction (on the centre island).

There is a partition in the middle of the locker that splits it into two compartments with each compartment having a private entrance. The locker is free and can be secured with U-shaped bicycle locks or cables.

Plan for bikeway Powers forward

posted at April 30, 2009 19:51 (over 3 years ago)
April 30, 2009
Avi Saper

Public input will be a key component of the city’s plans to turn Powers Street into a bicycle boulevard by the end of the year, says Winnipeg’s active transportation czar.

“We’re making a significant change to their neighbourhood,” said active transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon. “They have to be onside with whatever we decide to do. They have to understand it, and they have to be in favour of it.”

The North Winnipeg Commuter Cyclists, a group of bicycle activists that has been lobbying the city for two years to make Powers more bike-friendly, will be hosting a public meeting at Pritchard Park Community Centre beginning at 6:30 p.m. on May 14.

Residents will be asked at the meeting for their thoughts on how to discourage non-local vehicle traffic from using Powers all the way from Flora Avenue to Leila Avenue while encouraging cyclists and pedestrians.

That could mean reducing the number of four-way stops along Powers, installing traffic circles at intersections, narrowing certain sections of the road into “chicanes” and creating speed humps to slow down cars.

“There’s a degree of guesswork right now on how all this is going to work,” said NWCC member Nona Pelletier. “We have an opportunity to do something fantastic here and really change the look of the North End.”

Pelletier and her husband Greg Littlejohn, who is also a member of NWCC, said Powers is the ideal street for the project because plenty of pedestrians already walk on the road and cyclists use the route year-round.

“The idea isn’t that we’re going to eliminate cars entirely,” Pelletier said. “That isn’t our intention. The idea is to keep the cars going at the same speed as the bikes.”

Littlejohn said the eventual goal is to have a street that community members — especially children — can use on a regular basis to get anywhere they might need to go. In order for that to happen, the community’s safety concerns must be addressed, he said.

“There isn’t that much traffic now (on Powers),” Littlejohn said. “But it is a street where stolen vehicle are sometimes driven, and some people come down here to avoid the possibility of a breathalyzer.”

The only comparable bike boulevard the city already has is Argue Street in Lord Roberts, which was created last year. Nixon says the city learned some valuable lessons on the importance of public consultation while working on that project, and will be making sure it hears from all residents by the end of June before proceeding on Powers.

Trying to determine where traffic will go instead of Powers is a key consideration, Nixon said, as well as how easily pedestrians and cyclists will be able to get from one end of the street to the other.

“(This site has) a lot of good things going for it,” he said. “There’s a good crossing with a crosswalk at Selkirk, and Burrows and Inkster both have medians so you’re only crossing one direction of traffic at a time.”

Residents and city planners are sharing an enthusiasm that the project will soon be a reality.

“Two years ago, the idea that Powers could be a bikeway didn’t exist,” Pelletier said.

Nixon, who has been working on active transportation since July 2007, said city council is making it easy for him to do his job.

“It’s an exciting time to have this job,” he said. “There’s a lot of political support for this right now.”

City provides Spring active transportation update — AT initiatives highlighted

posted at April 29, 2009 19:12 (over 3 years ago)
April 29, 2009

Today, Councillor Russ Wyatt joined partners from Bike to the Future, the Winnipeg Trails Association, Climate Change Connection, One Green City, Resource Conservation Manitoba, the Manitoba Cycling Association and The Centre for Sustainable Transportation, to announce three Active Transportation initiatives for Spring 2009:

  1. A new Winnipeg cycling map available at cycling shops throughout Winnipeg starting today, Wednesday, April 29, 2009
  2. A GPS Cycling Study called OttoCYCLE: Building Better Biking in Winnipeg starting May 1, 2009
  3. Bike to Work Day, to be held on Friday, June 19, 2009

“These three initiatives are an opportunity to educate and promote cycling in our city. I encourage all members of City Council, the Public Service, and our citizens to participate and get active,” said Councillor Wyatt.

1) Cycling Map showcases Winnipeg’s Active Transportation Network

The Winnipeg Cycling Map 2009 will be available starting today, Wednesday, April 29, 2009. It is based on the City’s Active Transportation Network and replaces the popular 1999 Winnipeg Cycling Map that was commissioned for the Pan Am Games. The 2009 edition promises to be a key resource for the citizens of Winnipeg and visitors to our city.

Winnipeg Cycling Map 2009 was created by a partnership of organizations including the City of Winnipeg, Bike to the Future, the Winnipeg Trails Association, Climate Change Connection, One Green City, Resource Conservation Manitoba, the Manitoba Cycling Association. The cycling community from across Winnipeg played a vital role in identifying the routes on this map.

Curt Hull, Project Manager of the Winnipeg Cycling Map 2009 committee said: “Winnipeg really needs this map. I really believe that if people can find a comfortable, reasonably direct route to their destinations then many will choose to use their bikes to get around. This map shows the city’s network of existing routes that will get cyclists to their destinations. The map also shows proposed future additions to the network that will advance the goal of making Winnipeg a cycling friendly city.”

Winnipeg Cycling Map 2009 will be available at bike shops and other retailers around Winnipeg beginning today, Wednesday April 29, 2009. For more information on the location closest to you, call 925-5686.

2) OttoCYCLE: Building Better Biking in Winnipeg

The Centre for Sustainable Transportation (CST), along with the City of Winnipeg, is offering Winnipeg cyclists the chance to track their cycling routes to determine where to build potential cycling infrastructure. Over 900 cyclists will be able to take a GPS device along on their regular cycling trips for two weeks between May and October, 2009. This is your chance to participate in the study.

What: Bring Otto – a small and light pocket-sized GPS device – along with you when you cycle
For how long: Only two weeks
When: Between May 1 and October 30, 2009
Who: Anyone in Winnipeg who cycles more than once a week

The CST will analyse the data from the Otto devices and prepare the information for the City of Winnipeg. By determining where people are actually cycling, this information will be used to establish priorities for development of a city-wide Active Transportation Network.

To sign up for a two-week block, email ottocycle@uwinnipeg.ca or call 988-7182 with your availability and contact information.

3) Bike to Work Day

Bike to Work Day, scheduled for Friday, June 19, 2009, highlights the environmental, health, and economic benefits of cycling by encouraging Winnipeggers to cycle to work or school.

“Like a growing number of Winnipeggers, I have started cycling to work. The transition from motorist to cyclist has been easier than I would have imagined,” said Ron Brown, Executive Director of the Manitoba Cycling Association. “I support the work done by our civic leaders in developing the 2009 Active Transportation Plan, and I look forward to participating in ‘Bike to Work Day’.”

Winnipeggers are encouraged to visit www.biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org to register and learn more about active transportation in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg unveils three bike-friendly initiatives

posted at April 29, 2009 18:54 (over 3 years ago)
April 29, 2009

The city has announced three bike-friendly initiatives for this spring: a new cycling map for Winnipeg, the upcoming Bike to Work Day in June, and a GPS project that will let hundreds of cyclists track their routes around the city.

The 2009 Winnipeg Cycling Map replaces a 1999 version commissioned for the Pan Am Games, and is available at bike shops and other Winnipeg stores as of today. To find the nearest location, call 925-5686.

The GPS project, dubbed OttoCycle, is run by The Centre for Sustainable Transportation and the City of Winnipeg. Over 900 cyclists can track their routes between May and October to see where potential cycling infrastructure could be built in Winnipeg. Anyone who cycles more than once a week is eligible, and can sign up by emailing Ottocycle@uwinnipeg.ca or calling 988-7182.

Bike to Work Day falls on Friday, June 19 this year. More information is available at www.biketoworkdaywinnipeg.org.

Make room for cyclists

posted at April 21, 2009 10:10 (over 3 years ago)
April 21, 2009
Sylvia Buchholz

I work downtown and commute by bicycle along Pembina Highway. I do my best to be respectful of motor vehicle drivers and allow enough room for small vehicles to share the lane with me most of the time. However, due to potholes, gravel/sand build-up, and certain areas where lanes are narrow, I need to take the full lane along small stretches of my commute. For safe riding, this is recommended by the Canadian Cycling Association, and permissible under the Highway Traffic Act.

I applaud most drivers, because they are respectful of my safety, and change lanes, or give me ample room within my lane as they pass by me. Unfortunately, I also face daily assaults on my safety by an angry few. Drivers speed by within inches of me, cut me off, honk, and even yell profanities. In fact, the other day I was flipped the bird twice on my way home.

This message is aimed at those angry few.

If I am taking the full lane, I am doing it for safety reasons. It is not intended to upset you, so please don’t show your frustration by putting my life at risk.

If you are a large truck or SUV driver, we almost certainly can never share a lane, even if I am far to the right. The width of your vehicle does not allow for a reasonably safety cushion of space between us. You need to change lanes to pass me.

Again, I’m not trying to upset you by riding my bike, so please do not show your frustration by putting my life at risk. If you still feel frustrated and angry over having to share the road with me, rest assured, we are on the same side! I don’t want to be on the road with you either, but I do not have any other options along Pembina Highway.

So instead of aiming your anger at me, and thereby putting my life at risk, I suggest you funnel your anger into a letter to your city councillor demanding the city fast track cycling infrastructure. Then, I can be out of your hair and your lane once and for all.

Cycling community gearing up for new bike bridge

posted at April 03, 2009 20:35 (over 3 years ago)
April 02, 2009
Jolie Toews
The Herald (NE Winnipeg community newspaper)

A number of active transportation groups are sharing their ideas with the city regarding the design of a proposed bridge for cyclists and pedestrians that will join Elmwood and Point Douglas.

The new $15-million bridge is included in the $140-million Disraeli Bridge rehabilitation project. Work on the project is slated to begin next year.

A group consisting of members of Winnipeg’s cycling and trail communities was formed to study connectivity and design options for the proposed bridge. The final location of the cyclist and pedestrian bridge has yet to be determined.

“I think it’s excellent, because the city is saying, ‘You tell us’ versus ‘We’re telling you,’ because who better to understand the needs of the cycling and trails communities than those communities?” said Winnipeg Trails Association executive director Janice Lukes, one of the members of the volunteer planning group.

Last week, Lukes and members of the Winnipeg Trails Association, Bike to the Future, and One Green City considered the two design options — a separate bridge between the Disraeli and Louise bridges, and another attached to the Disraeli that spirals down at its southern tip as it connects to Annabella Street.

Lukes said the group does not strongly favour one option over the other. Their main concern is the design.

“Wherever the bridge lands, whether it’s attached to the Disraeli or it’s separate from the Disraeli, it must be wide enough. You don’t want some skinny little bridge. A perfect example is the bridge in Assiniboine Park. The foot bridge is 3.5 metres in width,” said Lukes, adding that the new bridge over the Red River should be at least five metres wide.

Ensuring the bridge has proper connectivity and amenities are important, too, she said.

“Don’t just build a bridge from one riverbank to the other. Connect it, just like you’re doing with the Disraeli. Just like for the cars. You’re putting signs up, you’re painting lines on the road, you’re putting lights in.” Lukes said.

Plans call for the bridge to connect with the Northeast Pioneers Greenway, an active transportation corridor that runs between Raleigh Street and Gateway Road.

Sigrun Bailey, co-chair of the River East Neighbourhood Network trail committee, said the proposed bridge will provide commuters with a convenient link between northeast Winnipeg and downtown.

“Currently, if you wanted to go downtown, you go down the greenway, go west on Riverton Avenue and then you go over the Louise Bridge or you can go all the way down to the Disraeli Bridge,” Bailey said.

“This bridge will make a safe connection to downtown.”

Bailey said a majority of RENN trail committee members favour a separate span because it is safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Both Bailey and Lukes say they look forward to the day people will be able to cycle or walk on a separate trail from the University of Manitoba, all the way downtown, over the new bridge, down the Northeast Pioneers Greenway and into Birds Hill Provincial Park.

Glen Manning, an architect with Hilderman Thomas Frank Cram, a planning firm hired by the city for the bike-and-pedestrian bridge project, said the public should know the final plans by fall.


City Hall shifts into high gear for cyclists

posted at March 19, 2009 13:21 (over 3 years ago)
March 19, 2009
Avi Saper

Northwest Winnipeg is about to become much more bicycle-friendly thanks to a pair of projects the city has committed to finish this year.

The Active Transportation Action Plan for 2009 includes $405,000 to fund the completion of the North Winnipeg Parkway, creating a continuous bike route from Waterfront Drive all the way to Kildonan Park. And, as part of the ongoing Disraeli Bridge study, funding has been set aside to turn Powers Street into a “bike boulevard.”

This is all music to the ears of the North Winnipeg Commuter Cyclists, a group of residents that has been lobbying the city for these improvements, along with many others, for several years.

NWCC member Greg Littlejohn said group members were gratified to see their efforts rewarded.

“It’s great that something’s finally being done,” he said. “Last year it didn’t look like anything was going to happen, but we pressured and pressured and it looks like it helped.”

The cash — $200,000 of which is coming from a federal and provincial cost-sharing program — will be used to connect a section of the parkway from the Redwood Bridge to St. John’s Park. The section currently poses a safety risk as cyclists and pedestrians must cross Redwood Avenue in front of the bridge.

“Especially in flood conditions in the spring, the pathway under the Redwood Bridge floods,” said Kevin Nixon, the city’s active transportation co-ordinator.

“We looking at bringing it up (to higher ground) so we can use it even under flood conditions.”

Littlejohn said completing the parkway represents an important first step in linking northwest Winnipeg to the rest of the city. The next step, he said, is expanding active transportation routes further west.

With the city studying ways to ease traffic congestion should the Disraeli Bridge be closed for reconstruction, Nixon said creating a bike-friendly route on Powers became a priority.

“It’s part of a traffic-mitigation measure,” he said. “If we close the Disraeli for any length of time, one of the things we can do is give people a cycling option.”

A public consultation will take place before any plans for Powers are finalized. Nixon and Littlejohn both said a variety of traffic-calming measures, such as traffic circles, narrowed curbs and speed humps at pedestrian crossings, would be considered.

“The idea is to create a street where we discourage auto traffic and encourage cycling,” Nixon said.

Should the city decide to go ahead with traffic circles, Littlejohn said he’d like to see monuments in the centres of the circles honouring various ethnic groups who helped build the North End.

“I’ve already approached various ethnic groups about this,” he said. “We could create a ‘boulevard of fame.’ ”

Littlejohn’s group now has its eyes set on east-west connections between Powers and Scotia Street to create a loop for cyclists, and improvements to bridges and underpasses — or a new structure just for active transportation — that will make it easier to get from the North End to the rest of the city.

Meanwhile, one future project for northwest Winnipeg has already been approved for next year. A separate pathway for bikes will be built alongside the expansion of Inkster Boulevard from Brookside Boulevard to Keewatin Street.

New bike path speeding along

posted at March 19, 2009 10:23 (over 3 years ago)
March 19, 2009
Trevor Suffield

Construction of the first phase of a bike and pedestrian trail along Silver Avenue that will eventually connect all of St. James is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The city’s 2009 active transportation plan will see $375,000 spent on the first stage of an asphalt trail that will extend from Hamilton Avenue to Sturgeon Road, just north of Skatepark West.

Approximately $175,000 will come from the city’s active transportation fund. The remaining $200,000 will be allocated from the St. James-Brooklands and St. Charles ward budgets.

The long-term goal for the trail is to continue it along Silver through the Murray Industrial Park to St. Matthews Avenue, said Coun. Scott Fielding, who represents the St. James-Brooklands ward.

“What’s important about this from an active transportation point of view is that it’s going to allow the thousands of people who work in the Murray Industrial Park to bike to work if they want,” he said, adding he expects it to be finished by the end of the year.

“Plus it raises the quality of life for the people in St. James.”

Fielding said proponents have already approached some businesses located within the Murray Industrial Park for sponsorship to help augment some of the existing funding for the project.

Janice Lukes, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association, said she is excited about the development and thinks it is long overdue for St. James.

“This area hasn’t had any trail development in years,” said Lukes, who is also on the city’s active transportation advisory committee.

“The city is really focused on making connections and there (are) a lot of trails that are just bits and pieces, which is great for the immediate neighbourhood. But people want to go somewhere instead of up and down their trail.”

Lukes said the trail is expected to be about 3.5 metres wide, and believes that it will provide safer access for kids going to the skateboard park and community centre.

She added that the WTA will work with the community to come up with a name for the new trail.

Anders Swanson, coordinator for One Green City, which aims to create bike and pathways links throughout the city, thinks the Silver project is terrific start for the city. However, the city needs to continue building more of these kinds of trails, he said.

“The key is building a network and you have to start somewhere, but eventually people want to go anywhere and everywhere on a bike,” Swanson said.

Ryan McMillan, a cyclist who lives in St. James, he thinks that any trail that deviates from the main traffic route is a good thing.

“I think it will encourage more riders because people are afraid of riding along Portage Avenue because traffic is so heavy and moving so fast,” McMillan said.

The second phase of the project will see the trail extended from Sturgeon Road to Moray Street. Construction of the second phase is expected to begin next summer.

Fielding said the city will conduct public consultation for the final phase from Moray to St. Matthews to minimize any potential negative affects on nearby residential properties.

Bike to the Future note:
Councillor Scott Fielding voted against increasing 2009 funding for active transportation in the City’s 2009 Capital Budget.

Orlikow wins council seat

posted at March 18, 2009 09:28 (over 3 years ago)
March 18, 2009
Bartley Kives

Winnipeggers will wake up this morning to a slightly more left-leaning city council, as John Orlikow is the new councillor for River Heights-Fort Garry.

The former school trustee defeated broadcaster Geoff Currier by almost 1,100 votes in a St. Patrick’s Day byelection that saw NDP orange and Liberal red team up to defeat Tory blue on a night when the rest of the city was more concerned with being green.

With every poll reporting, the unofficial vote count was 4,392 for Orlikow and 3,299 for Currier.

The 39-year-old Orlikow, a 10-year school board veteran who was backed by Liberal and NDP-affiliated politicians and supporters, will fill a city council seat that’s sat vacant since the December death of Brenda Leipsic, a Progressive Conservative who was one of Mayor Sam Katz’s closest allies.

Federal and provincial Tories were among Currier’s most prominent supporters.

Although Orlikow’s election does little to threaten the mayor’s control of Winnipeg’s 16-member city council, the mere presence of a self-described progressive politician at city hall increases the size of the unofficial opposition to five councillors.

Orlikow, however, does not consider himself left of centre.

“It depends on how you define ‘left,'” he said as he walked up to his victory party at Corydon Avenue’s Mona Lisa Ristorante, explaining his main concerns are improving community centres, public transit and active transportation.

Flanked by his wife and two young daughters, Orlikow thanked his campaign team for beating the bushes for votes during a byelection that saw River Heights-Fort Garry voters “too busy” to bother to vote.

Only 7,691 of 35,015 eligible voters bothered to vote, which translates into a voter turnout of 22 per cent, city election official Marc Lemoine said.

Only three blocks to the north, Geoff Currier stood inside his Academy Road campaign headquarters and said he regretted more people in the ward were not engaged by the byelection.

If more people knew the difference between the candidates — especially in conservative but election-apathetic Linden Woods — the result may have been different, said Currier, who will return to the air on CJOB on Monday night and will not seek election to public office ever again.

“The biggest disappointment is (almost) 80 per cent of River Heights-Fort Gary voters don’t care who their city councillor is,” he said during an impassioned concession speech that also saw him remind Orlikow he was not elected “to become a member of the unofficial opposition” at city hall.

“That’s fine,” Orlikow said in response. “There’s no opposition for me. There’s just the River Heights-Fort Garry ward.”

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said he will not lump Orlikow in with council critics such as Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi and St. Boniface’s Dan Vandal, especially since the former school trustee took the time to contact Katz at the outset of the hard-fought battle with Currier.

“I would have hoped when individuals worked as hard as those two did, you would have had a better voter turnout,” Katz said after congratulating Orlikow.

Brenda Leipsic’s daughter Tracy Leipsic — a lifelong friend of Orlikow’s — said she believes the new councillor will do a good job filling her late mother’s shoes, despite the ideological differences between the two politicians.

“I find the day somewhat bittersweet,” she said. “I know he’ll put his heart and soul into this.”


Climate change grips civic byelection

posted at March 14, 2009 06:50 (over 3 years ago)
March 14, 2009
Bartley Kives

Winnipeg’s two largest active-transportation groups have waded into the River Heights-Fort Garry byelection by suggesting candidate Geoff Currier doesn’t believe automobiles contribute to climate change.

Earlier this month, the two groups — Winnipeg Trails Association and Bike To The Future — met with Currier and campaign rival John Orlikow to gauge the candidates’ positions on active-transportation issues.

According to a summary distributed on Friday, Currier told representatives of both organizations, “I believe that if we were to take all the cars in North America off the road tomorrow, it wouldn’t have any effect on climate change.”

Currier declined to comment on Friday, except to say he had no idea the groups intended to make the content of the meeting public.

“They never indicated to me this kind of report would be forthcoming,” he said.

Winnipeg Trails Association director Janice Lukes, who was present at the March 3 meeting with Currier, said she was stunned by the candidate’s remarks.

“It’s scientific now. It’s not a matter of what you think. Climate change is a fact,” she said.

“People really have to have a grasp on climate change if they’re going to be building a sustainable transportation system,” added Bike To The Future board member Mark Cohoe, who was also present at the meeting.

The groups claim they are not endorsing John Orlikow, even though their candidate summary clearly favours the former Winnipeg School Board trustee over Currier, a broadcaster on leave from news/talk radio station CJOB.

“There was a certain feeling Mr. Orlikow was more willing to work with us. He was more in line with where we see the city moving,” Cohoe said.

Orlikow has also been endorsed by the Winnipeg Labour Council in the byelection, though he claims he has refused the left-wing group’s endorsement — while still accepting its help.

Currier has been endorsed by the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, who have pledged to help get out the vote on byelection day this coming Tuesday.

Up until Friday, the race between the two candidates has been clean, as the candidates have shied away from taking shots at each other.

Orlikow broke the truce on Friday by claiming he was amazed by Currier’s comments about cars and climate change.

“That outlines the differences between us, Geoff and I. It really reflects George Bush conservatism,” he said.

There are no more debates between the two candidates.

Polls are open on Tuesday until 8 p.m.


Mayor should ride to work

posted at February 26, 2009 09:33 (over 3 years ago)
February 23, 2009
Stephanie Fulford
Winnipeg Free Press, Letters to the Editor

Re: Environment panel that quit is replaced, Feb 13.

With all due respect to Mayor Sam Katz, it is not difficult to point out dozens of mayors who have done more for active transportation in their cities. Try Mayor David Miller in Toronto, an avid cyclist and transit user, or Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who transformed his city into a healthier and more enjoyable place to live. While progress has been made in Winnipeg in the last few years on active transportation, it is largely due to the many volunteers, organizations and activists working tirelessly on this issue. Far from being a visionary, Mayor Katz has much to learn.

If Mayor Katz is sincere in his commitment to the environment and active transportation, surely we will soon see him leaving his vehicle at home, and joining the thousands of other Winnipeggers who walk, take transit or ride their bikes to work.

Student, teacher team study benefits of pedestrian bridge

posted at February 09, 2009 08:07 (over 3 years ago)
February 05, 2009
Matt Powers

As someone who regularly cycles from St. Vital to the U of M campus, James Blatz has long been in favour of a pedestrian bridge linking the two.

The civil engineer professor estimates a bridge would cut down his commute by 30 minutes a day.

It would also reduce the demand for student parking on campus, according to Blatz and third-year student Mark Reimer, who recently conducted a study of the role such a link could play in active transportation.

“What we did is looked at what the benefit would be just to the university if people decided to use that bridge instead of bringing their cars across and we were quite pleased to see that it is notable,” Blatz said.

By comparing the percentage of parking permit holders of students and staff living in the southwest of the city with those in the southeast, the pair discovered a noticeable difference.

Within a six-kilometre radius of University Centre there were 48 more parking permit holders living in the southeast.

“It suggests that with a pedestrian bridge, there would be a decrease in parking permit holders from the east side to a value closer to that of the west side of the river, where there is no travel hindrance,” Reimer said.

“What it would do is basically create 5% more space on the U of M campus, which is a significant amount to reduce parking by,” Reimer said.

Reimer also applied data obtained from a 2006 Statistics Canada study of commuting patterns, to predict that a pedestrian bridge linking St. Vital and the campus would attract 200 to 600 potential users.

“The majority of these users would be students, who on average can be generalized as low income and young, both of which fall into the higher end of active transportation users,” Reimer said.

Blatz says the study doesn’t take into account the number of users who would use the bridge to cross over to St. Vital Mall or St. Vital Park.

“There is tremendous potential there. We should also be taking into consideration the possibility of a new stadium on the campus and the creation of the Bus Rapid Transit Line,” Blatz said.

Paul Hesse, of Winnipeg’s Rapid Transit Coalition, says he sees the bridge benefiting active transportation in a number of ways.

“The City has already committed to building a rapid transit line, but what we would like to see included is commuter cycling paths all the way from downtown to the U of M. A pedestrian bridge would be a key piece of that integration,” Hesse said.

“Secondly, it would give students the better option of walking or cycling to the university which would not only save them money, but also save the environment by reducing traffic congestion along the St. Vital Bridge,” he said.

Hesse is hopeful that some of the money contributed from the 2009 federal budget for infrastructure projects will be be set aside for the bridge’s construction.

Winnipeg City Council included $250,000 in its annual budget to study the bridge. The estimated total cost to build the bridge is $15 million.

River trail parade set for Sunday

posted at January 30, 2009 14:38 (over 3 years ago)
January 30, 2009

All the world loves a parade – even if it’s on the longest naturally frozen river trail in the world.

On Sunday at noon, “The Longest Soul Rhythm Hip Hop Pied Piper Skate Dance Party Parade in The World” begins on the river trail at The Forks and ends at Assiniboine Park.

The parade will be led by a Zamboni and all the assorted equipment used to create and maintain the Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail. Music will be blasting from “Soul On Ice” DJs Hunnicutt and Co-op who will spin and play music for the full 9.34 km.

Winnipeg Transit will be available at Assiniboine Park to take skaters back to The Forks for the regular transit fare.

“We’re billing it as the longest soul rhythm hip hop pied piper skate dance party parade in the world and we want the whole city to join us,” Paul Jordan, The Forks chief operating officer, said in a press release.

Assiniboine Park officials will be waiting at the end of the parade to provide hot chocolate, coffee and cookies, while supplies last.

Noon: Parade leaves The Forks Historic Port

12:30 pm: Arrives at Hugo access point

1:00 pm: Arrives at Dominion access point

1:30 pm: Arrives at Bourkevale access point

2:00 pm: Arrives at Assiniboine Park

I want to ride my ice-cycle — Winter cycling provides challenges and surprise advantages

posted at January 28, 2009 20:33 (over 3 years ago)
January 22, 2009
Adam Johnston

Most Winnipeggers love their automobiles while traveling in the harsh confines of Winterpeg, especially when it’s -30 C.

But as automobiles have contributed to the devastating effects on our environment and our health, many people are taking up the challenge of winter cycling.

David Geisel, a employee at Natural Cycle, a business which specializes in custom made bicycles and bicycle repairs, said one challenge is salt and sand from the roads, which can really wear down your bike.

“The winter salt is worse for the bike than anything else. It tends to especially run off of water. It’s like wet salt water stuck to your bike, it just eats away at metal,” said Geisel.

For winter riding, Geisel recommends a single speed bicycle because it will have narrower tires than a mountain bike and can therefore get right down to the cement.

“A narrow tire allows you to do that. Just cuts through everything and gets down to the cement,” he said.

Winter cycling not only provides a challenge in terms of what type of bicycle to ride, but also what type of clothing to wear.

Cameron McLaren from Mountain Equipment Co-op recommends a few things before heading out on that brisk winter cycle.

McLaren prefers getting a pair of goggles that wont fog up so they can protect your eyes in the elements. He also suggests layering with synthetic wool clothing because it insulates well against the cold.

“Use mostly synthetic wool, things that wick and give you some insulation. I tend to wear a wicking base layer and just a wind proof jacket on the outside. And that’s for the upper part, usually good enough for -30 or -40 Celsius” said McLaren.

As for whether the winter is a more dangerous time to ride a bicycle, Geisel’s answer may surprise most Winnipeggers.

“In general, winter cycling is a lot safer I think as far as traffic goes. You know it’s slippery, you could fall down. I’ve fallen down many times in the winter and not hurt myself. But I’ve crashed a few times in the summer and broke a bone every time,” said Geisel.

For more information visit Toronto’s winter cycling website at: http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/bikewinter/index.htm.

Council refuses to budge on funds for bicycle paths

posted at December 17, 2008 08:02 (over 4 years ago)
December 17, 2008
Joe Paraskevas

Cycling activists left city hall disappointed Tuesday, having come up short in their attempts to increase capital budget spending on bike paths and pedestrian trails.

City council passed the 2009 budget Tuesday over appeals from community groups and some councillors who called for more substantial investment in Winnipeg’s so-called active transportation network.

Council voted 11-4 to approve the $476.1-million budget, which earmarks $3.5 million to be spent directly on bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

Community activists, some of whom lobbied repeatedly before city hall committees in the three weeks since the budget was released, were exhausted.

“I don’t know what else to say,” said Anders Swanson, project co-ordinator of the cycling group One Green City, told councillors at the end of his five-minute presentation.

“The bicycle is very, very, very, very, very, very good for you,” Swanson added, drawing laughter from council members and an audience of about 75 people in the council chamber galleries.

Despite public efforts to convince councillors that investments in active transportation could contribute to everything from friendlier neighbourhoods to healthier workers, the majority on council resisted.

“There is nobody on the floor of council who believes we can’t do more,” Mayor Sam Katz assured onlookers. “We will get there.”

Other councillors pointed out that in addition to the money the budget committed directly, bike and pedestrian paths were also part of some large public works projects, such as the Chief Peguis Trail extension and the planned Disraeli Freeway overhaul.

Councillors rejected a last-minute motion to increase active-transportation spending and sidewalk renewal by $2 million.

The motion was tabled by Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan and seconded by Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt.

“We have come into the dawn of a new era here in Winnipeg where the young people are looking for creative choices,” Pagtakhan told council during the three-and-a-half-hour debate.

Besides finding jobs, young Winnipeggers wanted to roam their city on foot, by bicycle or on inline roller skates, Pagtakhan said.

“If we want people to get out of their cars, we’ve got to give them a reason to get out of their cars,” he added.

The motion was defeated, but Pagtakhan and Wyatt, who last week were the two councillors in Mayor Sam Katz’s six-member executive policy committee to vote against the budget, turned around and supported the document at yesterday’s council session.

The two councillors said they had made their points at a cabinet meeting last week and would take their opposition no further.

Councillors Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre), Lillian Thomas (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) voted against the budget, however.

Gerbasi bemoaned what she perceived was the limited time allocated for budget debate and the relatively little chance ordinary Winnipeggers had to influence budget decisions.

She and Vandal called for the city to hold public meetings to gather input before it released the final budget document.

The afternoon was also marked by tributes from councillors and Katz to Brenda Leipsic, the former councillor for River Heights-Fort Garry, who passed away last week from lung cancer.

A red rose in a vase and a framed 8×10-photograph of Leipsic were on her council chamber desk throughout the budget debate and a book where the public could sign condolences was outside the chamber.

The city’s flag was also draped over Leipsic’s empty black leather armchair.


Councillors fight for more bike trail cash

posted at December 13, 2008 15:30 (over 4 years ago)
December 13, 2008
Bartley Kives & Joe Paraskevas

Two members of Mayor Sam Katz’s cabinet plan to take another crack at putting more cash in the city’s bike-and-pedestrian kitty at a Tuesday city council meeting that promises to be packed with cyclists and other trail-building activists. Earlier this week, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt and Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan annoyed fellow members of council’s executive policy committee by voting against the 2009 capital budget, a $476-million blueprint for city infrastructure spending next year.

Wyatt and Pagtakhan voted against Katz and finance chairman Justin Swandel to protest what they felt was insufficient cash for bike trails, sidewalks and other active-transportation corridors in 2009. Katz and Swandel proposed spending $2.75 million on trail creation next year, while Wyatt and Pagtakhan tried to increase that figure to $5.75 million.

The duo will try again to amend the trail budget, this time by asking all members of council at Tuesday’s special capital-budget meeting to support a total spending of $4.75 million on trails, sidewalks and other active-transportation corridors next year.

“We can fix part of the problem right now,” Wyatt said of the extra $2 million. “Why wait until next year?”

Regardless of what happens, Wyatt and Pagtakhan are promising not to vote against the capital budget, a move that would suggest a lack of confidence in Katz and other EPC members .

The mayor had no choice but to reappoint Pagtakhan to EPC and retain the outspoken Wyatt during an October cabinet shuffle, thanks to Mike O’Shaughnessy’s desire to leave the committee and the late Brenda Leipsic’s absence from council.

But since EPC functions like a cabinet, a genuine rift between left-leaning and centre-right factions could not be tolerated for long.

“Mike and I, we made our point on Wednesday,” Wyatt said. “No one likes to have a gun held to their head.”

No matter how council votes, Wyatt and Pagtakhan will have a cheering section on Tuesday. The Winnipeg Trails Association, the Manitoba Cycling Association and Bike To The Future have called on all “cyclists, wannabe cyclists and anyone who uses a sidewalk” to attend the capital budget meeting in an effort to place pressure on council to increase active-transportation funding.

WTA director Janice Lukes intends to present council with a list of 10 projects that could be completed next year with the extra $2 million.

“We’re going to compare this city to what other cities are doing now,” Lukes said. “What do the people of Winnipeg want to see? Do we want to see a car culture or more active transportation?”

Winnipeg has increased its trail-creation budget significantly during Katz’s current term as mayor. The city only devoted $200,000 to trails and sidewalks in 2006, when council adopted the recommendations of a groundbreaking active-transportation study.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca joe.paraskevas@freepress.mb.ca

Bike paths split civic committee

posted at December 11, 2008 08:36 (over 4 years ago)
December 11, 2008
Joe Paraskevas

In a surprising rebuke of the city’s 2009 capital budget, two of six councillors in Mayor Sam Katz’s cabinet rejected the $476.1-million public works plan Wednesday, saying the city could do much more to build bike paths and pedestrian trails.

At a meeting of executive policy committee, Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan and Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt voted to turn the budget down, signalling a split on council between bike-riding advocates and others.

Last year, EPC councillors unanimously supported the budget. A city hall source said Katz was “shocked, surprised and disappointed” at Pagtakhan and Wyatt’s actions.

EPC did add $2.35 million to the budget, including $500,000 for biking infrastructure and pedestrian trails and the same amount for sidewalk and curb renewals.

It also committed $250,000 for a study into a pedestrian-cyclist bridge across the Red River from the University of Manitoba to south St. Vital.

The additions brought the budget’s commitment to city cyclists to $2.25 million and its plans for sidewalk and curb repairs to $1 million — pending the approval next week before city council.

But the $1.25 million the committee pencilled in for cyclists and pedestrians wasn’t enough for Pagtakhan and Wyatt.

The additions came a day after several community groups lobbied the same committee for more spending on bike paths and bike lanes.

One activist suggested the city commit $80 million over 10 years to build 50 kilometres of bike paths and three cyclist-pedestrian bridges.

With that in mind, Pagtakhan tabled a motion calling for the city to spend $2 million on active transportation in 2009.

And Wyatt echoed that demand by proposing $2 million for sidewalk and curb renewals, saying the extra money for cyclists would only build one kilometre of bike paths.

“Basically, we’re adding one kilometre of asphalt,” he said. “I think we can do more.”

Winnipeg has about 190 kilometres of bike paths and bike lanes on streets across the city, Wyatt said.

Calgary has more than 900: 635 kilometres of bike paths and 290 kilometres of bike lanes.

And yet, Wyatt and Pagtakhan’s motion failed. Their committee colleagues didn’t share their devotion to cyclists and pedestrians.

“We have an obligation not to throw money at the squeakiest wheel,” St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel, the city’s budget architect, told his fellow committee members. “We are doing a budget for the entire city of Winnipeg. we are not doing a budget for active transportation.”

Katz urged Pagtakhan and other active transportation advocates to come up with a five-year plan for cycling infrastructure. He said he was “extremely embarrassed” that parts of Winnipeg lacked proper sidewalks and back lanes as well as bike paths.

The divide created by Pagtakhan and Wyatt is likely not large enough to stop the budget from passing before the full city council next week.

But others interpreted it as a sign of conflicting visions of the city among councillors.

“In all my years on council I don’t recall two members of EPC voting against the final recommendations of a budget,” said Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who was first elected in 1998.

“This may be a sign that there are two very different visions of our city and council is more polarized than ever.”

Mark Cohoe, chairman of the community group Bike to the Future, said in a news release “total funding for active transportation will drop from $2.35 million in 2008 to $2.15 million in 2009, just 1 per cent of the city’s budget for roads and bridges.

“At this rate of expansion it will take several hundred years to complete the city’s bikeway network,” Cohoe said.

Mynarski Coun. Harry Lazarenko, a city councillor for almost three decades and a former member of EPC, called the budget rejections “irresponsible.”

“They voted in retaliation because they could not get their amendments approved,” Lazarenko said, of Pagtakhan and Wyatt. “that’s not what EPC is supposed to do.”


Road funding continues to be City’s driving focus

posted at December 10, 2008 20:29 (over 4 years ago)
December 10, 2008
Janice Lukes
Winnipeg Trails Association — news release

One additional Kilometre of asphalt trail to be added to Winnipeg’s Active Transportation Network

Executive Policy Committee today tabled their final recommendations to council regarding the 2009 Capital Budget and the 2010 to 2014 Five Year Capital Forecast. A motion to increase active transportation funding by $4.25 million was defeated. Executive Policy Committee recommended $500,000 be directed towards improving Active Transportation infrastructure.

“Great, at today’s construction costs, this will give us one more kilometre of asphalt trail in Winnipeg!” said Janice Lukes, Winnipeg Trails Coordinator. “We find it incomprehensible that $95 million is being directed towards roads and bridge construction, yet 2% of that amount is being directed to pathways and bike lanes.” said Janice Lukes. “There could not be a more critical time to shift priorities related to transportation funding. For decades City Council has directed funding to car-centred infrastructure which is contributing to urban sprawl, increased gas bills and a highly inefficient transportation system that offers only one answer to most of our mobility needs – the car.”

Yesterday morning, ten organizations (representing hundreds of members) presented detailed information to the Executive Policy Committee on the multiple benefits that would result from an increase in Active Transportation funding. Councillors and Mayor Katz were intrigued by the presentations but admitted they were challenged. “As a councillor, I am continually challenged on how we balance the investments in roads, transit and active transportation” said Councillor Gord Steeves.

“And even with this token addition, funding for Active Transportation is being slashed 25% compared to last years funding; and combined with this years 60% decrease in funding for riverbank trails, we end up with a city going nowhere fast.” said Janice Lukes. “Despite the extensive number of socio economic, environmental and transportation benefits and the hundreds of cities around the world who are choosing to invest in Active Transportation, the Executive Policy Committee is making recommendations to cut funding significantly. Where is the vision?”

Based on last year’s construction costs, this additional funding will allow one kilometre of asphalt trail and ½ kilometre of gravel trail to be incorporated into Winnipeg’s trail system. The Winnipeg Trails Association in partnership with Bike to the Future has registered in opposition to the 2009 Capital Budget and the 2010 to 2014 Five Year Capital Forecast and will be presenting to Council on December 16th, 2008.

For more information, contact:
Janice Lukes, cordinator
Winnipeg Trails Association
Mobile: (204)952-4222
Email: jlukes@shaw.ca
Website: www.WinnipegTrails.com

Cyclists to receive a lump of coal for Christmas

posted at December 10, 2008 09:47 (over 4 years ago)
December 10, 2008
Mark Cohoe
Bike to the Future — news release

Despite a passionate and vocal plea from Winnipeg cyclists to increase spending for active transportation, Winnipeg’s Executive Policy Committee today passed a capital budget that once again emphasizes spending focused on the expansion of the city’s roadways while making only a token contribution to development of the city’s long neglected bikeway network.

While spending on Active Transportation Corridors increases by $400,000 in 2009, funding for Recreational Walkways and Bike Paths will decrease by $500,000 from 2008. Total funding for Active Transportation will drop from $2.35M in 2008 to just $2.15M in 2009, with just 1% of the city’s budget for roads and bridges devoted to Active Transportation Corridors.

At this level of spending, Winnipeg will see the construction of just 5km of bikeway and 2.5 km of bike paths in 2009, within a system consisting of approximately 6000 lane kilometers of roadway. At this rate of expansion it will take several hundred years to complete the city’s bikeway network.

Speaking at Bike to the Future’s Fall Forum on October 15th, Deputy Mayor Justin Swandel urged everyone to look at the city’s capital budget saying “it won’t be long before Winnipeggers are celebrating our city as one of the most cycling-friendly in the country”. We urge councilor Swandel, Mayor Katz and other members of city council to take a second look at the 2009 budget, and start funding active transportation at a level that will create a bikeway network within a reasonable time frame.

About Bike to the Future

Bike to the Future is a voluntary, inclusive group of concerned citizens working to make cycling in Winnipeg a safe, enjoyable, accessible and convenient transportation choice year-round. We envision a city where cycling is embraced as the preferred mode of transportation, where cycling is integrated into urban design and planning, and where Winnipeg is recognized as a leader in cycling infrastructure and programs.

Louise Bridge to be replaced

posted at December 03, 2008 11:13 (over 4 years ago)
December 03, 2008
Bartley Kives

The two-lane Louise Bridge is going to be replaced with a new four-lane span over the Red River, allowing city officials a chance to consider realigning the vital link between downtown and the east side of Winnipeg.

The 2009 capital budget calls for the Louise Bridge, the city’s second-oldest existing bridge, to be replaced in 2015 or 2016 with a new four-lane connection between Point Douglas and Elmwood.

Built in 1911, the two-lane bridge is believed to be too old to be rehabilitated. So city engineers are planning to completely replace the often-congested span, either on the site of the existing north-south Louise Bridge or parallel to the east-west CPR Keewatin tracks, which would create a more direct link between downtown and Transcona.

“This is badly needed. Traffic is backed up there constantly,” said Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, city council’s new infrastructure-renewal secretary. “The east side of the city is growing and we have to find a way to service the needs of the population.”

As recently as a year ago, city engineers pegged the cost of replacing the Louise Bridge at anywhere from $20 million to $60 million.

But that number has been revised up to $100 million, as the city’s public works department considers realigning Higgins Avenue, which currently curves to the north to the existing Louise Bridge, or even building the new bridge along with an east-west rapid-transit corridor that would connect downtown with Transcona.

“We’ve put a number in there for now. Once we get the actual design, we’ll know a lot better,” public works director Bill Larkin said Tuesday, after council’s public works committee approved the 2009 capital budget and five-year capital spending forecast.

Planning for the new Louise Bridge will not begin in earnest until 2013, after repairs to the Disraeli Freeway are finished. Earlier this week, the city short-listed three private construction consortia to potentially tackle the $134- million Disraeli job, which could see reconstruction work begin in 2010.

The Disraeli work calls for a new bike-and-pedestrian bridge to connect Elmwood and Point Douglas halfway between the Disraeli Freeway and the current Louise Bridge site. But that does not preclude the possibility a new active-transportation corridor will be built into a new bridge, Larkin said.

If the new Louise Bridge is built in an east-west configuration, it could connect Higgins Avenue with the Nairn Avenue Overpass or even bypass the Nairn Overpass completely by hooking up with the south end of Kent Street in East Elmwood, Larkin said.

The only thing that is certain is that the existing two-lane span will be replaced by a four-lane bridge.

The oldest existing bridge in Winnipeg is the Redwood Bridge, built in 1908 and reconstructed in 2006.


Better links to North End sought

posted at December 03, 2008 09:43 (over 4 years ago)
December 03, 2008
Rob Nay

A citizens’ group is calling on the city to provide better links between the North End and the rest of Winnipeg for pedestrians and cyclists.

“The barriers to active living are huge,” said Nona Pelletier, a member of the North Winnipeg Commuter Cyclists group.

Yesterday, Pelletier and a number of other groups presented cases to support active transportation to the city’s public works committee.

After hearing from multiple delegations, the committee voted to recommend increasing funding from $1.75 to $6 million for active transportation.

“It gets rid of congestion. It’s good for the environment — it especially resonates with young people,” said Coun. Dan Vandal, who moved the motion to recommend the funding boost.

Pelletier and husband Greg Littlejohn spoke to the committee about obstacles for pedestrians and cyclists in the North End.

Safety concerns and steep bridge crossings at both Arlington Street and Salter Street are “intimidating” to people on foot or bicycle, said Littlejohn.

He pointed towards the possibility of creating a pedestrian and bike bridge from King Street into the North End as a possible way to improve accessibility.

One primary route could also be designated for active transportation in the North End alongside an existing street which might bring out more pedestrian and bicycle traffic as well, said Pelletier.

“We want to make it safer,” she said. “Our community will thrive if it has this.”

Pelletier said she was “thrilled” with yesterday’s funding recommendation for active transportation.

The committee’s recommendation will next have to get approval from the mayor’s cabinet before it can move forward.

Pedestrians, cyclists win small victory

posted at December 03, 2008 07:26 (over 4 years ago)
December 03, 2008
Joe Paraskevas

People who walk or cycle around Winnipeg won a small but significant victory in a city hall committee room Tuesday. They lined up to demand the city’s $476-million 2009 capital budget be amended to provide more funding for bike paths, bike commuting lanes on roads, better sidewalks and even a new pedestrian bridge across the Red River between the University of Manitoba and south St. Vital.

And they succeeded — though more hurdles remain before city councillors vote on the budget Dec. 16.

After hearing delegations for the better part of four hours, members of the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works committee voted to re-allocate $4.7 million in the budget to cover projects associated with cycling, walking and in-line skating — so-called active transportation.

City hall should not squander the steps it has taken to improve its network of pathways and bikeways in the last two years, community activists said.

“The city’s got really good momentum. It’s showing vision,” said Janice Lukes, trails coordinator for the Winnipeg Trails Association.

“When you come up with these numbers,” Lukes added, referring to the budget released last week, “it’s not showing vision.”

The budget targeted $1.75 million for bike paths and other active transportation works — as opposed to $95 million for road and bridge construction.

Committee members agreed to add $4.25 million for active transportation projects, leaving it to administrators to decide how such funds should be distributed.

To cover the added spending, St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal said the city could tap its $300-million reserve funds or $3 million set aside in the budget for what Vandal said was unallocated spending.

The committee also agreed to shift $250,000 from $1.9 million earmarked for land acquisition to pay for a study into building a pedestrian bridge across the Red River from the University of Manitoba into south St. Vital.

That project had the backing of St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel, the city’s Finance committee chairman and budget architect.

Swandel appealed in person to the committee.

A deal struck with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corp. had freed some of the money the city had meant to use to acquire land for the expansion of Waverley Street in south Winnipeg, Swandel said.

The public works committee also agreed to spend an additonal $200,000 on sidewalk repairs. The budget had allocated $250,000 in 2009 to new sidewalks on major streets.

The Executive Policy Committee, which reviews the capital budget next week, could still overturn today’s decision.

$4.7 million targeted for active transportation

posted at December 02, 2008 15:54 (over 4 years ago)
December 02, 2008
Staff Writer

People who walk or cycle around Winnipeg won a small but significant victory in a city hall committee room today.

After hearing public delegations for the better part of four hours, members of the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works committee voted to re-allocate $4.7 million in the city’s 2009 capital budget to cover projects associated with so-called active transportation.

Struck by public appeals that the city had only targeted $1.75 million for bike paths and other active transportation works – as opposed to $95 million for road and bridge construction – the committee agreed to add $4.25 million for active transportation projects, leaving it to administrators to decide how such funds should be distributed.

They also agreed to shift $250,000 from the $1.9 million set aside for land acquisition to pay for a study into building a pedestrian bridge across the Red River from the University of Manitoba into south St. Vital.

That project had the backing of St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel, the city’s finance committee chairman and budget architect.

Finally, the public works committee also agreed to spend an additonal $200,000 on sidewalk repairs. The capital budget, released last week, had allocated $250,000 in 2009 to new sidewalks on major streets.

More challenges lie ahead however, for advocates of bike paths and pedestrian bridges.

The Executive Policy Committee, which reviews the capital budget next week, could still overturn today’s decision.

Bike to the Future note:
Stay tuned for updates to this story, and also for the presentation notes of the five BttF members (representing various organizations) who spoke to the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works Committee.

Cyclist rammed by taxi driver loses leg

posted at November 25, 2008 20:53 (over 4 years ago)
November 24, 2008
Peter Cheney

This is a Toronto story, but it’s the talk of cyclists around the country right now. Please follow the link to The Globe and Mail website to also read the three previous stories about this, starting from November 15th.

Toronto — Wrapped in a white sheet, with a brown beard that hasn’t been trimmed for days, Chris Kasztelewicz looks a bit like Jesus. And to many cyclists, the comparison is not inappropriate – Mr. Kasztelewicz has emerged as a symbol of two-wheeled suffering, run down by a taxi and maimed for life in a bizarre road-rage incident that has gripped the cycling community.

Mr. Kasztelewicz’s right leg is gone, and his body is covered with scrapes and bruises. He has spent the past nine days in the critical care ward of St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto, drifting in and out of consciousness and undergoing a series of major surgeries that have saved his life – but not his right knee and lower leg.

Mr. Kasztelewicz stared at his amputated leg yesterday, then fell back on his pillow, exhausted by his continuing medical ordeal.

“I just want to survive,” he said. “That’s what I’m thinking about.”

Mr. Kasztelewicz also finds himself at the centre of a high-stakes legal drama. He is expected to be the main witness against cab driver Sultan Ahmed, who faces six criminal charges after allegedly running down Mr. Kasztelewicz with his rented taxi.

Mr. Ahmed, 38, was charged on Friday, and spent the weekend in jail. He is scheduled to appear in court today for a bail hearing.

The criminal case may be accompanied by civil action against Mr. Ahmed and other parties. Mr. Kasztelewicz was visited in hospital yesterday by David Levy, a Toronto litigator who is studying the case to see who may be held liable for Mr. Kasztelewicz’s crippling injuries. “We’re going to see where it goes,” Mr. Levy said.

Mr. Kasztelewicz’s case is seen as a watershed by the Toronto cycling community, which has spent years lobbying for bicycle-friendly changes that would make Canada’s largest city a better place to ride.

“Toronto has the potential to be an extraordinary city for cyclists, but it was designed around the car,” said Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclists Union, an advocacy group modelled as the two-wheel equivalent of the CAA. “What happened here shows you the imbalance of power.’

The incident that cost Mr. Kasztelewicz his leg took place in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 14. Mr. Kasztelewicz was riding his high-end bicycle in Toronto’s west end when he got into a heated argument with a taxi driver. Area residents heard a high-decibel confrontation between the two men, then the sound of an impact.

It is alleged that the cab driver intentionally ran Mr. Kasztelewicz down, then left the scene. Residents ran out to find Mr. Kasztelewicz on the sidewalk in a massive pool of blood, with his right leg hanging by “a few shreds of gristle,” as one witness put it. Mr. Kasztelewicz was rushed to hospital with injuries described as “critical and life-threatening.” About three hours later, around 5:30 a.m., a cab driver called Toronto police to give his version of events.

The case against the cab driver was delayed for a week by Mr. Kasztelewicz’s touch-and-go medical condition. Investigators visited him numerous times, but found him incapable of giving a lucid account until late last week.

“He was in very rough condition,” said Detective Celeste Butt of Toronto Police Traffic Services.

Mr. Ahmed, the cab driver, is charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, attempted obstruction of justice and aggravated assault.

Mr. Ahmed has worked for several years as the night driver of a taxi owned by another cabbie who holds the city-issued taxi licence. His typical shift is 12 hours, running from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Mr. Ahmed is a father and lives with his family in Maple, northwest of Toronto. Gail Souter, the owner of the taxi company, said Mr. Ahmed had a clean record and is regarded as a good driver.

“This is a tragic story,” Ms. Souter said. “It’s just an awful, awful situation. A man lost his leg. What can you say?”

At St. Michael’s Hospital this weekend, Mr. Kasztelewicz remained heavily sedated, groggy after his latest round of surgery and blood tests. “I’m out of it,” he said. “A bad day.”

Mr. Kasztelewicz is a lifelong bike rider. On the night he lost his leg, he was riding a $5,000 racing bicycle not unlike the one that Lance Armstrong used to win the Tour de France. Mr. Kasztelewicz, who works as a bouncer, had been visiting a friend at a downtown bar, and left shortly after 2 a.m., taking side streets to avoid vehicle traffic on main routes. On the orders of his lawyer, Mr. Kasztelewicz avoided specific discussion of what happened.

Mr. Kasztelewicz’s family moved to Canada from Poland in 1986, and later relocated to Chicago. His father and mother came to Toronto last week, and have since remained with him in the hospital. He has also been visited by his brother.

Tears sprang to Mr. Kasztelewicz’s eyes as he contemplated a future without his bicycle: “I love to ride,” he said. “I like being out there, all by myself. It was beautiful.”

Movement for pedestrian bridge afoot

posted at November 18, 2008 20:59 (over 4 years ago)
November 13, 2008
Matt Powers

Members of the Winnipeg Trails Association are making a plea to the city to consider building a pedestrian bridge to connect St. Vital with the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry campus.

Winnipeg Trails co-ordinator Janice Lukes said that during the past year the community active transportation group has looked extensively into the situation and feels that a bridge would be a key cog in the area’s connectivity.

“The connection is looking at getting from the east side of the river to the university. Especially now that the sidewalk is not being widened on the Fort Garry Bridge,” Lukes said.

“Next year the city will rehab the south deck (of the Fort Garry Bridge), but the sidewalk is only going to be widened inches, very nominally. So, here you have this rapid transit corridor where there are people crossing on a narrow sidewalk and it is ridiculous.”

WTA representatives recently sent a letter outlining their desire for a bridge to St. Norbert city councillor Justin Swandel. Swandel appeared before the city’s infrastructure renewal and public works committee on Nov. 4 to ask members to introduce plans for a bridge into the city’s budgeting process.

“What we are trying to do is have it included in some type of conversation, somewhere,” Swandel said.

“If we can get it in the budget process for early concept assessment that would be great. Chances are we won’t even be able to discuss it until the 2010 budget.”

Committee chairman Bill Clement said during the Nov. 4 meeting that the bridge proposal “might be a wee bit ahead of its time.”

Swandel believes the timing couldn’t be better.

“I think the timing in this case is we saw that something similar was being proposed beside the Disraeli Bridge,” Swandel said.

“It seems the city is far more interested in doing active transportation connectivity like this at the current time.”

Lukes said with a proposal for a new football stadium to be build on the U of M campus, the city shouldn’t wait too long to give the bridge proposal its blessing.

“It will take two to three years of doing a study to find out the exact location on where this bridge will go in,” Swandel said. “It will take another couple of years to secure the funding.

“Projects like this don’t happen in two years so I don’t feel it is too early at all to be looking at it nor do others in the community.”

The bridge proposal already has the support of U of M representatives.

John Alho, the university’s associate vice-president, said a pedestrian bridge crossing the Red River has been in the school’s long-range plans for some time now.

“With the number of students who come to the university from that side of the river as well as faculty and staff it is a natural connection between the university and the community. We feel a bridge will ease travel and make the university more assessable to the broad population,” Alho said.

More diamond lanes for city thoroughfares

posted at November 16, 2008 13:35 (over 4 years ago)
November 15, 2008

Commuters who take Regent Avenue, McPhillips Street, or Henderson Highway to work or school, beware: Winnipeg Transit has reserved a brand-new set of diamond lanes for bikes and buses.

As of Monday, the following five lanes will be reserved for transit vehicles, cyclists and right-turning vehicles during the morning and afternoon rush hours:

  • Regent Avenue eastbound, between Rougeau Avenue and Plessis Road.
  • Regent Avenue westbound, between Plessis Road and Rougeau Avenue.
  • Henderson Highway southbound, between Hespeler Avenue and Riverton Avenue.
  • McPhillips Street northbound, between Selkirk Avenue and Inkster Boulevard.
  • McPhillips Street southbound, between Inkster Boulevard and Selkirk Avenue.

Diamond lanes are in effect on weekdays from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

As of Monday, Winnipeg will have 15.5 kilometres of diamond lanes, whose creation was recommended by the city’s rapid transit task force.

Former task force chairman Russ Wyatt and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz have complained that Winnipeg Transit has been slow to create new diamond lanes.

Job overlap for councillors?

posted at November 13, 2008 23:11 (over 4 years ago)
November 02, 2008
Bartley Kives
Winnipeg Free Press – Local News

Coun. Russ Wyatt’s new role on city council is causing confusion within Mayor Sam Katz’s cabinet, as two members of council’s executive policy committee are now responsible for roads, bridges and bike routes.

Late last week, Katz stripped the outspoken Transcona councillor of his downtown development job and handed him a brand-new title: secretary of strategic infrastructure renewal.

The move keeps Wyatt on EPC but relieves him of the responsibility of chairing a subcommittee of his own. Council observers believe it was a canny way for Katz to deal with Wyatt, who has plenty of energy but was extremely critical of the mayor during last month’s divisive Riverside Park Management debate.

Katz says Wyatt is now responsible for finding ways to eliminate Winnipeg’s infrastructure deficit, which has ballooned to somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion, according to city estimates.

“Every day that goes by, the number gets bigger. We need to create some creative ways to address the issue,” Katz said.

Wyatt’s experience as the head of council’s rapid-transit task force and the final chairman of the mayor’s red-tape commission will serve him well in his bid to tackle the infrastructure deficit, Katz said.

“He loves a challenge. This is something he can get his teeth into,” the mayor said.

But Charleswood Coun. Bill Clement, an EPC member who chairs council’s public works and infrastructure renewal committee, was gritting his teeth after Wyatt was handed a job with a similar title.

“You’d better ask the mayor exactly what he and some of his associates are thinking, because it’s pretty unclear what the role of Coun. Wyatt really is,” the infrastructure-renewal chairman said of the infrastructure-renewal secretary.

“It’s never been explained. I have no idea, other than the name, what the role really is.”

Katz said there is no overlap between Wyatt’s role and the work of Clement’s committee. Wyatt is responsible for roads, bridges, sidewalks, streets and active-transportation corridors, Katz said.

Wyatt concedes he has yet to chat with Clement about their complementary roles. But he, too, said there will be no conflict.

“The day-to-day business of public works has to go on,” Wyatt said. “The way I see it, it’s my job to do the long-term planning.”

To that end, Wyatt says he’s looking forward to the establishment of a new transportation authority to oversee both regional roads and transit.

Wyatt also plans to champion the idea of a new one per cent sales tax to allow Winnipeg and other Manitoba municipalities to access more cash for infrastructure repairs.

Katz and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities like the idea, but the province has been cool to the notion. Ideally, the money should come from the federal government, Wyatt says.

“The fact of the matter is, nobody asked Stephen Harper to cut two points off the GST. A lot of people feel that money could have been better spent on infrastructure,” Wyatt said.

The Transcona councillor does not feel he has been demoted on EPC, even though he no longer chairs a committee.

“This gives me more time to do actual work. I hate meetings,” he quipped. “You have to have some meetings to get work done, but they can be a pain in the butt.”

Councillor backs pedestrian bridge to connect U of M, St. Vital

posted at November 05, 2008 06:08 (over 4 years ago)
November 04, 2008
Online Breaking News

The city should consider building a bridge for pedestrians, cyclists and inline skaters across the Red River at the University of Manitoba into south St. Vital, a city councillor urged Tuesday.

St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel appeared before the city’s Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works committee to ask members to introduce plans for a bridge into the city’s budget process.

The project could carry a price tag of about $15 million, Swandel added, comparing its price to that of the proposed pedestrian bridge that would accompany the new Disraeli bridge in north Winnipeg.

Swandel said thousands of people come to the U of M daily and he cited a letter from the Winnipeg Trails Association, a community active transportation group, that mentioned the potential development of a professional football stadium on the university campus as further reason.

Last year, Swandel floated the idea of building an aerial tramway across the Red River at the U of M.

Committee members tabled Swandel’s proposal but did not forward the matter down the chain of command at city hall. In essence, the proposal ended where it began.

“I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to raise,” Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Bill Clement, the committee’s chairman, said, of the bridge plan. “But this one might be a wee bit ahead of its time.”

The city should focus on developing its systems of bicycle and walking paths first, Clement said, before it embarks on a larger project such as a bridge. He pointed to two other bridges — the Esplanade Riel into St. Boniface and the planned Disraeli bridge — to underline the coming importance of pedestrian-friendly bridges.

Designated bike lanes added downtown

posted at October 27, 2008 21:50 (over 4 years ago)
October 27, 2008
Scott Gibbons

It just got a little easier to cycle downtown.

Last week, city crews painted designated bike lanes on Hargrave and Carlton Streets from Broadway to Portage Avenues.

The two streets were chosen because there’s less traffic and are popular among city cyclists, Winnipeg’s active transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon said Monday.

It’s hoped the bike lanes can still be extended to Assiniboine and Alexander Avenues this fall, weather permitting.

Two other downtown street – Fort and Garry – will get similar bike friendly designation, though it’s likely that will have to wait until spring, Nixon said.

Motor vehicles are not allowed in the bike lanes – but can pass through them if they are parking.

Elsewhere in the city, work is nearly complete on the latest phase of the Bishop Grandin Greenway. The stretch between River Road and St. Mary’s Road was covered with asphalt last week.

Crews also began extending the Bishop Grandin trail on the west side of the Red River. Construction is underway on the south side of Bishop from the river to Pembina Highway.

Why Not Winnipeg? panel discussion broadcast on CKUW 95.9 FM

posted at October 16, 2008 10:39 (over 4 years ago)
October 16, 2008

The one hour panel discussion from the Fall Forum (Why Not Winnipeg?) was broadcast on CKUW 95.9 FM. Listen to it.

Ordinary people can make a difference

posted at October 10, 2008 11:41 (over 4 years ago)
October 11, 2008
Marlo Campbell
Canstar community newspapers (Herald, Lance, Metro, Times, and Headliner)

It’s fitting that Bike to the Future’s annual fall forum will take place the day after Canada’s federal election, as the local cycling advocacy group is a perfect example of democracy in action.

Formed only two years ago, BttF has been remarkably successful in advancing its stated agenda “to make cycling in Winnipeg a safe, enjoyable, accessible and convenient transportation choice year-round.”

Decidedly less radical than the Critical Mass movement that inspired its creation, BttF has instead chosen to play by the rules to get things done – and the strategy seems to be working.

It managed to put cycling on the agenda of the 2006 civic election campaign (no easy task in a car-centric city such as ours) while lobbying hard for the implementation of Winnipeg’s Active Transportation report – a 2005 document which recommended, among other things, that the city create a committee that could advise other city departments.

When that committee was finally struck last July, BttF secured a seat at the table, ensuring that the voices of its diverse membership (which includes both hardcore, year-round commuters and casual bike riders) would continue to be heard by those in power.

Its efforts continue to pay off.

Ron Brown, a BttF member and the executive director of the Manitoba Cycling Association, says momentum continues to grow. The group now has over 1,500 members,and Brown says 2008 has been a “peak year” in terms of public interest.

“Bike to the Future is positioned really, really well,” Brown says. “We’ve been a very effective advocacy group. I think we definitely have the ear of the decision-makers. We’re a great conduit between the people who are on the street cycling and the people who are making decisions that affect them.”

Two recent examples of the group’s growing influence stand out. In June, more than 2,000 Winnipeggers participated in the city’s first Bike to Work Day – 1,500 more than expected. And just last month, Winnipeg city council approved the creation of a new pedestrian/cycling bridge as part of the $140 million plan to repair the Disraeli Bridge.

Obviously, BttF can’t claim full credit for either accomplishment, but the attitudinal shift taking place in Winnipeg with respect to cycling issues – indeed, the fact that cycling is being considered at all – has certainly demonstrated that a small group can accomplish a lot when its members are committed to working together towards a common goal.

This year’s BttF forum will take place Oct. 15 at the University of Winnipeg’s Bullman Centre. Kicking off at 6:30 p.m., the three-hour event will feature educational videos about the active transportation efforts of other cities, and several informal discussion groups that will allow cyclists to share concerns and brainstorm on ways to improve the situation in Winnipeg.

Forum participants will also have the opportunity to pose questions to a panel of VIPs that will include Kerri Irvin-Ross, Manitoba’s minister of healthy living; Marilyn McLaren, CEO of MPI; Janice Lukes, coordinator of the Winnipeg Trails Association; city counselor Jenny Gerbasi; and a member of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Even Mayor Sam Katz has promised to show up. Although he will only be able stay for half an hour, his involvement speaks volumes about BTTF’s growing clout.

So to all you cynics out there: When you’re casting your vote on Oct. 14 and wondering if one person can really make a difference in the world, remind yourself of BttF’s success – and what can happen when ordinary people decide they want change and commit to making it happen.

The right bridge

posted at September 25, 2008 17:05 (over 4 years ago)
September 25, 2008
Winnipeg Free Press Editorial

City council, with some dissent, has approved the rational option for saving the Disraeli overpass and bridge, a span that is, by some professional assessment, heading to collapse. It is disconcerting when the public works department says the bridge is OK for now, largely on the premise it is inspected four times a year for further decay. The city administration needs to move this capital priority along as fast is prudently possible.

The supports and surface of the 48-year-old bridge will be rehabilitated, and a separate cycling/pedestrian bridge will be built to the east of Disraeli. The project, which will involve a private partner to whom the city will pay rent on the bridge for 30 years, will cost $140 million. Four dissenting councillors wanted to see a double span constructed, for an additional $150 million. They were concerned the closure of the bridge for up to 16 months would make the commute from the city’s northeast, down alternate routes, onerous. It is expected to add nine minutes to the trip, which almost doubles travel time for some.

No one is predicting that there will be population growth along Henderson Highway to justify a double span bridge over the Red River. Further, if the general trends on bus riding hold, any increased pressure on the route ought to be partially offset by the more efficient mode of transportation. Councillors are expected to speak for their constituents interests but not so disproportionately against the interests of the broader community. The commuters from East Kildonan will feel the temporary inconvenience most acutely, but to double the cost of the Disraeli project would be inappropriate.

The city was told that improving bus service with shuttles and park-and-rides is one way to reduce the increased strain on North Main Street, from the Chief Peguis Trail and the Redwood Bridge. The focus inevitably will be on rush-hour demand, but in isolation of the larger picture — encouraging the development of more useful mass transit options to attract more riders — would reduce the exercise to a stop-gap measure that likely would revert back to current ridership when Disraeli opens again.

Winnipeg has been nursing an infrastructure-deficit hangover for decades. It will take a long time to dig out of the multi-million dollar hole. Bridges and freeways are big, expensive things to build and maintain and dangerous when their repair needs are ignored. Pushing drivers onto mass transit can help ease the long-term cost of road maintenance. That should become an integral piece of Winnipeg’s the infrastructure maintenance plan.

Council OK’s Disraeli refit; area councillors ignored

posted at September 25, 2008 17:01 (over 4 years ago)
September 25, 2008
Bartley Kives

Winnipeg will forge ahead with a plan to fix the aging Disraeli Freeway against the wishes of every councillor who represents the northeast quadrant of the city.

City council voted 11-4 on Wednesday to approve a Disraeli Freeway repair plan that calls for new concrete decking and refurbished structural supports on the existing 1.1-kilometre roadway, which includes a single-span, four-lane bridge that connects Elmwood with downtown.

The $140-million plan, which calls for a new pedestrian-and-bike bridge to rise over the Red River three blocks to the east, will result in a freeway closure that may last as long as 16 months.

The city hopes to reduce that closure by writing incentives into a formal call for proposals to design, build and maintain the freeway, which was built in 1960 and then damaged by corrosion during the next 48 years.

Winnipeg’s chief administrative officer will ensure the city chooses a private construction consortium that either comes up with a plan to speed up the Disraeli repair job or finds a way to keep two lanes of freeway traffic open while some of the work takes place, Mayor Sam Katz said.

But the mayor’s assurances could not stop all four councillors who represent the areas most affected by the closure to vote against the plan.

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, Elmwood Coun. Lillian Thomas and St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal opposed the plan because they believe a 16-month closure is intolerable to northeast Winnipeg motorists. Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt believes the plan is short-sighted because the city will soon need to refurbish the 97-year-old Louise Bridge and must also build a new bridge to carry buses from Point Douglas to a future Nairn Avenue rapid-transit corridor.

“This is a city that sometimes thinks like a village,” said Wyatt, decrying a lack of long-term planning in the city.

The northeast Winnipeg politicians said they would prefer to see Winnipeg build a dual-span, six-lane Disraeli Freeway that could accommodate traffic on one span while the other is under construction.

Rookie councillor Browaty called the single-span plan the biggest disappointment he’s seen since he joined council, while Thomas suggested city engineers have overstated the cost of building a dual-span Disraeli Freeway.

Those engineers have placed the projected cost in the $300-million range. Katz said the city cannot afford the tab and is not likely to get help for the project from the provincial government.

“There’s no pot of gold on Broadway,” the mayor said.


New Disraeli bridge plan off to EPC

posted at September 23, 2008 17:17 (over 4 years ago)
September 24, 2008
Bartley Kives

A $140-million plan to repair the Disraeli Freeway and build a new bike/pedestrian bridge over the Red River will head to executive policy committee and council tomnorrow even though politicians failed to approve it today.

Council’s public works committee got hung up in a 2-2 vote over the Disraeli reconstruction plan because North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty and Elmwood-East Kildonan Coun. Lillian Thomas refused to endorse a design that may cause the freeway to be closed for as long as 16 months once work begins in 2010.

City bridge engineers hope to spend only $140 million to repair the single-span, four-lane Disraeli Freeway by reusing existing steel girders and concrete foundations. That plan will require the bridge to be closed when concrete decking that’s crucial to the structural integrity of the bridge will be removed.

Browaty and Thomas want the city to spend more money on a dual-span, six-lane bridge that would allow some traffic to flow during the construction period. City engineers say that would cost upwards of $300 million.

During a 105-minute meeting, a consulting firm hired by the city told councillors the construction would create detours that could add up to nine minutes to a one-way trip from the corner of Chief Peguis Trail and Henderson Highway to downtown Winnipeg.

Mynarski Coun. Harry Lazarenko and committee chairman Bill Clement voted in favour of the plan, noting Winnipeg has faced major bridge repairs before and motorists adapted.

Despite the tie vote, the plan now moves forward to a special meeting of executive policy committee tomorrow and then a vote by council as a whole.

Bike to the Future note:
BttF Co-Chair Kevin Miller appeared in delegation at this meeting to support this proposal and thank the City’s staff for recommending it.

City eyes pedestrian/bike span, Would be part of Disraeli reconstruction

posted at September 23, 2008 08:09 (over 4 years ago)
September 23, 2008
Bartley Kives

Cyclists are ecstatic but northeast Winnipeg politicians are fuming over the latest Disraeli Freeway reconstruction plan, which calls for a new pedestrian-and-bike bridge but no guarantees motorists won’t be stuck in construction traffic for as long as 16 months.

After mulling over three Disraeli design options, city bridge engineers have chosen to forge ahead with a four-lane, single-span structure that will keep the price down to $140 million by reusing existing concrete foundations and steel girders.

The design, which comes before city council’s public works committee today, calls for a single sidewalk, wider curb lanes to allow vehicles and cyclists to share the road and a brand-new pedestrian/cyclist bridge that would connect Elmwood with North Point Douglas several blocks to the east.

City engineers say the dedicated pedestrian/bike bridge will add $12.5 million to a design originally pegged at $125 million, but remains cheaper than a $160-million option that called for a wider motor-vehicle bridge to accommodate a separated bike lane.

“No fumes, no fast cars zooming by you. This is exactly what we wanted,” said Kevin Miller, a spokesman for Bike To The Future, a commuter-cyclist lobby group. “This is just a wonderful solution that fits in perfectly with the (bike trail) infrastructure that’s been built in the last few years.”

Pending council approval, city engineers will search for a private construction consortium to design, build, finance and maintain the 1.1-kilometre roadway later this fall, with the hopes of seeing actual work start in 2010.

Preference will be given to a consortium that comes up with a way to abbreviate the expected 16-month construction period or keep two lanes open to traffic while the work is underway, public works director Bill Larkin said.

Those goals will be written into the formal request for proposals, but northeast Winnipeg politicians would still prefer to see the city adopt a design that would not require any closures on the Disraeli Freeway.

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, Elmwood Coun. Lillian Thomas, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt and former Elmwood MLA Jim Maloway — who’s now running for a federal seat in Transcona — have been urging the city to build a six-lane, double-span Disraeli Freeway.

Browaty said his constituents won’t be happy with any closure on the motor-vehicle bridge.

Maloway completely panned the new city design. “This sounds to me like a pretty goofy idea, because it doesn’t change the fact people will be inconvenienced for a year and a half,” he said.

City engineers have pegged the price of a double-span Disraeli Freeway at around $300 million, a figure Larkin says the city cannot justify on the basis of meeting future traffic needs or alleviating construction-period congestion.

Even at $140 million, the freeway reconstruction is the second-most-expensive roadway project on Winnipeg’s horizon, after the $324-million southwest Winnipeg bus corridor announced by Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Gary Doer earlier this month.

The special meeting of city council’s public works committee has been called for this morning to allow Couns. Thomas, Browaty, Bill Clement and Harry Lazarenko to review the Disraeli design, while council as a whole votes on the plan on Wednesday. Maloway said that does not allow enough time for debate, claiming he’s heard from 5,000 northeast Winnipeg residents who want to see a two-span bridge built at any cost.


The original “breaking news” story:

Pedestrian span in new Disraeli plan

Winnipeg Free Press, September 22nd, by Bartley Kives


The latest design for the Disraeli Freeway reconstruction calls for a new pedestrian/cyclist bridge to connect Elmwood with North Point Douglas.

After six months of mulling over three different design options for the Disraeli Freeway, city bridge engineers have chosen to go ahead with a four-lane, single-span structure that will reuse existing concrete foundations and steel girders.

The $140-million design will come with one sidewalk and wider curb lanes to allow vehicles and cyclists to share the road. But it also calls for a brand-new pedestrian/cyclist bridge east of Disraeli Freeway.

A special meeting of city council’s public works committee has been called for tomorrow morning to allow Couns. Bill Clement, Lillian Thomas, Harry Lazarenko and Jeff Browaty to debate the design before council as a whole votes on the plan on Wednesday.

Several northeast Winnipeg politicians, including North Kildonan Coun. Browaty, Elmwood Coun. Thomas and federal NDP hopeful Jim Maloway, have panned a four-lane, single-span design.

They would prefer to see the city build a six-lane, double-span bridge to ease traffic headaches during a construction period that could last 16 months once it begins in 2010.

Bike to the Future note:
This is almost identical to what BttF proposed in a position paper that we submitted to the City on May 9th after attending Public Consultations on May 3rd and participating in a 10-person e-mail discussion among core BttF volunteers. Don English suggested the proposal, and Mark Cohoe wrote the submission.

City adds new bridge to Disraeli Freeway project

posted at September 22, 2008 16:03 (over 4 years ago)
September 22, 2008

The City of Winnipeg has unveiled its latest plan for rebuilding the Disraeli Freeway over the Red River, including a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.

A report released Monday recommends building a new span for cyclists and pedestrians in addition to refurbishing the structure’s concrete foundations and steel girders and replacing the existing bridge deck with a four-lane divided roadway and one sidewalk.

The new bridge, east of the vehicle span, would connect two sections of the city’s active transportation route, linking Annabella Street in Point Douglas with Brazier Street in Elmwood.

The report also says that some or all of the bridge’s current lanes should remain open during construction, if possible.

Previous plans called for the 40-year-old bridge to close during construction, which city officials hope will be completed by late 2011.

Several municipal and provincial politicians from northeast Winnipeg have called for the bridge to be twinned to allow traffic to move on one side of the bridge while the other is under construction, and to provide extra capacity for future traffic.

The new vision of the project would cost about $15 million more than previously anticipated, the report says. The city had previously planned to spend between $125 million and $160 million, depending on the design, to upgrade the four-lane bridge.

The city’s standing committee on infrastructure renewal and public works will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the plan.

Bike to the Future note:

BttF Co-Chair Kevin Miller appeared on CBC Radio One’s Up To Speed at 3:05 PM to discuss this story with host Margaux Watt:

  • This plan is almost identical to what BttF proposed in a position paper that we submitted to the City on May 9th after attending Public Consultations on May 3rd and participating in a 10-person e-mail discussion among core BttF volunteers.
  • BttF, a 100% volunteer group of bicycling advocates, was able to save the City $20M ($15 for the new bridge versus $35M to widen the piers on the vehicle bridge & overpass) while also greatly improving ped and cycling facilities. Win-win.

Bike lanes were a bit of a wash

posted at September 12, 2008 10:55 (over 4 years ago)
September 12, 2008
Bartley Kives

A $100,000 plan to make Winnipeg roads safer for cyclists has literally washed off city streets, forcing officials to search for a more durable brand of paint.

Back in May, the city created extra-wide “sharrow” lanes on seven major streets to give cyclists and motorists a little extra breathing room.

Sharrows were created on Higgins Avenue, Roblin Boulevard, Grant Avenue, Regent Avenue, Plessis Road, Dakota Street and Dunkirk Drive. Bicycle symbols were painted on the streets and metal signs instructing motorists to “share the road” were erected along boulevards.

But most of the paint washed off by the middle of June because the city used a water-based paint.

“An attempt was made to use an environmentally friendly product for an environmentally friendly project. We’re now looking for a better product,” said city spokesman Terry Aseltine.

Water-based paint performs well when applied to houses, Aseltine said. But the city did not anticipate the pounding the paint would take after it was applied to asphalt.

The city is now searching for a more durable alternative, but probably won’t get around to repainting the sharrows until 2009.

The new lanes, which cost the city $100,000, are part of Winnipeg’s $3.2-million plan to create new bike paths and active-transportation corridors. Construction on most of those projects will begin later this month or in September, according to a trail-building update prepared by city active-transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon.

But trail groups were upset to see the sharrows disappear only weeks after they were painted.

“This is really disappointing. This was one of the first things the city did in terms of on-street improvements for cycling, and the paint came off in June,” said Janice Lukes, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

Lukes said she is also frustrated to see the late-summer or fall start dates for construction of other trails and active-transportation corridors, such as new bike lanes on downtown streets, new trails alongside Bishop Grandin Boulevard and the extension of Northeast Pioneers Greenway.

Lukes also questioned whether sharrows are a good solution to Winnipeg’s bike-trail woes.

“Paint doesn’t make me feel safer from an SUV or a semi-trailer. Maybe it does for die-hard commuters, but I have kids. I want a barrier,” she said.

Winnipeg has increased its funding for trail-building in recent years, boosting the annual budget from $200,000 in 2006 to $1.5 million in 2007 to $3.2 million this year.

The latter figure includes spending on trails as well as on-street improvements for cyclists.


Bike to the Future sent two Letters to the Editor in response

Re: Bike lanes were a bit of a wash

The issue is not that the paint washed off the road, but that the sharrows pilot project the city implemented this summer was doomed to failure from the start due to lack of thorough thought and follow through.

Sharrows are not synonymous with bike lanes. A bike lane is a fully marked, designated travel lane for exclusive use of bicycles on a roadway, with all the legal requirements of any other travel lane.

Sharrows are not the solution to the cycling infrastructure deficit in Winnipeg. Cities like New York and Toronto are closing streets, tearing up boulevards and taking away lanes from cars to accommodate bikes in a safe, on-road way. Why not Winnipeg?

The politicians at all levels tell us they support Active Transportation, but this has not been reflected in the financial or visionary commitment towards making a comprehensive on-road cycling network in Winnipeg. We need more staff and a vision to make this a reality.

Jackie Avent Co-Chair, Bike to the Future

From Jeremy Hull, Provincial Committee Director (writing as an individual)

Published on September 15th: http://winnipegfreepress.com/editorial/story/4226198p-4864175c.html

Re: Bike Lanes Were a Bit of a Wash [Bartley Kives, Sept 12/08]

Four years after the City of Winnipeg received the report it commissioned on Active Transportation, and two years after the report was adopted in principle, the City has done little to support cycling in this city.The few things that have been done have been poorly planned and implemented, as the sharrows example shows. These sharrows not only washed away, they were placed too close to the curb, often in lanes that were too narrow to actually share, according to accepted standards for road design. Meanwhile, major priorities for cycling improvements, such as the Pembina corridor, are ignored.

We have lots of pavement in Winnipeg, but we need to reallocate some of it for the use of bicycles. When we rebuild roads and bridges, and when we plan new suburban subdivisions we need to automatically consider and encourage cycling as a means of transportation, instead of building bicycle paths to nowhere as is being done in Waverly West. And we need a public education campaign to get cyclists and motorists sharing the road safely. With yet another spike in gas prices you would think city politicians would get the message – more and more of us are cycling more often. It’s time city council woke up and read the good news: more bicycles mean less traffic congestion, a cleaner environment, fewer street repairs and a healthier, more attractive city.

$138 M for busway’s first phase

posted at September 08, 2008 23:58 (over 4 years ago)
September 08, 2008

$138 M for busway’s first phase

Winnipeg plans to spend $138 million on the first phase of a $327-million southwest bus corridor that will connect downtown with the University of Manitoba, Premier Gary Doer and Mayor Sam Katz announced Monday.

In spring 2009, the city plans to begin building a busway that will extend 3.6 kilometres from Queen Elizabeth Way to the corner of Jubilee Avenue and Pembina Highway, forming the first leg of a bus corridor that will eventually extend as far south as Bison Drive.

The busway will be designed to allow future conversion into a light-rail transit route and will also feature a bicycle path for commuters. Busway stations are planned for Harkness Street, Osborne Street, Morley Avenue and possibly Jubilee Avenue on the first leg of the route, which also requires the construction of a bridge over Osborne Street and a tunnel underneath CN Rail’s Fort Rouge Yards.

The corridor is intended to stimulate the construction of high-rise apartments or condos around the busway stations and use property taxes from these new developments to help pay back the cost of the project.

The city and province each plan to spend $55 million on the first phase of the busway, with the federal government kicking in $28 million, including $17.5 million set aside for transit in Manitoba back in March.

Another $10 million in federal money will be redirected from bus purchases to the busway project, Katz said.

He said he hopes the federal government will contribute to the second phase, which could be constructed more cheaply if the city is able to negotiate the use or acquisition of CN’s Letellier Line, which runs roughly parallel to Pembina Highway.

The new busway plan differs from the plan proposed by former Mayor Glen Murray in that buses will not share space with motor vehicles along most of the route, Doer said.

The premier also said the new plan features far more detail in terms of engineering and design work.

Katz, who cancelled Murray’s project in 2004, said that move was necessary in order for the city to focus on recreation improvements.

The mayor promised the busway would form a precursor for a future light-rail transit system but would not predict when such a system would be built.

Rapid transit agreement inked by Winnipeg and Manitoba

posted at September 08, 2008 21:57 (over 4 years ago)
September 08, 2008

Rapid transit agreement inked by Winnipeg and Manitoba

$138-million Project To Include Dedicated Bicycle Paths

A rapid transit system and dedicated bicycle paths linking south Winnipeg to the downtown is one step closer to shovels going in the ground following a $138-million funding agreement reached between the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba, Premier Gary Doer and Mayor Sam Katz announced today.

“This is a significant infrastructure project linking south Winnipeg to our downtown,” said Doer. “It will help improve transit ridership and efficiency, while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet Kyoto targets. I am pleased to partner with the mayor on this important initiative.”

The first stage of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor will receive a $138-million investment and will extend from Jubilee Avenue to The Forks with a second, future stage to run from Jubilee Avenue to Bison Drive with both stages incorporating bike paths into their construction.

“I’ve always said rapid transit is part of our city’s future,” said Katz. “Today’s announcement takes a comprehensive approach to link our city with hubs focusing on mixed residential and commercial development that will provide the financial stability needed to make this important project a reality. By laying the groundwork today, we can move ahead on providing Winnipeggers with quick, reliable and green transportation alternatives at a time when gas prices are an unprecedented high.”

Winnipeg will contribute $30.75 million which includes $17.5 million from the 2008 Federal Transit Trust. The province will match the federal transit trust contribution of $17.5 million and will fund 50 per cent of the net operating costs of the rapid transit system through its existing 50-50 transit funding agreement, fulfilling its legislative commitment under the Climate Change Act passed earlier this spring.

The new rapid transit corridor will utilize the innovative tax increment financing tool to capture any incremental growth from residential and commercial infill development along the rapid transit corridor. Tax increment financing is an investment and development tool that reinvests property and school taxes into certain areas to encourage infrastructure development that otherwise would not take place.

As part of today’s agreement, the mayor and premier also agreed to jointly seek a one-third federal contribution to the second stage of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor and agreed to work together to continue the development of a comprehensive rapid transit system for the city of Winnipeg.

Manitoba man commutes by bicycle: 180 km per day

posted at August 29, 2008 18:20 (over 4 years ago)
August 29, 2008

A man in Portage la Prairie, Man., has taken up cycling to work — a 90-kilometre trek across the Prairies to Winnipeg in each direction.

Mike Caslor decided to start riding his bicycle to his downtown office once a week last year as a way to get in shape for mountain-bike racing.

The 31-year-old father of two says his schedule was too busy for training time, so the 90-kilometre commute between Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg was a convenient way to get his exercise in.

The ride takes Caslor, a social worker, about 2.5 hours in each direction — as much as three hours when there’s a strong Prairie headwind, he said.

“My office mates think I’m a little bit crazy. But in many ways, part of the reason I do this is to encourage other people to cycle,” he said.

“The vast majority of the people I work with don’t live 90 kilometres from work. They live nine kilometres from work so they have no excuse: Get on the bike and bike to work.”

Since his weekly rides began last year, he became motivated to do it more often to reduce his fuel bill. He now makes the trip by bicycle twice a week.

City bike lanes needed

Caslor is also an avid cycling advocate — and wants to see more bike lanes. He says cycling in the city is a lot more dangerous than on the highway, contrary to what he’s been told.

Caslor says he feels safer on the highway portion of his commute than he does in the city. (CBC)”[On the highway], it’s really obvious that I’m little old me going fairly slow and not weighing very much. And everybody out there is very fast and weighs quite a bit, so that creates a respect out on the highway that mitigates a lot of that risk,” he said.

Far more dangerous is the city part of the trip, he said. “The interesting thing that happens as soon as you hit the city is that the concept of ‘mutual respect’ between cyclists and drivers tends to get lessened just a little bit,” he said.

“On a place like Portage Avenue, I’m in the slow lane and sometimes … motorists provide me half of the lane, and sometimes less than that. So sometimes cars pass me with just inches to spare, or a foot or two at most. So it’s just that proximity that makes it dangerous.”

On the highway, Caslor said, he can use the shoulder as a kind of dedicated bike lane. But in Winnipeg, there are no dedicated bicycle lanes on major routes — something Caslor believes the city should introduce.

City officials say that could be tricky.

“Basically, we didn’t really build the city for bikes the first time,” said Coun. Jenny Gerbasi.

“If you don’t build it right the first time, to go back and fix it is difficult. But, you know, I think that’s the direction we need to go.”

Caslor says he has a simple solution: he suggests the city eliminate parking in curb lanes on major routes, such as Portage Avenue and Pembina Highway, and have the parking lane become a cycling lane.

Two wheels good, four not better

posted at August 25, 2008 10:08 (over 4 years ago)
August 24, 2008
Sean Ritchie
Winnipeg Free Press — View From The West

I am a cyclist. Everyday I put on my helmet, and sling my bag over my shoulder in preparation for my daily commute. Whether I’m going to work, the store or a social event, safety is always my first priority. Not just my safety but the safety of those I share the road with, whether they be fellow cyclists or drivers of automobiles.

When approaching an intersection I make sure to signal my turns in order to make my fellow road users aware of my intentions. When stopped at a light I always check the turning signal of the car behind me. If they’re turning right I move my bike off the curb lane into the middle of the street — the most dangerous place for a cyclist to be. We bike riders are notoriously slow off the bloke. By moving out of the curb lane I allow the automobile behind me to make their turn without having to wait for me to get out of the way. This means less waiting and more importantly less idling, which wastes fuel, a resource that grows more precious each day.

When traveling at night I sport lights on both the front and back of my bicycle. Reflectors work well for automobiles that are facing or following a bicycle, but vehicles approaching from the side might not notice me. My lights work on their own, letting other traveller’s know I’m coming.

I don’t have to do any of this. While I might technically be supposed to wear a helmet, I won’t get a ticket for not wearing one unless the police are really bored. My lights are my own expense. Nobody asks me to buy them or honks when I don’t signal properly. I do it because I want to.

I’m a cyclist. It’s my duty.

For the most part my fellow travelers are accommodating. I get no reward for what I do and I don’t want any. But though I do what I can to make sure I and those I share the road with stay safe, what does the city do for me? The answer is nothing.

Every day I take my bicycle onto the streets of Winnipeg I risk my life. Not because of cars or trucks but because of the roads themselves. Potholes, bumps, blisters, cracks, caves, I could list a dozen nouns to describe the plethora of obstacles I face in one city block, let alone my whole daily commute. Some of these obstacles are mere inconveniences, like the ridges between two imperfectly poured sections of asphalt. Others pose serious threats to my safety and the integrity of my bicycle. It is one such obstacle that has prompted me to write today.

It rests at the corner of River and Nassau, at the northern mouth of the north bound yield. The asphalt had been worn away to the reveal a concrete below and beyond that a deep fissure between where the concrete slabs join.

The crevice is no more than four inches at its widest, 20 long and at least six deep. To the average motor vehicle it means a bump in the road, a city truck wouldn’t even notice. But to me it is a ticking time bomb.

My homeward commute takes me right over this particular pothole. Every night as I ride home from my job at a local restaurant I wonder will this be the night?

Well, one night it was. I hit the pothole head on and now the rim of my rear wheel is bent. My primary mode of transportation has been damaged by something the city has failed to fix.

Now I will have to buy a new one. I am working to support myself and to go back to school. This expense, small as it may seem to some, is one I can’t really afford, and one that could easily have been avoided if the city took the needs of real cyclists seriously.

Mayor Sam Katz wants to spend millions on new “bike paths.” They are great for recreational cyclists but completely useless for people who use their bicycles every day. We are students, and lawyers, doctors and bankers, who commute to work or school. We don’t cycle because it’s cheap. It’s a choice, and our choice should be respected in the way the city chooses to maintain its streets. Spending millions to improve a cycling route that will benefit only a few? Why don’t they spend some of it to fix some of the obstacles in the downtown area that pose a serious threat to the safety of cyclists every day. I would be happy to give them a list.

Just because I have two wheels doesn’t mean I have fewer rights than someone with four.

Share the road

posted at July 24, 2008 16:52 (over 4 years ago)
July 24, 2008
Jeremy Hull, Bike to the Future’s Provincial Committee Director
Winnipeg Free Press letters

Re: Environmentalists use pedal power, July 19.

Mike Waite of the Manitoba Safety Council was quoted as saying bike taxis are “risky business” and went on to say that the city’s infrastructure “doesn’t support another mode of transportation that will slow us down and complicate the system even more.”

I understand his concern about safety but he seems to think that completely separate facilities are required before bicycle traffic can be safe. This is not true — what is needed are cyclists and drivers who know how to share the road, drive safely and respect each other’s right to be there. The Manitoba Safety Council could assist in this by offering courses for cyclists, along the lines of the Can-Bike program that has been adopted by the Canadian Cycling Association. And Manitoba Public Insurance could assist in this by providing more focus on how to share the road with cyclists in their driver education program. The reality is that increasing numbers of people travel by bicycle in Winnipeg, and that cyclists need to use city streets to get where they want to go.

We should be supporting the growth of cycling for environmental, health and economic reasons, and making it as safe as possible rather than discouraging cycling because we don’t have perfect infrastructure.

Bike group calls on MPI to improve cyclists’ road skills

posted at July 14, 2008 14:56 (over 4 years ago)
July 14, 2008
Wendy Sawatzky

Cycling advocates worry an increase in the number of riders on the road could translate into a higher toll of deaths and injuries among cyclists.

Officials with Bike to the Future say the lobby group’s surveys of major arteries into downtown Winnipeg suggest that more than 5,000 people commute by bicycle, an increase of 17 per cent over last year.

That meshes with Statistics Canada’s information from the 2006 census, which indicated 5,760 Winnipeggers commuted by bicycle in 2006.

Bike to the Future spokesman Dave Elmore said the increase is good news — but the problem is many of the new cyclists don’t know the rules of the road.

“People don’t see cycling education as being necessary. They’ve ridden them all their lives. They consider them to almost be a toy,” he said.

“We’re seeing a lot of cyclists who haven’t had a lot of experience, other than riding to the park with their kids, out there commuting back and forth and riding into downtown. And they don’t necessarily have the training or experience.”

No adult education available

Part of the problem, Elmore said, is that there is nowhere in Manitoba for adults to receive instruction or training.

The Canadian Cycling Association’s CAN-BIKE courses, which offer information on traffic safety, equipment, maintenance and riding skills for adults, are not currently offered in Manitoba, although Elmore said efforts are being made to revive the program here.

Elmore suggests Manitoba Public Insurance is responsible for road safety, and that perhaps the Crown vehicle insurance agency should help fill the void.

“It would make common sense that MPI would get involved in educating cyclists, because an educated cyclist would be a better cyclist and a safer cyclist, and that would reduce claims,” Elmore said.

An average of 180 cyclists are injured and two are killed on Manitoba roads every year, according to MPI. The corporation paid out $8.2 million in injury claims for cyclists hit by vehicles in 2006, a fourfold increase since 2002.

If MPI spent even a fraction of that amount on cyclist education, Elmore said, the number of injuries and deaths could be reduced.

MPI responsible for autos, not bicycles

But MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said the corporation’s mandate is automobile safety.

“Obviously we can’t be everything to everyone,” he said. “Cyclists need to remember that as the public automobile insurer, we are obligated to providing funding towards safety towards automobiles.”

Both Smiley and Elmore agreed that bicycles are vehicles and, as such, are legally obligated to obey the rules of the road.

“Cyclists are riding at night wearing dark clothing and not a light to be seen,” Smiley said. “That is not a safe situation. Many cyclists are driving down Portage Avenue, 7:30 in the morning, doing erratic lane changes. Now, again, that’s not a wise move. So a lot of the onus will lie with the cyclist.”

Despite the acknowledged problems, however, officials with Winnipeg police told CBC News they had not handed out a single ticket to a cyclist this year.

Two wheels are good

posted at June 23, 2008 00:33 (over 4 years ago)
June 20, 2008
Margo Goodhand

It’s Bike-To-Work day today, and if all went according to plan, I arrived at Mountain Avenue this morning on two wheels.

I know it’s not something to crow about; lots of people do it every day, but for me, it was a big step forward.

I tried it once two months ago and hated it.

For years, I’d dreamed about getting fit, saving gas money and being ecologically holy. For years, I’d envied my kids, who cycle to school six months of the year whether they like it or not.

It makes sense for busy people, I’d always argued — especially sedentary people who sit in front of screens or in meetings all day. Why drive to the gym before work to ride a stationary bike when you can ride a real bike to work and skip the gym altogether?

But reality has a way of ruining a perfectly good fantasy.

Reality last time started with a heart-stopping encounter on Portage Avenue with eight lanes of rush-hour traffic; up a bleak, rutted Wall Street to Notre Dame, then McPhillips, jostling for elbow room with cars going 60 kilometres an hour and faster; under a dark and pungent Logan Street underpass.

Every once in a while, just to make it a little more unpleasant, the unseasonably hot south wind whipped up the winter’s leftover road salt and crud and sandblasted it into my face.

All in all, it was an ugly ride.

I’ve cycled on holidays — in France, in the Netherlands and, last September, the family cycled Le P’tit Train du Nord — a fabulous 200-kilometre bike trail built on an abandoned train line that winds its way up to the Laurentians.

We saw hundreds of ruddy-faced, Lycraed cyclists speeding along that route and many more-laid-back folks out enjoying a short trek or a lunch-hour picnic.

These are urban bike trails, too, which bring hundreds of cyclists into the cities every day on wide, smooth asphalt or crushed gravel. Like Winnipeg’s expansive riverside bike trails, they are well-used and well-loved.

Montreal itself has more than 600 kilometres of bike trails. Winnipeg has about 100.

My kids think cycling is the only way to travel; close to the ground, slow enough to really see and smell and touch where you are. It seems to press more of the place you’re visiting into your bones.

Our holidays have often made me wish that the city would embrace its lovely flat terrain, show some vision and build a decent urban bike-trail system.

Yes, there are at least five months a year when cycling here is as much fun as toboganning in July, but if we celebrate winter with ice rinks and skating trails, why not embrace the summer in like-minded fashion?

Last week, I ran into an old friend who cycles yearround. She looked 10 years younger than the last time I’d seen her; lithe and fit and full of energy.

I told her I had tried to bike to work, but explained that my route was just too industrial and gritty.

She looked puzzled.

Apparently, she takes almost the same route north as I do, only it’s a whole lot farther — 30 kilometres in total from south Winnipeg to the Maples. And she loves it.

It took me a few days to figure out where I’d gone wrong. But today — and until city council builds a better commuter system for cyclists — I offer some hard-learned tips on how to get to work on a bike and not completely hate it.

Change your route. Forget about the congested urban thoroughfares. Take back roads and lanes. They’re more interesting, more fun, and a lot less scary.

Change your routine. I left earlier today to avoid the morning rush hour, and read the papers at the office, instead.

Change your perspective. This is not just exercise and it’s not just a commute. It’s both. So if it takes longer to get somewhere that’s a good thing.

Now if one person can be inspired by one person’s example, maybe city hall should take a look at the hundreds of shiny examples out there today on two wheels — and help Winnipeg change for the better, too.

Margo Goodhand is editor of the Free Press.

Bike-To-Work has commuters out and riding

posted at June 21, 2008 05:38 (over 4 years ago)
June 21, 2008
Will Tremain

Thousands leave cars at home

If you drove to work Friday you missed out on a chance to be part of history as part of Winnipeg’s first annual Bike-To-Work day.

The riding fest, organized by cycling advocacy groups including the Manitoba Cycling Association, Climate Change Connection, and the Winnipeg Trails Association, was in full swing Friday, with more than 2,200 cyclists counted at 10 stations around the city.

“We thought today’s impact was about a 70-per-cent increase,” said organizer Ron Brown Friday, thrilled by the jump based on estimates taken last year of the number of commuters who cycle.

One of the aims of Bike-To-Work day is to promote cycling as a viable transportation alternative to cars.

About one in seven of the roughly 2,000 registrants were new commuters who had never taken their bike to work, Brown said.

The bike-promoting groups also lobby for a “connected route system” — trails or road — and support from workplaces such as providing secure bike-locking areas and change rooms, Brown said.

At The Forks market, cyclists parked their bikes with a valet and enjoyed a breakfast of pancakes and fruit to the sounds of the Garfield Street Strings cello quintet.

Cellist Eleanor Thompson arrived at The Forks on her bike with her fullsized cello strapped to her back. She gets around the city on two wheels this way except in the winter. Thompson’s idea for promoting city cycling is one gleaned from Europe.

“In Vienna, they have these big sidewalks just like we do down Portage Avenue,” Thompson said. “And they’ve divide it into two. And half of it is pedestrian, and the other half is bicycle.”

Across the city, volunteers greeted cyclists at 12 “energy stations”, distributing T-shirts and counting the number of cyclists coming through.

“It was a great morning, actually,” said MLA Jennifer Howard, who admitted biking was a bit beyond her abilities but said she’d wanted to help out at the Osborne St. station.

Volunteers counted a total of 276 bicycles passing the pit-stop, with their tallying cut off at 8:30 a.m.

“Everyone was very appreciative,” said Vico Fabbri, offering free water from Culligan at the pit-stop.

The event cost around $30,000, Brown said, with corporate sponsorship from about 40 different companies, and involved about 75 volunteers.

“It’ll take people out of their cars and make them see how easy it is to bike to work,” said Wilderness Supply employee Katrina Rosen. The company’s entire workforce is registered for the event, Rosen said.

A police spokesperson said they recorded only one bicycle accident yesterday — a bike-car crash, apparently after which the cyclist refused treatment, and no one remained on the scene to report to police.

Police could not comment on whether they were doing extra monitoring of traffic due to Bike-To-Work day.

Some bike-to-work cyclists are in for long commutes. A colleague of Rosen rides in from outside the Perimeter highway, she said. And Mike Caslor, 31, pedals infrom Portage La Prairie about twice a week, a trek of 86 km each way. Caslor, vice-president of the Manitoba Cycling Association, has done the bike commute for about the last three years.

“I think people underestimate what they’re capable of,” Caslor said of people’s ability to bike to work. “Start small and then build modestly.”

With files from Lindsey Wiebe


Thousands bike to work

posted at June 20, 2008 00:30 (over 4 years ago)
June 20, 2008
Will Tremain

They are coming from far and wide, propelled by leg-power alone.

Winnipeg’s first annual bike-to-work day is in full swing today, with more than 2,000 cyclists registered, said organizer Ron Brown.

The riding-fest aims to promote cycling as a viable transportation alternative to cars.

At The Forks market, cyclists parked their bikes with a valet and enjoyed a pancake breakfast to the sounds of a string quintet. Twelve “energy stations” are also greeting cyclists at other points across the city, distributing T-shirts and counting the number of cyclists coming through.

“It’ll take people out of their cars and make them see how easy it is to bike to work,” said Wilderness Supply employee Katrina Rosen. The company’s entire workforce is registered for the event.

Time to rethink our auto obsession

posted at June 11, 2008 00:38 (over 4 years ago)
June 05, 2008
Marlo Campbell
Canstar Community News

This week, thousands of Manitobans have been leaving their cars at home as part of the Commuter Challenge ­ a week-long initiative that began June 1 and continues until June 7.

Coordinated locally by Resource Conservation Manitoba, the challenge runs in conjunction with Canadian Environment Week (yes, there is such a thing) and encourages people to find alternative ways to get to work or school.

It¹s a well-meaning endeavour for all the obvious reasons. Transportation accounts for a significant portion of Manitoba¹s greenhouse gas emissions — in 2005, it represented 37% of our overall total — which means that driving a car is one of the main ways individual citizens contribute to climate change and that, conversely, not driving a car is one of the main ways us regular folks can be a part of the solution.

There are other negatives associated with car use, too: air pollution, traffic congestion, excess wear and tear on our city¹s existing (and already crumbling) infrastructure, and a reduction in the amount of physical activity within our daily routines, just to name a few.

Last year, 12,881 people from more than 250 workplaces and schools across the province participated in the Commuter Challenge. Collectively, they prevented about 154 tonnes of GHG emissions from entering the atmosphere — a noteworthy success, to be sure, and an encouraging sign — particularly here in Winnipeg, a city that, historically, has been less than enthusiastic to embrace alternative transportation as a viable concept. (See: the kiboshing of rapid transit in 2004; the two years of foot-dragging prior to the adoption of our active transportation study last summer; and the lack of investment in commuter cycling infrastructure such as on-road bike lanes.)

Clearly, those attitudes are definitely changing. But, while the city may now be more willing to endorse drive-less initiatives such as the Commuter Challenge or the upcoming Bike to Work Day on June 20, and while increasing numbers of people may be more willing to participate in them, the fact remains that we citizens have yet to abandon our cars en masse.

This could be because the decks appear to be stacked against us. Our city is spread out, our current transit system is painfully slow and frequently inadequate, and prolonged bouts of freezing weather makes the idea of year-round cycling daunting, to say the least.

Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that our reluctance to change our behaviours has more to do with our unwillingness to inconvenience ourselves. We like our cars, we like the freedom they give us to get around quickly and with minimal effort, and we¹re just not prepared to sacrifice that — even if we know we should; even if soaring gas prices have added a financial incentive to do so.

So what will it take for us to change our driving habits once and for all? What¹s the tipping point at which we finally say enough is enough — and are we close to reaching it?

E-mail me at marlo.campbell@uptownmag.com and let me know your thoughts. Are you driving less nowadays — or are you just feeling guiltier?

Sharrows aim to help drivers and cyclists share the road

posted at June 01, 2008 09:07 (over 4 years ago)
May 28, 2008
CBC News

New bicycle lanes are being painted on more than a half a dozen busy traffic routes throughout Winnipeg.

The new lines create “sharrows,” or narrow lanes demarcated on existing streets; it’s hoped they’ll help ease tension between cyclists and motorists, who often feel like rivals for space on the roads.

“It’s going to increase the awareness of drivers to share the road with cyclists, and … it’ll increase the awareness for cyclists, you know, to stay where the sharrows are,” said Janice Lukes of the city’s active transportation advisory committee.

Since the new lanes are on seven busy streets, most of the people who will use them will be experienced cyclists, Lukes said. She hopes the sharrows lead the city to take more steps to become more cycling-friendly.

“It’s an absolutely huge first step, from nothing to this — and then it’s only a matter of time where you’re going to have more families [who] want separated lanes,” she said.

“I do believe that the will of the government is there to where eventually we’ll see that, maybe in the next two years. It wouldn’t surprise me.”

The city set aside $100,000 in the 2008 capital budget for the sharrow initiative.

The lanes, accompanied by signs urging motorists and cyclists to “share the road,” will appear on:

Higgins Avenue. Roblin Boulevard. Grant Avenue. Regent Avenue. Plessis Road. Dakota Street. Dunkirk Drive.

Winnipeg is made for bikes and bike lanes

posted at May 15, 2008 09:00 (over 4 years ago)
May 15, 2008
Nicholas Hirst — View From The West

Winnipeg’s and Manitoba’s economies appear more robust than they have for many years. As the nation’s labour force stagnates, Manitoba’s continues to grow. Houses continue to sell at more than their asking price and, while spring always makes Winnipeggers feel better, there is a sense of optimism in the air.

This optimism and growth needs sustaining. To do so, the province and the city need to become truly innovative. We need the image of our city to be such that it becomes a magnet for people because it is ahead of the curve. We need to make ourselves one of the most creative places to do business in Canada. As Minneapolis has dubbed itself, Winnipeg needs to be “one cool city.”

How would we do that?

Not so much by big moves but by small gestures. The big moves are developments like the human rights museum. That’s going to be a huge attraction adding to the perception that Winnipeg is a city to live in. Other developments have created a cool image for us — the Louis Riel bridge is one, the continuing success of our arts and culture is another.

But it is smaller, non-institutional developments that often really turn the image of city — its restaurants, clubs, a digital movie theatre, a new festival, a new feeling.

The best innovation of this type builds on natural advantages — winter skating on the Assiniboine is an example — next year we should get Starbucks to provide stops along route. The restaurants and open spaces and access to the rivers at The Forks are another.

The water buses are way cool.

In an environment where gas is more expensive than it has ever been and a barrel of oil worth four times what it was a couple of years ago, anything that looks like an answer to the looming energy crisis is worth its weight in image gold.

Winnipeg has one key advantage that seems almost to be forgotten about. It’s flat. That’s why it once had streetcars. Bringing streetcars back would be innovative but is a big ticket item, not one of the smaller gestures that can bring as much notice.

Our city has the ideal typography for bicycling. Not just bicycling for recreation along the four designated streets closed to cars in May for the weekend, but bicycling to get to work, visit your friends and run easy errands. Despite an active lobby to encourage commuter bicycling and the city promise of $500,000 for biking and walking trails, true commuter bike paths and lanes are few if not non-existent.

There are signs for biking on lesser used roads, but not bike lanes to go with them.

Why not?

The last place I lived that was as flat as Winnipeg was on the Plain of Holderness in England. The city was Hull and you couldn’t move for bikes.

Commuter bike lanes in Winnipeg would do all kinds of good, at least in the summer. It would encourage a healthier lifestyle, reduce the number of cars on the road and save energy.

In other cities, kids too young to drive and too poor to own cars bike to see their friends, to school and to university. Who in their right mind would bike down Waverley or Pembina at rush hour? With bike lanes, it would be possible.

Winnipeg could also follow Washington D.C. and create a public-private partnership to rent bikes by the hour similar to the Zipcar and Autoshare plans I recently wrote about.

Why not combine the two?

A city that is serious about combating its energy usage takes easy routes to get cars off the road. That has to start somewhere and it is unlikely to get going without a public commitment.

So, Mr. Mayor and city council, get going. Create bike lanes for children and commuters. Get in touch with the bike shops and bicycle lobbyists to set up a bike-sharing scheme. Try a pilot plan with bikes located behind the barriers at Portage and Main and at The Forks.

Combine the bike-sharing scheme with a car-sharing scheme.

Recreational biking is fine. But in Winnipeg, it often means taking your bike on a rack on your car to where the recreational trails start.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

An innovative city sees its natural advantages and takes small measures for big gains. Designated bike lanes and bike and car sharing — maybe working together — are the types of innovation that would get our city talked about and put it ahead of the curve. Will we do it? If not, why not?

Nicholas Hirst is CEO of Winnipeg-based television and film producer Original Pictures Inc.

(c) 2008 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.

He’s a trailblazer for cyclists (Anders Swanson)

posted at May 10, 2008 08:13 (over 4 years ago)
May 10, 2008
Erin Madden

Founder of One Green City gets things done

He could easily be one of Winnipeg’s busiest volunteers, donating his time to more organizations and committees than he can count on his fingers.

Thirty-year old Anders Swanson is dedicated to helping Winnipeg become a greener city by improving the cycling network, with more trails, safer lanes on roads and maps that will get beginner cyclists and veteran cycling commuters alike, from point A to point B.

The Mayor’s Environmental Committee, the City of Winnipeg’s Active Transportation Committee, Bike to the Future, BIZ Transportation Committee, and the Winnipeg Trails Association are just a few of the groups he’s involved with. In addition, he helped form the North Winnipeg Commuter Cyclists, the West Central Commuter Cyclists and was the founder of One Green City — a service which liaises cycling groups and encourages them to connect.

“I am essentially volunteering with as many cycling related committees and volunteer groups throughout the city as I can to try to bring them together around the idea of building a comprehensive network of cycling routes,” said Swanson, a Corydon Village resident who hasn’t owned a car for more than five years. “I really felt I understood why people weren’t cycling. I wanted to address the reasons that they weren’t rather than just telling them to.”

His hard work is paying off. Since he became involved just a few years ago, progress has already been made with a $600,000 commitment from the city budget now dedicated to building a trail infrastructure and the creation of the Northwest Pioneers Greenway.

He said that with a larger budget dedicated to the issue, cyclists will be safer and the tensions between motorists and those riding bicycles will be lessened.

“The more cyclists you have out and the more cycling infrastructure there is, the less people get hurt,” explained Swanson, who works as a bike mechanic at Natural Cycle. “I think the key is reducing conflict. I don’t drive now, but as a driver I was scared of hitting cyclists. It’s stressful.”

Janice Lukes, co-ordinator for the Winnipeg Trails Association, said the work done by Swanson for her organization and the many others he volunteers for, has been nothing short of amazing.

“I have been involved in trail development since 2001 and have met a ton of volunteers, all passionate, all motivational,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Winnipeg Free Press. “But Anders Swanson’s commitment, dedication and passion to help others embrace the bicycle as a means of transportation and source of recreation is simply unprecedented. I know many of the trail and cycling organizations in Winnipeg would agree that Anders has been instrumental in helping secure more trails and bike pathways for Winnipeggers!”

For more information about the work done by Swanson, visit www.onegreencity.com. To learn more about the Winnipeg Trails Association, visit www.winnipegtrails.com.

If you know a special volunteer who strives to make their community a better place to live, please contact Erin Madden at erinmadden@shaw.ca.

Bike to the job June 20, Katz urges

posted at May 10, 2008 06:00 (over 4 years ago)
May 10, 2008
Bartley Kives

Mayor Sam Katz predicts the first day of summer will be a nice day to get on a bicycle.

The mayor has proclaimed Friday, June 20 “Bike To Work Day” in an effort to persuade more Winnipeggers to leave their carbon dioxide-spewing cars at home.

“You may wish to know that spandex is not required,” the mayor joked Friday as he encouraged all 16 members of city council, 9,000 city employees and all 660,000 Winnipeg residents to commute on two wheels instead of four.

So far, Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert), Gord Steeves (St. Vital), Scott Fielding (St. James), Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge), Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) have pledged to ride to work on June 20.

Bike To Work Day is entirely separate from the weeklong Commuter Challenge issued every June by Resource Conservation Manitoba, a non-governmental lobby group. This year’s challenge, which implores Winnipeggers to commute by any means other than single-occupancy cars, takes place June 1-7.

The non-profit organization supports the mayor’s efforts and is not concerned people will confuse Bike To Work Day with the Commuter Challenge.

“We look at it as another thing to do after the challenge,” said Sara Perlmutter, who co-ordinates the seven-day event for RCM. “The challenge is great, but it’s only one week.”

Other non-profit organizations supporting the civic event include the Manitoba Cycling Association, Climate Change Connection, the Winnipeg Trails Association and Bike To The Future.


City spending $3M on bike paths — New lanes to serve cyclists, pedestrians

posted at April 26, 2008 19:38 (over 4 years ago)
April 26, 2008
Bartley Kives
Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg will spend more than $3 million this year to create 70 kilometres of new bike-and-pedestrian paths and bike lanes in an effort to make the city easier to navigate for commuters who don’t use cars.

Asphalt and limestone-covered trails will be completed in North Kildonan, Charleswood, St. Vital, Fort Garry and Fort Rouge, new bike lanes will appear downtown and bike corridors will be created on inner-city streets in 2008, according to a trail-creation plan presented to city councillors on Friday.

Two years of grassroots activism by organized cycling groups — as well as the rising price of gasoline and the high cost of maintaining conventional roadways — helped convince politicians of the need to beef up the city’s trail-creation budget.

“I’m not one to go ‘rah-rah city,’ but this is great,” said Janice Lukes, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association. “People are speaking up and elected officials– who like to get elected — are listening.”

In 2006, Winnipeg devoted $200,000 to trail creation. The trail-building budget increased to $1.5 million in 2007 and now stands at $2.56 million for dedicated paths for bikes and pedestrians, plus $600,000 for shared spaces for bikes and cars on existing roads.

By the end of the year, Winnipeg will have 190 kilometres of dedicated paths and shared bike corridors. The city’s existing trail network of 120 kilometres has long been derided as inadequate by commuter and recreational cyclists alike.

“This is long overdue. We’re still behind other cities, but we’re starting to catch up,” said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz.

All new city roads and bridges will include lanes for cyclists and pedestrians, the mayor said.

But the greater challenge lies in connecting Winnipeg’s existing patchwork of trails, especially in older neighbourhoods where it’s difficult to acquire land, said Kevin Nixon, the city’s active-transportation co-ordinator.

To that end, Nixon said, this year’s Active Transportation plan is primarily aimed at eliminating commuter-cycling “choke points” such as the Osborne Street underpass south of Confusion Corner, which can soon be avoided by a new 1.5-kilometre connection to the Red River.

New signs funded by the city and the Winnipeg Trails Association will help cyclists find the new routes, he said.

The trail-creation plan was hammered out over six months at dozens of meetings involving hundreds of volunteers who belong to trail-building organizations as well as lobby groups such as Bike To The Future and the Manitoba Cycling Association.

“The city is going in the right direction,” said Kevin Miller, Bike To The Future’s co-chair. “We hope to see the momentum carried through in following years, until Winnipeg reaches the level of bicycle infrastructure that other Canadian cities already have.”

The Active Transportation plan does not, however, address the largest issue looming in Winnipeg’s transportation future: The need to develop some form of rapid-transit corridor parallel to Pembina Highway.

The volunteers who hammered out the trail-creation plan actually listed the southwest Winnipeg corridor as the city’s top trail priority, but the city has neither the money to create the busway that would make it possible — or the land-use deals in place with CN Rail.

The first leg of that busway, from downtown to Jubilee Avenue, would cost $70 million. The city and the province are still deciding whether to devote $17.9 million of new federal transportation dollars toward the corridor.

“If there is a busway, there will be a bike path,” said Katz, who personally prefers light-rail transit but does not believe Winnipeg can afford it.

A decision about how to spend the federal transportation kitty will be made before the end of July, the mayor said.


Happy trails to you

The City of Winnipeg plans to spend $2.58 million on bike and pedestrian paths in 2008, plus $600,000 on active-transportation corridors where cyclists will share roads with motor vehicles. Here’s where the money will be spent:

Dedicated trails for bikes and redestrians

Northeast Pioneers Greenway (Phase II)

Six more kilometres of this North Kildonan commuter trail will be completed between Knowles Avenue and Springfield Road. Pricetag: $500,000

Harte Trail

Packed gravel surface to be completed on this 12-kilometre trail south of the Assiniboine Forest, between Shaftesbury Boulevard and Elmhurst Road. Pricetag: $250,000

Bishop Grandin Greenway

Asphalt paths alongside Bishop Grandin Boulevard will link St. Vital Centre to St. Vital Park and the University of Manitoba. Pricetag: $900,000

WinSmart Pathway

A 1.5-kilometre path connecting the Red River to Osborne Street, allowing cyclists to avoid the Osborne Underpass south of Confusion Corner. Pricetag: $150,000

Southpoint Pathway

A two-kilometre asphalt path connecting the Lord Roberts neighbourhood to The Forks. Pricetag: $400,000

On-street improvements


Extra-wide lanes will allow bikes and cars to share portions of major commuter routes, including portions of Higgins Avenue, Roblin Boulevard, Grant Avenue, Regent Avenue, Plessis Road, Dakota Street and Dunkirk Drive. Pricetag: $50,000

East-west bike boulevards

Portions of Assiniboine Avenue, Elgin Avenue, Pacific Avenue and Alexander Avenue will be modified to encourage cycling and discourage automobile traffic. Pricetag: $550,000, including bike lanes (below)

Downtown bike lanes

New bike lanes on Carlton, Hargrave, Fort and Garry Streets are designed to make it easier for cyclists to navigate downtown. Pricetag: $550,000, including bike boulevards (above)

Other Projects

Trail signage

New, consistent signs for all Winnipeg trails. Pricetag: $80,000

North Winnipeg Parkway

Completing a study on how to complete a 10-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Trail along the Red River between Alfred Avenue and St. John’s Park. Pricetag: $50,000

Opportunity for rapid transit, bike paths, and more

posted at April 11, 2008 08:54 (over 4 years ago)
April 09, 2008
Councillor Jenny Gerbasi and Councillor Mike Pagtakhan
Winnipeg Free Press editorial

The federal government has announced that $17.9 million from the new Transit Fund is committed for Manitoba, creating a new window of opportunity to start building a rapid transit system for Winnipeg.

The federal government has said that the money must be used to implement the 2005 Rapid Transit Task Force recommendations (designated busways, other transit improvements) and/or bike paths.

The ball is now firmly in the court of the city and the province to decide how the money will be spent.

What isn’t clear yet is whether this new federal cash infusion will go towards finally getting started on rapid transit for Winnipeg.

This window of opportunity could be lost if the funds are spent on replacement busses or recreational bike trails which may not even be located in the City of Winnipeg.

A key recommendation of the Mayor’s Rapid Transit Task Force was to build designated busways starting with downtown to the University of Manitoba and also the eastern corridor.

Phase One of the busway would cut off nine to 10 minutes of travel time going from downtown to Jubilee, bypassing congestion on the Donald Street Bridge, in Osborne Village and at Confusion Corner.

Over $100 million of infill housing development would be stimulated in the Fort Rouge Yards where existing schools, recreational facilities and infrastructure are in place. The economic benefit of compact, sustainable infill development clearly brings both financial and environmental benefit.

Not everyone is aware that it has always been part of the bus rapid transit plan that true commuter bike lanes would be built alongside the transit bus ways.

Building BRT from downtown and ultimately to the University of Manitoba achieves both the goals of high-speed transit and of safe commuter cycling.

There are huge cost savings to be found by building commuter bike paths in conjunction with the bus way using railway lands.

In the case of the south corridor, trying to build a commuter bike path apart from the transit project requires taking away lanes of traffic on Pembina Highway, costs more and would do nothing to improve transit service.

The amount of these new federal funds that go to the City of Winnipeg is based on transit ridership which gives Winnipeg most of the money if the money is used for transit. However, if the money is used for recreational trails, the projects and the dollars could go anywhere in the province.

Focusing on a transit-related project gives Winnipeg a better deal.

There are, in fact, financing options that would make building rapid transit doable.

The cost of BRT from downtown to Jubilee is about $70 million, up from the $43 million it was in 2004. The longer it takes Winnipeg to get started on rapid transit, the more it will cost.

Assuming the federal funds are designated for BRT, the province and the city would need to each find $26 million to build the first phase of BRT from downtown to Jubilee.

Capital projects are usually built by financing them over 20 or 30 years. That is how the Chief Peguis Trail, the Disraeli Bridge and the widening of McGillivray Boulevard will be financed.

The new rapid transit reserve fund of $2.7 million that was established in the city budget should be used to fund capital investment in rapid transit.

One scenario could involve the province matching the city’s contribution to the reserve fund each year. The fund could be used to pay the financing charges over a number of years, just as we do with our other capital projects.

The announcement of the new federal money is the perfect opportunity to get rapid transit back on track. The longer we wait to get started, the higher the costs of construction will be.

The price of gas will continue to rise. Greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced. A rapid transit system benefits all Winnipeggers by reducing traffic congestion and providing an environmentally friendlier, quick and reliable alternative mode of transportation

Winnipeg, our capital city, has an opportunity to be a leader and to plan for the future in a changing world.

There are ways to make this work if the mayor and the premier have the political will to make it happen.

Councillors Jenny Gerbasi and Mike Pagtakhan were members of the Mayor’s Rapid Transit Task Force.

Active Transportation alternatives mentioned in the Bishop Grandin Bridge construction notice

posted at March 29, 2008 01:12 (over 4 years ago)
March 29, 2008

“The Public Works Department will be promoting active transportation options such as commuter cycling alternatives during the bridge closure. A sidewalk over the bridges and pedestrian and cycling connections to it will be maintained throughout the rehabilitation of the bridges. In addition, pedestrian and cycling routes that connect to the bridge, transit options, and cycling networks to downtown will be identified.”

Good news for cyclists

posted at December 12, 2007 20:46 (over 5 years ago)
December 12, 2007
Bartley Kives
Winnipeg Free Press

Cyclists are continuing to find excellent traction at City Hall, where Mayor Sam Katz’s cabinet has found another $500,000 to spend on bike corridors next year. Earlier this year, lobbying efforts by cycling and walking-trail groups helped convince the city to name planner Kevin Nixon the city’s first active-transportation co-ordinator, a new full-time position devoted to creating and connecting trails.

Then over the past two weeks, cycling and trail groups appeared before city council subcommittees to request more spending on commuter trails, stressing not just the environmental and health benefits, but the potential cost savings from reduced motor-vehicle wear-and-tear on roads.

While the 2008 capital budget already called for $1.5 million worth of spending on trails, council’s executive policy committee passed a budget amendment today calling for an additional $500,000 to be devoted to new active-transportation corridors.

The money will not flow until March, when Nixon is expected to complete a trail-creation report. But Katz said Nixon will need some money to work with once his plans are in place. “We all know we lag far behind the rest of Canada, if you take a look at the cycling infrastructure in other cities. We’re catching up, but we need to do more,” Katz said.

As recently as 2006, Winnipeg spent approximately $200,000 a year on trails. In 2007, that figure was increased to $1.5 million, with most of the money consumed by the creation of the Northeast Pioneers Greenway, the new commuter trail in East and North Kildonan.

The 2008 capital budget and six-year spending forecast calls for $1.5 million on spending to build new walkways and bike paths every year until 2013. The additional $500,000 announced on Wednesday is devoted to corridors, which could include new trails as well as new bike lanes on existing roads or more extra-wide curb lanes designed to be shared by cars and cyclists.

“The trails budget is useful for cyclists, but ultimately people start on the road,” said Anders Swanson, project co-ordinator for volunteer trail-advocacy group One Green City.

On Monday, a presentation by Swanson helped convince Katz’s cabinet to find a little extra cash in the tight capital budget.

“I’m not surprised. This is going to be very popular. With the price of gas, concerns about the environment and health issues like obesity and asthma, more and more people are cycling,” Swanson said.

In other capital budget amendments, EPC bumped up the city-wide accessibility program by $100,000, which means Winnipeg will spend $350,000 next year on the likes of new wheelchair ramps and curb cuts.

But EPC also cancelled a Public Works amendment that would have seen Panet Road and Molson Street added to the list of regional roads slated for improvements in 2008.

City council will debate the 2008 capital budget during a special session on Dec. 18.

Cycling and consensus with Bike to the Future

posted at October 17, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
October 17, 2007
Brendan Cathcart and Staff
The Manitoban

“A sense grows that the electorate as a whole is defenseless against the leviathan state,” writes Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor in his book The Ethics of Authenticity. “A well-organized and integrated partial grouping may, indeed, be able to make a dent, but the idea that the majority of the people might frame and carry through a common project comes to seem utopian and naive. So people give up.”

Referring to the general malaise experienced by many living in Western democracies, Taylor points out that the common people feel detached from the processes whereby any meaningful action or change can take place in their societies. Rather than moping around like pessimistic teenagers, suggesting we should burn the system down, he insists instead that we should get active and bring the system back to life. This is exactly what happened this past Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Bulman Centre at the University of Winnipeg, where members of the cycling advocacy group Bike to the Future met to flex their socially concerned muscles at their second annual forum, “From Imagination to Creation: The Future of Cycling in Winnipeg.”

Forum organizer Molly McCracken urged the over 200 cyclists gathered to speak up, take action, and make the city of Winnipeg a better place for cycling. “All of the knowledge is here in this room,” she said, “and all of the right people are here in this room, so we have a lot of experience and knowledge because we ride our bikes and we know what it’s like, so we can do it.” With these confident, democracy-rousing words, the group split up into smaller groups according to area of specialization or interest to hash out the specifics.

To hope that such a small group of people could affect change could be called naive, but considering the concrete results of last year’s forum, the word “ambitious” is much more fitting, no irony attached. Bike to the Future outlined some of the key successes in a press release earlier this month: “the city hired an Active Transportation Co-ordinator … we expanded our trail systems … and new zoning bylaws require bike racks in parking lots.” Funding for trails also jumped this year from $200,000 to $1.7 million. Far from naivet�, it is informed optimism that set the goal for this year’s forum, which was “to celebrate advances and explore options to create a future Winnipeg as a great cycling city.”

To be sure, what happened at this event must happen elsewhere, but it was my first real experience of participatory democracy. While casting a vote in federal and provincial elections is technically referred to as participating in a democracy, it is nonetheless a very hands-off process with a very limited number of choices that doesn’t seem to have much to do with me beyond placing a checkmark inside a box. The process at the forum was quite different and much more involved.

Participants split up into groups under broad category headings such as “Safety and Education,” “Civic Issues,” “Bikes and Police,” “Sharing the Road,” and “Mapping Galore.” This is when participants could voice individual concerns and ideas which ranged from “how to prevent death while riding on ice” and “there’s nowhere to lock my bike when I go to the salon on Academy” to “but I like going through stop signs” (that one was mine) and “drivers need to know that bikers are not as soft and durable as pillows.” Everyone willing to speak was listened to, suggestions, ideas, and concerns were written down and then at the end of the small group sessions the top issues with greatest consensus were compiled and presented back to the entire gathering so that the group as a whole would know what they were about. Findings and recommendations are going to be presented to city council later this year.

Karin Kliewer, membership co-ordinator and city planning grad student, talked to me about the importance of consensus building in working for social change, but was realistic about the speed at which that sometimes happens. Citing an example given by one of her professors about the Quakers, she said: “They do everything by consensus building and it took them 90 years to build consensus that they were against slavery. Even then they were way ahead of actual thought at the time. But when they had finally built that consensus, they came out so strong and were such an active voice for it. So I think that groups like Bike to the Future, when we can slowly build a critical body, a critical mass, I think that’s what will make the most difference.”

Though the group still seems small, they’ve already accomplished quite a lot, and the larger critical body is actively growing. When the forum opened at 7 p.m., Bike to the Future had 175 members. When they shut down at 9:30 p.m., it was announced that membership had surpassed the 200 mark. Despite the obvious successes, Karin still emphasized that significant progress and growing membership does not automatically guarantee that the city will continue moving forward based on the recommendations of Bike to the Future, nor even on the recommendations of city planners. The final decisions end up being entirely in the hands of politicians.

But just because the final say is technically out of the people’s hands, it does not mean that if a recommendation gets blocked people should give up and fall back into the apathy Charles Taylor describes. Politicians are supposed to represent the voice of the people and they can only do so if the people keep speaking loud enough to be heard, which is exactly what Bike to the Future is doing. Bolstering the confidence and resolve of the participants during an intermission at the forum, the Purple Pirate, children’s performer and bicycling advocate, wore bright spandex and rhymed, “Expecting I was to peddle alone, all 900 kilometres away from home, people said, ‘Not possible, to peddle that far without a car.’ But I knew I could do it, I could see it in my mind. I trained for it daily and then I would find that people can talk only about what they know. People say, ‘There are places you can’t go, it isn’t possible, you can’t do it.’ But I know better. I plan to prove it.”

A vicious cycle

posted at October 06, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
October 06, 2007
Winnipeg Free Press

It’s not just your handlebars you take in your hands when you get on your bicycle, but your life.

Last month was a particularly bad time to be a cyclist in the city.

During little more than a week, five cyclists were injured after tangling with vehicles. A Free Press carrier suffered fractures to her nose and jaw and a broken leg after being struck head-on by a car. A 16-year-old was treated for minor injuries after being hit, smashing the car’s windshield. A 46-year-old broke an ankle after being hit by a motorist.

This past Monday, a 17-year-old was virtually uninjured after a Winnipeg Transit bus struck her and dragged her underneath the vehicle about 12 metres.

But last week, a 20-year-old bicyclist died from injuries after being struck by a car in an isolated area of Transcona while on his way to work.

The spate of collisions comes at a time when the city is beginning to greatly increase the number of kilometres of bike trails. After years of slowly putting in place features to help cyclists, earlier this year the city boosted its annual trail-creation budget from about $200,000 to $1.7 million.

Last month, this money resulted in the opening of Phase 1 of the Northeast Pioneers Greenway along a portion of the former CPR Marconi Line from Springfield Road south to Herbert Avenue. The city is also putting in bike trails beside Bishop Grandin and McGillivray boulevards.

The city has also appointed a civic bureaucrat as its first active transportation co-ordinator to set up a committee to advise on trails and to help plan new ones. But because so many bicyclists were recently hurt, the Free Press asked some key people their views on the state of bicycles and cycling in the city and what can be done to make things safer.

Kevin Miller, Co-chairman of Bike to the Future, a group representing the city’s cyclists:

Miller said every bicyclist needs to be armed with skill and knowledge before venturing out on the city’s streets.

He said that’s why his group, which wants to make cycling safe in the city, is setting up a bike-riding safety program here.

“It’s true — and motorists say it all the time — there are yahoo cyclists out there and that’s a problem.”

Miller said his group — which is holding a forum about the future of cycling in the city at the University of Winnipeg’s Bulman Student Centre on Oct. 11 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. — is also meeting with the province to try adding bike safety to the education curriculum as they have in British Columbia.

But Miller said bicyclists also need to be supported and that’s where the city comes in.

“The city’s street system is designed to take motorists. To a great extent, transportation corridors like Pembina and Henderson fail cyclists.”

Miller said when the city renovates its aging streets, it will include improvements designed for bikes, such as bike lanes. But, he said, sometimes the city has to be reminded, so his group makes sure it has members advising on the projects.

“We want it to get to the point that any time a street is done, the active transportation co-ordinator has to sign off on it before it goes ahead,” he said. “Collisions will always occur, but hopefully they can be minimized.”

Miller said the city’s appointing of Kevin Nixon as the city’s active transportation co-ordinator is a good sign.

“That is the most profound action the city has ever done to recognize bicycling is a legitimate type of transportation,” he said.

On that note…

Brian Smiley, Manitoba Public Insurance:

Because Autopac is the insurer that has to pay out when a bicyclist is injured, it’s in their best interests to provide safety tips to riders.

Smiley said that’s why the insurer provides bicycle rodeos for children where they are provided with safety tips, including proper hand signals and rules of the road.

“One of the biggest tips is obeying the rules of the road,” he said. “Follow stop signs and signals. And cyclists need to be very visible. You have to have a flashing light on your helmet or the back of your waist. You need very bright clothing.”

Smiley said when bicyclists are injured by a motorist, whether or not they are at fault, MPI can assist them in several ways, including income replacement if they lose time from work or replacing broken glasses.

“If the bicyclist was not at fault, we will replace the bicycle, minus depreciation,” he said.

Smiley said MPI will even pay out a benefit if the bicyclist is fatally injured.

Kevin Nixon, The city’s active transportation co-ordinator:

Nixon said his role during his two-year secondment from the planning department is to focus on pedestrians, rollerbladers, skateboarders, and bicyclists. During that time, besides an advisory committee being set up, a detailed action plan with time-frames will be set up for trails and other bike needs through the city.

Nixon said most potential bike projects are still in the proposal stage, but next year the city will be looking at constructing the bike-trail portion of WinSmart from The Forks to the Jubilee underpass.

“It’s a very green thing to do,” he said. “It reduces greenhouse gases. It increases peoples’ health.

“And safety is a big issue.”

Nixon knows of what he speaks. He is an avid cyclist himself and while he might drive to work, most of the time his bike is in his trunk.

“Twenty years ago I bicycled to the University of Manitoba. A study has found that there is a cusp population that would cycle and walk to work if things were a bit different. We’re trying to improve things that bit to get them to bicycle and walk.”

Const Clyde Raven, Winnipeg Police Service:

Raven, who just completed his fourth year as part of the force’s bike patrol unit, said he sees first-hand in front of his handlebars the interactions between bicyclists and motorists.

“Even we, as police officers, have to be very vigilant,” Raven said. “Motorists don’t give us a wide berth. Each summer, two or three times, I’m almost killed. Motorists just don’t see cyclists and motorcycles.”

Raven said many cyclists who are ticketed for riding on sidewalks can’t believe it is against the law. The officers handed out about 100 tickets for bicycle infractions this year, out of a total of 2,000 offence notices issued for various offences. Under the Highway Traffic Act, it is illegal for bicycles with wheel diameters bigger than 16 inches (32 centimetres) to be ridden on a sidewalk.

“Every summer we get an old lady picked off by someone on a bike,” he said.

“Everyone says it’s too dangerous to ride on the road. Can it be dangerous? Yes, it can be, but what contributes to that? I think cyclists have a bad reputation and I think that’s because many don’t follow the rules of the road.

“Anybody breaking the law is giving all cyclists a bad name. If everyone followed the law, the public would learn to respect cyclists and give the cyclist a wide berth the next time they go by.”

Raven said on the positive side, the unit did hand out more than 120 envelopes filled with $25 worth of Canadian Tire dollars to bicyclists they spotted following all the laws this summer.

And as for infrastructure, Raven, having pedalled through San Francisco last month during a fundraiser by several officers for the Children’s Wish Foundation, said he appreciated the marking of a bike lane on major traffic routes through that city.

“The big, thick, white line on the pavement isn’t a physical barrier, but it feels like it makes you safer,” he said.

Ken Allen, Spokesman for Winnipeg Transit:

Allen said the city came up with a program to allow bicyclists to put their bikes on racks at the front of the vehicle and hop on the bus in 1999.

Since then, 35 transit buses have been outfitted with the racks for the 60 Pembina route, the only route that has them. The free program runs during the main bicycle season from May 1 to Oct. 31.

Allen said this route makes the most sense to have the bike racks on because it is the major one from downtown to the University of Manitoba.

“They are used by about one person per day,” he said.

“There’s room for these bike racks to be used more.”

Neophyte cyclists are reminded to remove their bikes from the front of the bus because many forget the first time they use the service.

For more information about the bike and bus transit program, go to www.winnipegtransit.com/main/bikeandbus.jsp

Don’t hit me, driver — it’ll delay your commute

Geoff Kirbyson

“Aren’t you afraid of getting smoked by an SUV?” one of my editors asked me as I clicked my cycling shoes into my pedals.

“Every day,” I replied. “Every day.”

I’ve been riding my mountain bike to work from March to November for the last nine years. As a one-vehicle family, my wife and I have found this far easier than having to juggle our schedules and those of our two kids, Mia, 9, and Alex, 6, all year round.

I simply throw my work clothes in a backpack and head out for the 12-km trek every morning. It takes a little longer but it’s cheaper than buying a second car. And I get an hour’s worth of “free” cardio every day.

Some people pat me on the back for doing what’s right for the environment, too. I don’t tell them I used to love throwing Styrofoam into my parents’ woodstove at Victoria Beach when I was a kid. (It burned such cool colours!)

Every cyclist on the road has his or her own reasons for being there. But the foundation of those reasons has no doubt been shaken over the past week as a half-dozen of our comrades-on-wheels have been felled, including one who was killed.

Just as with drivers, there are good and bad cyclists on the road. Most of us, though, have a very healthy fear of getting up close and personal with several thousand pounds of metal travelling 60 km — and usually more — per hour. We’re well aware of the potential consequences of a wrong move. If you, car driver, make a mistake, you’re probably booking an appointment with the body shop. If we make one, we’re probably being rushed to the hospital. Or the morgue.

We do our best to hug the right-hand side of the road and we cringe when we feel the whoosh of wind as you whip by us. I believe technically we’re entitled to an entire lane but we scooch over and recite the rosary under our breath rather than incite a riot of angry leadfoots behind us.

Most of us are unfailingly polite to drivers, too. We wave when you give us the right of way, motion us through or back off to keep us from having to jump up temporarily on to the sidewalk. But you forget all of us when one guy flips you the bird after a near-miss.

Sure, we’re camouflaged by helmets, sunglasses and gear but everybody knows a cyclist. It could be a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbour — or one of their kids. Think about them every time you rev up to pass a cyclist to save a few nanoseconds on your way to or from work.

And if time really is your motivation for throwing the fear of God into us, do a quick risk-reward evaluation. Sure, you might save a couple of steps once you get to your destination, but what if you hit one of us? What then? You’ve got to pull over, get out of your car and maybe even interrupt your important cellphone conversation to call 911 so we can get some medical attention.

What if some of our blood gets on your shirt as you peel us off your grill? That’s two trips to the dry cleaner. And when the cops show up you’ll have to give a statement, maybe even go to court.

All it takes is one accident to wipe out all the time you’ve saved from speeding by cyclists. So please slow down and we won’t let our injuries keep you from getting where you want to go.

Bike to the Future hopes to change Winnipegs cycling accommodations

posted at October 04, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
October 04, 2007
Matthew Gemmel
The Uniter

If the jam-packed bike racks at school this year are any indication, more and more people are choosing the bicycle as their preferred mode of transportation, yet Winnipeg still lacks any commuter-oriented cycling infrastructure.

A local advocacy group hopes all that is about to change.

Next Thursday, Oct. 11 at 7:00-9:30 p.m. Bike to the Future (BTTF) hosts its second annual forum in the Bulman Centre at the University of Winnipeg. This year’s forum, “From Imagination to Creation: The Future of Cycling in Winnipeg,” will include speakers, videos, information tables and discussion groups, and will once again be a venue for cyclists to have their voices heard.

“We see the annual forum as a way to hear from Winnipeg cyclists, to find out what they want,” says Kevin Miller, BTTF’s co-chair. “We need their feedback to help us develop goals and objectives for the coming year.”

“They’re our pulse,” he adds.

This year’s forum is made even more relevant by the city’s recent cycling accidents. In the week leading up to the Uniter’s press time, the W nnipeg Free Press reported at least three cyclists hit.

Winnipeg’s cyclist accommodations have been trailing behind those of other Canadian cities. Ottawa, Edmonton and Montreal all boast a variety of on and off-road bike lanes and paths designed to facilitate year-round commuting, and Saskatoon’s municipal government has been implementing its Comprehensive Bicycle Plan for five years now.

In fact, cities large and small all over North America have been including bikes in their transportation plans for years.

In Winnipeg, recreational trails along riverbanks that often don’t take cyclists where they need to go present the bicycle largely as a toy.

Bike to the Future was formed to address this problem. In the summer of 2006, a small, dedicated group of people realized that the growing number of cyclists in Winnipeg lacked a collective voice.

In August of 2006 they organized the Bike to the Future forum to determine the needs of Winnipeg cyclists. The well-attended event was a chance for cyclists of all persuasions to voice their concerns and make suggestions on how to make Winnipeg more bike-friendly.

The forum produced a 20-page document outlining a vision for cycling in Winnipeg. It called for the inclusion of cyclists in future planning decisions and for the implementation of meaningful infrastructure such as on-road bike lanes.

As a result of the 2006 forum, BTTF was established as a year-round advocacy group, with monthly meetings open to anyone.

For the past year the organization has been busy lobbying all three levels of government to address the needs of cyclists. Creative approaches such as questionnaires for candidates in the recent provincial and municipal elections have put cycling issues in the media spotlight.

The group’s website (www.biketothefuture.org) indicates that encouraging progress has already been made in a number of areas.

As a result of BTTF pressure, the city has adopted the Active Transportation Plan (developed in 2005) as official policy, and has hired a full-time ATP coordinator. The first stages of the federally-funded WinSmart path from the Forks to the U of M will begin construction this spring; and this month the city is experimenting with three shared bike lanes called Sharrows.

For more information about the upcoming forum, or to become a member of Bike to the Future, go to www.biketothefuture.org or visit them in person on the 3rd floor of 303 Portage Ave (above MEC).

Cycle city

posted at July 01, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
July 01, 2007

As Winnipeggers, we like to think that we are completely dependent on our cars to get around. Sure, we’ll occasionally take the bus (if the car is in the shop) or a cab (if we’ve had one too many Fort Garry Darks), but using any other transportation, especially in the downtown area, is a ludicrous thought. Heck, not driving from your office on Portage to a lunch rendezvous on Ellice is preposterous. Or is it?

There are an increasing number of urban dwellers and downtown office workers who are choosing an alternate transportation module – the bicycle. Not only healthier for you (you can’t drink a double-double while cycling), bikes are also easier on the wallet, saving you money on gas and parking.

There’s one problem that cyclists face, however, when they try to navigate the downtown streets. While designated bike paths exist in suburbia, they are harder to find in Winnipeg’s business centre, wherea concrete jungle – chock full of screeching tires and honking horns – can be downright scary on a two-wheeler.

A new group of concerned citizens is trying to change all that. Bike to the Future (BTTF), as noted on their website (www.biketothefuture.org), is “a voluntary, inclusive group of concerned cyclists working to make cycling in Winnipeg a safe, enjoyable, accessible and convenient transportation choice year-round.”

In describing the current situation for downtown cyclists, there are two main areas of focus, says BTTF co-chair Kevin Miller. First are the paths that run along riverbanks and streets like Assiniboine Avenue. Here, Miller sees that improvements can be made by making the smaller paths more connected to one another, giving cyclists a more linear route.

Second are inner streets like Kennedy, which can be problematic, as space to build a bikepath is at an undeniable premium, when you consider just how busy the streets and sidewalks already are with cares, buses, cabs, pedestrian and the inevitable daycare group.

But Miller and BTTF see a solution to the downtown biking dilemma: wider curb lanes and bike-specific lanes downtown.

These changes aren’t really a stretch, says Miller, who points to cities like Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver as examples of how proper planning can accommodate bike-only and bike-safe areas, even in high-traffic areas.

In campaigning for its cause, Bike to the Future has used the two-pronged method of approaching both the municipal and provincial governments to discuss changes to downtown roads. While the reaction to a survey given to all four provincial political parties did not meet expectations (the grades for each party can be seen on BTTF’s website), the response from City Hall, says Miller, has been positive.

“The City of Winnipeg has been exceptional to work with, both at the political level and at the administrative level,” Miller reports. “Our city committee has been very pleased with the number of meetings and other representation we’ve had with the City. Their attitude has been excellent and a lot of what they’re doing is working. We can see that we’re making great progress at the civic level.”

It is quite possible, thanks to the efforts of active groups like BTTF, that Winnipeg’s downtown will soon be a friendlier terrain for cyclists. The only question is, will our car culture adapt?

Politicians should take a ride

posted at May 01, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
May 01, 2007
Winnipeg Free Press

A provincial election is the perfect time to put politicians in the hot seat.

Especially the one normally occupied by bicycle riders.

I mean, given cyclists in this city built for green-house-gas belching motor vehicles are risking their lives every time they take to major arteries.

So it was that Bike to The Future — “an advocacy group for cycling as everyday transportation” — created a series of questions they’ve asked the provincial parties to answer.

Mark Cohoe, of Bike to the Future, forwarded them to me after reading last week’s column (Slow lane is what city needs, and fast, April 26) about Ainsley Hutchings, the 22-year-old cyclist who was literally tossed to the curb by a Transit bus earlier this spring.

Cohoe’s e-mail was one of many generated by Hutchings’ story. They came from cyclists and bus drivers alike.

They complained, not surprisingly, about each other’s lack of care and courtesy on the road and in the curb lanes they are forced to share with each other.

All the more reason to separate big buses in a hurry from vulnerable cyclists by creating a slow lane for bikes.

Anyway, here for starters is what Bike to the Future wants the NDP, Tories and Liberals to answer:

“Do you agree that increased use of bicycles as everyday transportation for work, shopping or other travel is desirable for environmental, health and/or economic reasons, and that the province should develop a provincial policy and support the use of bicycles as transportation?”

In other words, “Do you believe in motherhood? OK, How about David Suzuki?”

But how do we convince a civic government to create a network of bike lanes when it can’t even afford to keep up with maintaining the crumbling, pothole-pitted roads we do have?

The answer is, we make it a budget priority for a province that — according to Premier Gary Doer’s promise — is going to make going green the law of the land if he’s re-elected.

It doesn’t even have to be all that costly. If you don’t believe me, how about an expert. Lindsay Gauld is the former Olympic cyclist turned bike courier who bikes around the city for a living.

“I have some short term solutions,” he wrote, “which would involve little capital expenditures as that seems to be a major sticking point.

“1. Extend the Diamond lanes during rush hour on the major arteries.

“2. Paint white bike lanes about three-feet out from the curb on major arteries. Our lanes are at least 12-feet wide and this came about during the era of the big boats that Detroit produced. With the exception of the proliferation of Hummers and similar other SUVs, cars are much smaller now.”

And then there was a suggestion from a reader named Delaney Earthwalker. He wants to put politicians to try the real hot seat.

“I challenge Winnipeg’s councillors and the mayor to ride a bike on the city streets — alone and unescorted — for the equivalent of one day. I expect their inaction concerning bike lanes would change dramatically.”

Go ride in the traffic, Mr. Mayor.

I kinda like the sound of that.

Slow lane is what city needs, and fast

posted at April 26, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
April 26, 2007
Winnipeg Free Press

It’s been over a month now since a 22-year-old Osborne Village resident sat down one Saturday morning and dashed off an e-mail describing how she and her bike were almost run over by a bus.

“Hit and Run Transit driver,” the subject line read.

The letter from Ainsley Hutchings went on to explain that at about 3:45 p.m. on Friday, March 16, she had been cycling south on Osborne when she stopped at Broadway for a red light.

Ainsley was in the diamond lane that’s reserved for transit buses.

And, yes, bicycles.

In fact there was a big orange bus stopped right behind her.

Ainsley picks up this story from here.

“When the light turned green, I proceeded across the intersection. The bus came very close to me; I was less than a foot from the curb. Because of the lack of space, I couldn’t even turn my handlebars to get up on the curb.

“I was trapped.”

Then she felt the passing bus make contact.

And she fell, screaming.

Instinctively, Ainsley tucked her head in to protect it. She could see the bus’s back wheels coming toward her.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is the worst way to die, I won’t see my family or friends anymore.’ ”

The next thing she saw was the bus driving off up Osborne. “I was expecting the driver to stop, but he didn’t.”

She struggled to her feet and screamed for help.

There were witnesses who managed to help her and to get the number of the bus. Ainsley wound up in hospital where her wounds were cleaned and she was released.

“Luckily,” she wrote, “I had no life-threatening injuries. However, if the bus had been an inch or two closer to me, my parents could have been planning my funeral today.”

Ainsley went on to say the experience reminded her that not everyone is accepting of cyclists sharing the road.

“There is an enormous power differential between a cyclist and a bus driver,” she wrote. “In this situation, the driver’s lack of respect for my vulnerability could have cost me my life.”

At last report, police hadn’t completed their investigation.

Meanwhile, a transit official informed her they had taken “action” against the driver. They wouldn’t say what.

Transit did tell her this: The driver acknowledged seeing someone on the bike, but lost track of the cyclist while passing. Of course, what happened to Ainsley points to the larger issue, which she addressed in her own way:

“With all of the controversy regarding climate change and the emphasis on reducing emissions, people need to feel that choosing cycling is a positive option, not a dangerous one.”

That reminds me. It’s all very family friendly to build suburban bike paths to, through and around parks. But as the green age dawns, it’s time for Winnipeg to start planning and building networks of bicycles lanes. Emission-free, exercise-inviting, safe passage on our major arteries.

Last summer, Free Press editor Bob Cox wrote from personal cycling experience about riding his bike to work in Ottawa, Toronto and even Edmonton, which all have central arteries designated for bikes and pedestrians.

Cox concluded: “Many of our wide streets could easily accommodate bike-only paths, if we sacrifice some room now devoted to motor vehicles.”

All we need, I submit, is a mayor to steer us into the urban transit future.

That would be the slow lane.

For bikes only.

Mind you, that last city councillor to champion bike lanes was Donald Benham. And you know what happened to him during the last election. The mayor borrowed a Big Blue bus from the provincial Tory machine shop.

And ran him over.

City cyclists score big victory

posted at April 11, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
April 11, 2007
Winnipeg Free Press

CYCLING activists pedalled away from city hall with smiles on their sunburned faces after city councillors approved $1.7 million worth of trail construction projects and agreed to dedicate a city staffer to create even more trails.

But one of the new projects has infuriated the city’s top trail-builder, who accused Charleswood Coun. Bill Clement of abusing his power as chairman of council’s public works subcommittee by funnelling trail-creation funds into his own ward.

On Tuesday, the four-member committee approved the flow of funds for three new bike and pedestrian paths: the first phase of the Marconi Line in northeast Winnipeg, an extension of the Bishop Grandin Freeway and a new separated sidewalk along McGillivray Boulevard in Whyte Ridge.

In a related move, the committee also agreed to implement several key recommendations from the Active Transportation Study, a trail-building blueprint adopted by city council as policy 15 months ago.

The recommendations include hiring a full-time trail co-ordinator to plan new trails and assemble a committee of experts to serve as trail advisers.

After years of relative city inaction, the sudden movement at city hall — facilitated in part by boosting the city’s annual trail creation budget from about $200,000 to $1.7 million — left long-time cycling activists such as Kevin Miller praising both politicians and city staff, “Things are happening. They weren’t happening before. Five years ago, we were dismissed as a small minority,” said Miller, who visited city hall on Tuesday to observe pro-bike trail presentations made by cycling organizations, the Manitoba Medical Association and the Winnipeg Trails Association.

Trails Association director Janice Lukes was also happy with the new trail measures, except for the plan to spend $380,000 on new separated sidewalk along McGillivray Boulevard in Whyte Ridge.

She said the $380,000 would be better spent on a trail in a higher-population corridor on the east side of the Red River — and accused committee chairman Bill Clement of directing the project into his own ward, which encompasses Whyte Ridge.

“I wish everyone lived in Charleswood. I wish Charleswood encompassed the whole city,” said Lukes, noting Clement has successfully encircled his ward with five trails costing a total of at least $1.6 million over the past four years.

“I know this (McGillivray Boulevard sidewalk) is being slipped in now, because when a bike-trail co-ordinator comes in, they wouldn’t go for it.”

Clement shot back that there would be no new trail-creation money if he didn’t insist the funding increase from $200,000 to $1.7 million during the capital budget process.

“I’m really sorry we’re not living up to (Janice Lukes’) expectations, but nobody made her queen of the trails. And I’m not going to apologize to anybody for building bicycle trails and linking my entire community,” he said.

Happy trails

Bike path/walking-trail construction projects approved by council’s public works subcommittee on Tuesday:

Marconi Line (East and North Kildonan): $1.2 million to begin construction of the first leg of what will be the city’s longest bike path and walking trail, Phase One will involve paving a 3.5-metre-wide asphalt trail along the former CPR Marconi Line, from Talbot Avenue to Springfield Road.

Bishop Grandin Greenway (St. Vital): $100,000 to extend an asphalt pedestrian/bike path on the south side of Bishop Grandin, from the Seine River to Shorehill Drive.

McGillivray Boulevard (Whyte Ridge): $380,000 to create separated bike and walking lanes on a new sidewalk alongside McGillivray Boulevard, from Columbia Drive to Brady Road.

Lone project swallows trail cash

posted at January 22, 2007 00:00 (over 5 years ago)
January 22, 2007
Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG is poised to buy a 6.7-kilometre stretch of unused railway in the northeast quadrant of the city to build a bike path — and future rapid-transit corridor — all the way from the inner city to East St. Paul.

DESPITE a drastic increase in proposed city spending on bike and pedestrian paths, almost all the money set aside this year to create new trails will be spent on a single project.

The 2007 capital budget calls for the city to spend $1.5 million on new recreational trails, up 750 per cent from slightly less than $200,000 in 2006.

But most of the new cash will be consumed by plans to build a 6.7-kilometre path along the former Marconi rail line through East and North Kildonan, which the city is purchasing from the Canadian Pacific Railway in a $1.7-million deal brokered by businessman John Buhler.

Marconi is a fairly long path and that will consume a big chunk of the budget,” said Bill Larkin, director of the city’s public works department.

He said it’s possible some funds will be reserved to build a trail alongside McGillivray Boulevard, which the city plans to widen at a cost of $11.5 million.

But the city won’t know for certain what Winnipeg trails will be built this year until it becomes clear how much of the $1.5-million trail-creation kitty will be devoted to the Marconi Line.

Winnipeg cycling activists, whose representatives appeared before Mayor Sam Katz’s cabinet on Jan. 17, are praising the increased trail funding, which comes close to the $1.7-million target they had requested.

That figure is supposed to represent a proportion of annual city roadwork spending that’s equal to the proportion of Winnipeggers who commute to work by bike versus all commuters.

Now, the cycling activists would like to see the city develop a framework for future trail creation so the new money can be spent wisely and efficiently.

We have $1.5 million, but we don’t have a plan,” said Rob Cosco, a spokesman for activist group Bike to the Future.

During the summer of 2006, three cycling-activism groups — Bike to the Future, SPIN and the more radical Critical Mass — all drew attention to the inadequate state of city bike trails, stressing it is not safe for cyclists to share major commuter routes with motorists.

Bike to the Future also appealed to council’s public works subcommittee to ensure there are bike lanes on the Disraeli Freeway, once $91 million worth of repairs slated for 2008 and 2009 is completed.

Katz’s finance-policy adviser said the cyclists will likely get their wish, at least in the short term.

Tentative repair plans for the Disraeli Freeway will see the 1.1-kilometre bridge and overpass widened from four to six lanes, with the outside space reserved for cyclists and pedestrians, the adviser said.

If traffic demands increase, those lanes will be converted into vehicle lanes, while cyclists and pedestrians will be diverted elsewhere, he said.

One way northeast-Winnipeg bike commuters could reach downtown without using the Disraeli Freeway would be a future trail connection between the south end of the Marconi Lane and a new trail slated for Old St. Boniface.

Bike lanes sought for Disraeli Freeway

posted at November 30, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
November 30, 2006
Bernice Pontanilla
The Herald

Scheduled repairs to the Disraeli Freeway would be an excellent opportunity to make the bridges accessible to avid cyclists, a Transcona resident has told local councillors.

“The bridge is extremely unsafe and inconvenient for cyclists,” Kevin Miller told councillors Lillian Thomas (Elmwood-East Kildonan), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and Russ Wyatt (Transcona) during the Nov. 21 East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee meeting.

“The Disraeli for cycling is absolutely atrocious.” Miller said he cycles to work every day, but prefers to take the newer Provencher Bridge, which was built with specific lanes for cyclists.

The Disraeli, he said, is one of the most narrow-laned bridges in the city, with no room for cyclists and the only one that does not have a barrier to protect pedestrians from traffic.

“What I would like to learn today is a little bit more about the scope of the work (to be done) on the Disraeli bridge”, said Miller, who was also the cycling consultant during the planning of the new Provencher and offered his expertise for the Disraeli planning.

Coun. Thomas said she agreed with Miller, adding that her husband, who is an avid cyclist, prefers to take a longer route from their East Kildonan home to go over the Louise Bridge than try the “kamikaze” route over the Disraeli.

Thomas said the Cityís 2007 capital budget includes just under $2 million towards the Disraeli refurbishing project, with more funding expected in the 2008 capital budget.

As part of this project, community consultations will take place to get feedback from residents as to what changes they would like to see, added Thomas, who is also a member of the City’s public works committee.

Carl Sitarz, a traffic analyst in the Cityís public works department, said there is limited opportunity to expand the laneways without dramatically increasing the cost of the rehabilitation project, but bridge designers are looking at that possibility and will likely take into account a number of options in consultation with the public.

During this meeting, councillors Thomas, Wyatt and Browaty also passed a motion stating that rehabilitation plans for the Disraeli should include community consultations and be in keeping with the 2005 Active Transportation Study, which encourages cycling in the city.

$13 million of green

posted at November 25, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
November 25, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press

THE city has cobbled together $13 million to build a new bike path, install high-tech gadgets on city buses and even curb truck traffic.

The cash has been in limbo for three years, but a deal was finally announced Friday. It will help the city buy two new hybrid electric buses and install new GPS tracking devices on all city buses so riders know exactly when their connections will arrive.

And it will fund a new bike trail from The Forks to the Jubilee underpass — the first step toward a commuter path to the University of Manitoba, which is the single biggest demand of the city’s vocal cyclists.

The cash will also kickstart pilot projects to shrink truck congestion and boost the use of environmentally friendly biodiesel in city fleet vehicles.

The deal was announced by politicians from all three levels of government, including Minister of Justice Vic Toews and provincial Healthy Living Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross.

The shopping list of projects, called WinSmart, are all meant to curb the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“WinSmart will make transit, cycling and walking more competitive and more attractive,” said Mayor Sam Katz. “We’re now trying to catch up with other cities.”

Ottawa chipped in about $3.5 million but Winnipeg is spending the most at about $8.7 million. The province is spending $847,000, mostly earmarked to improve trucking routes.

The fix-ups should start to appear next year and must be completed by the fall of 2008.

Three years ago, when the city began working on the WinSmart funding deal, the projects were originally meant to compliment a bus rapid transit system, including a bike path that ran beside the planned bus corridor down Pembina Highway. The BRT plan was postponed when Katz redirected the funding to community clubs.

Katz rejected the suggestion that WinSmart funding is an excuse to delay the big ticket item — the first leg of BRT connecting the U of M to the downtown. Instead, said Katz, the new cash helps remedy years of neglect of the transit system.

Cycling advocate Kevin Miller, one of the leaders of Bike to the Future, said he’s impressed by WinSmart’s signature element — the first leg of the bike path to the University of Manitoba.

“This is a very good start,” said Miller. “What has been achieve in the last four, six months has been great.”

Politicians jumped on the bike path bandwagon during last month’s civic election after some high-profile cycling protest in the spring catapulted the issue onto city hall’s agenda.

There’s new plans to build a bike path through East Kildonan along the old Marconi rail line, and advocates of recreational trails are making steady progress connecting isolated sections of paths.

City parks and paths planner Kevin Nixon said the exact route between The Forks and Jubilee is still up for debate. It’s slated to cut through Lord Roberts, but cyclists like Miller would rather see it bypass neighbourhoods and traffic lights by hugging the CN Rail line through Confusion Corner as much as possible.

Nixon said he’s open to that idea, and any others cyclists may have. He’s hoping to launch public consultations as soon as possible. What is WinSmart?

It’s the moniker given to a collection of eight major projects meant to help improve air quality, boost transit ridership and build bike paths.

It’s worth $13 million, most of that city cash. It’s been in the works for three years as city hall dithered with the federal government over which projects deserved cash and how much. What are The Projects?

  • A biodiesel fueling station to test how heavy duty city vehicles like sanders function in cold weather when they’re powered partly by vegetable oil and animal fats. As many as 40 city vehicles will run on biodiesel when the station open in June. Cost: $558,000.
  • Hybrid electric buses that run just like the Toyota Prius. Two will be on the streets in about a year on the 60, 61 and 62 routes to the University of Manitoba. They’ll be the so-called “bendy buses” that can carry more passengers than the regular buses. Cost: $2.5 million.
  • Park and Ride station at the Manitoba Hydro headquarters on Taylor Avenue. Cost: $366,000.
  • Downtown street signs and sidewalk map kiosks to help tourists find attractions more easily and navigate traffic nightmares such as Confusion Corner. Cost: $465,000.
  • GPS satellite bus locator system so Winnipeg Transit knows exactly where each bus is, which ones are late and which routes need more service. The GPS trackers will be installed on all 535 city buses starting next year. That’s partnered with electronic signs at about 100 major stops so people can find out when their connection is due. Those signs will be installed in 2008 at shopping centres, the Graham Avenue transit mall, school and university stops and many others. The GPS system will also allow riders to get real-time schedules on their cell phones or blackberries to find how exactly when their bus will arrive. Cost: $1.6 million.
  • A bike path from The Forks to the Jubilee underpass, hopefully paved instead of gravel. One possible route runs from The Forks along the Red River to Brandon Avenue, then cuts across Lord Roberts to the Fort Rouge rail yards and south to Jubilee. Cost: $940,000.
  • Trucking efficiencies. The province will explore ways to improve freight and scheduling practices, such as scheduling deliveries on off-peak hours to prevent traffic jams, making delivery routes more efficient so trucks aren’t driving around empty and finding the fastest routes through the city. It also means finding ways to boost e-commerce so people buy more online instead of driving from store to store. Cost: $225,000.
  • A marketing campaign to find out why people don’t take the bus or bike and promoting those options. Cost: $330,000
  • Monitoring emissions reductions to see which projects work best at curbing pollution. Cost: $223,000

Green light for city bike path

posted at November 24, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
November 24, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press

THE city, province and federal government are finally making good on a promise to build a bicycle and pedestrian path to connect downtown Winnipeg with the University of Manitoba.

About $900,000 in funding has been secured to pay for the first leg of a commuter trail that will loosely parallel Pembina Highway, a busy route bicycle commuters regard as the most dangerous in Winnipeg.

The first leg of the trail will connect The Forks to Jubilee Avenue, federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz are expected to announce Friday morning at The Forks Market.

The trail funding will be part of a wider set of announcements about plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and make transportation more environmentally friendly in Winnipeg.

Officially known as WinSmart, this bundle of plans was first announced by Ottawa’s former Liberal government, the province and the city in 2003.

It was originally slated to include $14.4 million worth of improvements to transit, incentives for energy-efficient car and truck use and an uninterrupted foot-and-bike path to parallel a Bus Rapid Transit corridor along Pembina Highway.

WinSmart has largely been in limbo since Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz cancelled the Pembina bus corridor months after he first took office in 2004. In 2005, Winnipeg was forced to return more than $2 million in funding for the program because the city could no longer meet the funding criteria.

Then this January, the election of a new federal government delayed implementation on most of the WinSmart projects. Now, the Conservatives in Ottawa are on board.

City hall sources say Friday’s WinSmart announcement will include a variety of programs, the most notable being the first leg of the Pembina bike-and-pedestrian trail.

Cycling activists are pleased to see some real money backing up the long-delayed promise, but remain skeptical until they see the final route.

“I’m happy to see they’re moving forward on WinSmart. It’s been many years in the making. But until we know the exact route, whether it will be uninterrupted and what kind of public consultation there will be, I can’t really comment,” said Molly McCracken, a co-ordinator with cyclists’ organization Bike To The Future.

McCracken said initial plans for a bike trail through East Kildonan along the former Marconi rail line called for cyclists to stop almost every block, which would not be popular.

She is also concerned the new Forks-to-Jubilee trail will veer too far to the east into Fort Rouge, providing an indirect route for commuters who ride between downtown and the University of Manitoba.

Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, whose ward contains the entire first leg of the trail, said she’s pleased to see something come out of the long-dormant WinSmart plan.

But she would prefer to see the beginning of a Bus Rapid Transit corridor built at the same time as the bike and pedestrian trail.

“If we hadn’t killed the Bus Rapid Transit plan, we would already have a trail in place (along Pembina Highway). But it’s good they’re doing something,” Gerbasi said.

Most Effective Lobby Group: Winnipeg cyclists.

posted at October 22, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
October 22, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press

They’ve knocked on doors, dropped pamphlets in the mail and hammered signs into the earth all over town. Fifty-two city council candidates have spent the past two months trying to get our attention, all in the (possibly vain) hope of raising awareness about Wednesday’s city-wide vote.

With only three days to go before the big day, here’s what’s happened so far:


The environment. While green ideas usually come to the forefront between elections, all three serious mayoral candidates have painted their campaigns in tones of emerald and chartreuse. Green rooftops, natural lawns and energy-efficient city buildings are coming to Winnipeg, regardless of who wins the mayor’s race, and council candidates have been put on notice, too.


Harnessing aboriginal growth. Although mayoral candidates Kaj Hasselriis and Marianne Cerilli have paid some lip service to the city’s fastest-growing demographic, no council candidate has really embraced the aboriginal community — or adequately addressed its concerns.


Salter, De Groot and Zyla. They were largely unknowns before Labour Day, but they’ve sparkled since then — confident and thoughtful Don Salter in Daniel McIntyre, professional and smart Kelly de Groot in St. Charles and hard-working Jennifer Zyla in River Heights.


River Heights-Fort Garry. Most political junkies predicted St. Boniface would be the race to watch, given the contrast between flamboyant incumbent Franco Magnifico and far-less-chippy challenger Dan Vandal, who used to own the seat. But the polite veneer of upscale River Heights has crumbled away, thanks to incumbent Donald Benham’s credit card woes and challenger Brenda Leipsic’s endorsement by Benham’s nemesis, Mayor Sam Katz.


Cerilli vs. Hasselriis. Mayoral candidates Marianne Cerilli and Kaj Hasselriis both dislike urban sprawl, Sam Katz — and each other. Instead of ganging up on the incumbent mayor, these two have wasted valuable energy trying to establish themselves as the voice of progressive voters.


“The children are our future.” Oh, puh-lease — as if any candidate doesn’t like children. This vapid little homily has slithered out of the mouths of candidates across the political spectrum, from River Heights candidate Brenda Leipsic to Marianne Cerilli.


Winnipeg cyclists. The city’s pathetic bike-trail infrastructure is an unlikely election issue, but organized and disorganized cyclist groups have managed to pedal their displeasure onto the agenda. Even Katz is paying lip service to more bike trails.


OlyOpp. Back in April, the fledgling OlyOpp group promised to bring the hammer down on city councillors who voted in favour of the OlyWest hog plant deal. But the group didn’t endorse any candidates until October — and then declined to back up its entire slate with cash.


Katz’s honourary campaign co-chairs — rapper Fresh IE and curler Jennifer Jones: “Yo, yo, yo/We wuz supposed to stump for Katz/Hurry hard, hurry hard/Now we be tough to locates.”


Re-elect Donald Benham. Employing gold, black and teal with homes and trees in silhouette, the embattled River Heights incumbent makes a great impression. Honourable mention to North Kildonan challenger James Viehweg’s diamond-shaped markers.


Re-elect Mike Pagtakhan. Purple text against a white background makes for a nice bake-sale banner, but doesn’t do it for the Point Douglas incumbent.


St. Boniface and River Heights. Will it be flamboyant Franco or detached Dan? Can Donald survive a double-Tory pile-on from Brenda and Jennifer? For answers to these questions and more, go to the polls on Oct. 25.

Family grieves collision victim

posted at October 22, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
October 22, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press

BILLIE-JO Strickland-Masson was a diminutive young woman with a big heart and the widest, brightest grin in the room, her grieving family said after she was struck by a car and died Friday night. The 20-year-old was crossing Fermor Avenue at the intersection of Autumnwood Drive while riding her bicycle. While police continue to investigate the tragic collision, it appears Strickland-Masson cycled through a red light. Her aunt, Patrol Sgt. Shelly Glover of the Winnipeg Police Service, said family members are in a state of shock.

“She was a beautiful child… just a wonderful person,” Glover said. “There are so many things we are going to miss about her. She was such an important part of our family.”

Though she was 20, Strickland-Masson could have easily passed for 14 because of her slight stature and a learning disability.

But her perseverance helped her get past some special needs challenges, as she graduated from Windsor Park Collegiate, held part-time jobs and recently moved out of Glover’s home into her own suite in West Kildonan.

Strickland-Masson leaves to mourn her mother Shannon, stepfather Mark, two sisters and a brother and a large extended family.

“She was a typical naive girl who would give you the shirt off her back,” Glover said. “She had a big heart. She always wanted to share things. She was driven by her faith.”

Strickland-Masson was a dedicated member of House of the Rising Sun Ministries on Machray Avenue, often greeting people as they arrived Sunday mornings.

And she cycled everywhere.

“That was her thing. She cycled all over the city,” Glover said. “That’s what we don’t understand… why she crossed when she did.”

The collision occurred around 10 p.m. Friday.

Witnesses said the car was heading west on Fermor and proceeding through the intersection on a green light when the collision happened.

The victim was not wearing a helmet, witnesses said.

Her mangled bike lay near the boulevard, not far from a silver Oldsmobile Alero with a portion of its front windshield smashed.

An off-duty paramedic near the scene of the crash raced from his vehicle to help the victim, as did two other people who later told witnesses they were lifeguards.

Strickland-Masson died after being transferred to St. Boniface General Hospital.

Police spokeswoman Const. Jacqueline Chaput said charges will likely not be laid against the driver, who remains distraught over what happened.

“We don’t hold blame,” Glover added. “My heart goes out to them… it was an accident.”

Winnipeg police are reminding cyclists to take proper precautions crossing at intersections.

Strickland-Masson had just started a new job at the McDonald’s restaurant on Fermor two weeks ago.

She didn’t work Friday night, but had visited the restaurant and was heading home when the collision occurred.

A company employee said the chain is fundraising to pay for flowers for her funeral and will hold a memorial in her honour.

Strickland-Masson previously worked at the Tim Hortons on Beaverhill Boulevard.

Cyclist Killed After Car Collision

posted at October 21, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
October 21, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press

CITY police are investigating the death of a 20-year-old woman who was struck by a car while crossing Fermor Avenue at Autumnwood Drive on her bicycle on Friday night.

The collision occurred around 9:50 p.m. Witnesses said the car was heading west on Fermor and proceeding through the intersection on a green light when the collision happened.

The victim was not wearing a helmet, witnesses said.

Her mangled bike lay near the boulevard, not far from a silver Oldsmobile Alero with a portion of its front windshield smashed.

Alain Touchette, 18, was at the intersection, facing south on Autumnwood waiting for the light to change, when a terrible scene unfolded before his eyes.

“I saw a girl flying high through the air, followed by her bike,” he said.

An off-duty paramedic also waiting at the intersection raced from his vehicle to help the victim, as did two other people who later told witnesses they were lifeguards, Touchette said.

Emergency crews quickly arrived at the scene and took over the lifesaving effort.

“The worst thing was watching the paramedic over top of her, giving her CPR,” said Marc Bellavance, 17, a passenger in Touchette’s car.

“I didn’t hear a word from her… it was gut-wrenching.”

The woman died after being transfered to the St. Boniface Hospital.

Police traffic collision analysts were expected to be at the intersection for several hours, and westbound traffic on Fermor was re-routed through Windsor Park.

The stretch of Fermor is marked as a 70-km/h zone.

Bikes, cops and BIZ

posted at October 20, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
October 20, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press

DURING the waning days of a civic election, you can expect to see three things: mud-slinging, sign vandalism and much less obnoxiously, a bevy of candidate surveys.

On Thursday, the results of three such questionnaires were released by organizations campaigning for better bike trails, the re-establishment of a police commission and improving downtown Winnipeg.

Here’s the Coles Notes version of their findings:

Bike trails

ONE of the big surprises in 2006 has been all the attention paid to Winnipeg’s substandard bike-trail infrastructure. As a result, mayoral candidates Sam Katz, Marianne Cerilli and Kaj Hasselriis have all pledged to make improvements.

To gauge how serious Winnipeg’s 52 mayoral and council candidates are about cycling, a group calling itself Bike To The Future sent them all a four-point survey about the likes of trail-creation funding and the implementation of the recommendations of Winnipeg’s largely ignored Active Transportation Study.

Katz received a C grade, while Hasselriis and Cerilli both earned As. Nine council candidates also received top marks, including Fort Rouge incumbent Jenny Gerbasi, Daniel McIntyre incumbent Harvey Smith, Mynarski challenger Paul Emmer and all six Winnipeg Green Party candidates.

“We’re excited to see so much support for cycling, but the specific (amount of) support varies from candidate to candidate,” said Bike To The Future spokeswoman Molly McCracken.

But she was disappointed that two of Winnipeg’s more bike-friendly city councillors — River Heights Coun. Donald Benham and Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan did not respond.

Police commission

ANOTHER low-key but significant issue this year is whether city hall should re-establish a civilian body to oversee the Winnipeg Police Service. Tom Simms, of the Community Education Development Association, has led a coalition of 29 inner-city groups in a push for a police commission. He sent a survey to all 52 candidates, asking them simply if they would like to see an inter-governmental committee issue a feasibility report about a police commission before April 2007.

Among the candidates who responded, only three were dead-set against the idea: mayoral hopeful Ron Pollock and St. James candidates Jae Eadie and Fred Morris.

“Overall, the candidates who responded are interested in pursuing the idea of a police commission,” Simms said.

But seven candidates only expressed conditional support, while Katz said he would prefer to see the results of a report his cabinet has already requested.

Downtown Winnipeg

FINALLY, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ sent a seven-point questionnaire to Winnipeg’s mayoral candidates and the five council hopefuls vying to represent the city’s two downtown wards, Fort Rouge and Daniel McIntyre.

Given the open-ended nature of the questionnaire, most candidates took the opportunity to cut-and-paste previous campaign promises into their responses to queries about the likes of downtown housing and crime-reduction. Still, BIZ executive director Stefano Grande said he was satisfied with the survey.

Bike at your own risk

posted at October 18, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
October 18, 2006
Christine Leong, Volunteer Staff
The Manitoban

Safe commuting by bicycle has increasingly been recognized as a major issue for Winnipeg cyclists, including U of M students. With the 2006 civic election coming up, political leaders are proposing ways to improve this method of transportation.

Bike at your own risk

On average, 175 cyclists are injured and two die each year, according to David Patten of Manitoba Public Insurance. The most common injuries are broken bones and head-related injuries. Moreover, 190 bicycles are damaged in motor vehicle collisions and the average cost of a bicycle claim is about $6,047.

The route from downtown to the U of M can be especially difficult. Mike McKee of the Manitoba Cycling Association described bikecommuting routes to the U of M as “non-existent.”

“Right now the route that is designated to go up to the University of Manitoba from downtown is Pembina Highway,” said McKee. “And you know as well as I do that anytime during rush hour it is absolutely ridiculous and it ís not safe at all.”

Molly McCracken, co-ordinator of Bike to the Future, a recently formed community activist group, and the Manitoba research associate for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, agrees: “Some people were concerned that people were actually going to get killed off that route.”

In the efforts to encourage government officials to do something about Winnipegís current cycling infrastructure, Jeremy Hull of Prologica Research drafted the Winnipeg Cycle Commuter Survey to illustrate the attitudes Winnipeggers have on the existing bicycling infrastructure.

“I think most people are afraid to get out on the streets and get on traffic and the condition of the road doesn’t help,” said Hull.

According to the survey, which was published on Oct. 4, 2006, cyclists have expressed a number of city cycling concerns.

“Car drivers, if they don’t cycle much they don’t have [an] appreciation of what the cyclists are dealing with so they kind of do things that are not so good for the cyclist,” explained Hull. “Some of them are rude, but that’s a very small minority. Some of them are actually annoyed that the cyclist is on the street to begin with. So there are all kinds of attitudes out there.”

The report found that a majority of cyclists (67.4 per cent) believe there is a need for a network of cycling routes throughout the city including bike lanes on major streets, separate bike paths and routes on quieter streets. Such routes need to be wellconnected and provide safe and reasonably direct ways of traveling between destinations.

“There’s no doubt that cyclists need to be well-educated as far as the rules of the road is concerned to obviously abide by the rules of the road, which would make it a lot easier for them to deal with drivers. I think drivers too should understand obviously that a bike doesn’t have a chance against a car. You have to be cautious from both ends,” said McKee.

Cycling across Canada

Winnipeg is not the only city with cycling issues. It seems every major city in Canada has a need for improving bike safety and infrastructure.

Steve Merker, executive director of CAN-BIKE in Toronto, described Toronto’s cycling infrastructure as “brutal”.

Merker also mentioned that Ottawa appears to be “much more conducive to cycling”.

“In fact, the government there closes down the major roads of the city every Sunday morning for bicycle riding”, noted Merker. “That would never ever happen in Toronto”.

An average of 1.2 per cent of work trips in Canada were made by bicycle in 2001, according to Cycling Trends and Policies in Canadian Cities, written by John Pucher and Ralph Beuhler of Rutgers University and published in 2005, with data from Statistics Canada. This number varies depending on region. The report noted that over 25 per cent of trips in Canada are less than two miles long, and therefore a need to encourage cyclists was advocated.

The report by Pucher and Beuhler also noted that Quebec is deeply involved in a range of programs to promote cycling: increasing its safety, co-ordinating local efforts, and fund infrastructure improvements. In Ontario, there is virtually no funding, planning, or program co-ordination for cycling. Lastly, in B.C. there is modest capital funding program for cycling infrastructure and a provincial cycling advisory committee to help coordinate local efforts.

“Winnipeg is kind of average across the country in the percentage of people that use bikes to go to work”, commented Hull. “It’s partly a weather thing but it’s partly how the city is able to accommodate cyclists. Saskatoon is as cold as Winnipeg but they’ve got higher levels of use. From being in Saskatoon I know they have nice pathways along the river.”

Winnipeg’s cycling infrastructure budget

Currently, the City of Winnipeg budget for cycling is $200,000, according to the Bike to the Future report. Last year, the budget for cycling and pedestrians was $300,000, but in 2003, no funding was spent on cycling infrastructure.

The total capital budget for 2005 is $307,583,000, which represents 0.6 per cent of the city’s budget.

“The funding is like a tenth of the level of use of cycling,” noted Hull. “So there is a big mismatch between the funding and the . . . number of people that do use a [bicycle].”

“It’s interesting how you don’t need a permit to do cruising on Portage Avenue but people who were doing Critical Mass were completely harassed by the police,” said McCracken. Critical Mass is a bike ride that is usually held on the last Friday of every month. Cyclists participate for a variety of reasons including reclaiming what they argue is rightful space on the road.

Political proposal

Kaj Hasselriis and current mayor Sam Katz are two of the four candidates competing in the October 2006 election for mayor. Both candidates see the importance of improving Winnipeg’s cycling infrastructure.

“The mayor recognizes that developing extensive bike path infrastructure is a critical component to achieving his goal of being Canada’s Green City”, said David MacKay, campaign spokesperson for Katz. “In fact, bike path development is an integral component of his six-point environmental action plan that was recently released during the campaign.”

Hasselriis expressed his disappointment with the city’s current commuting routes.

“Winnipeg is a car culture. There’s no doubt about it,” said Hasselriis. “I’m a motorist. I own a car so I’m a driver. Certainly we need to be building new roads and bridges for cars. We need to be repairing those roads, but not at the almost complete exclusion of new roadways for bikes and buses, which is the way it’s done now.”

Hasselriis mentioned he became involved in civic issues two years ago when the mayor cancelled plans for bus rapid transit.

“We have a decent system of bike paths in Winnipeg. The problem is that they are not really connected, none of them are named, and they are not very well-publicized,” said Hasselriis. “[By paving old railroads] the bike doesn’t have to be on the same roads at all as cars. They don’t have to stop for red lights and they don’t have to stop for stop signs. They can just burn straight from downtown to the U of M and back.”

Hasselriis proposes to increase the amount of bike racks and spaces for bike parking and make incentives for businesses to have showers inside. But his main priority is to construct bike corridors along old rail lines.

“Right now we are building too many roads and bridges without a corresponding bike lane and sidewalks for that matter”, said Hasselriis.

Just recently, Katz announced the Cityís plan to spend $1.7 million to transform the old railway along the Marconi Line, from Glenway Avenue in North Kildonan to Nairn Avenune in Elmwood.

“By leveraging the assistance of community leaders like John Buhler, the City has secured a 6.7 km former CP rail line that will be converted into a bike and walking path in 2007,” said MacKay.

However, Hasselriis questions Katz’s priorities regarding cycling.

“We have a mayor who promised to make new cycling paths two and a half years ago when he was elected. No new cycling paths.”, said Hasselriis. “Why should we trust him after hearing his comments about activities like Critical Mass? He was derisive towards cyclists.”

MacKay noted that Katz is “actively engaging other corporate stakeholders to explore new options to develop future bike path infrastructure and is committed to constructing segregated pathways in new housing developments.”

“Promises made, promises kept. The mayor is not just talking about developing bike infrastructure he has already delivered,” maintained MacKay.

What biking means to a university student

Most students will agree that the roads to the U of M are often backed up in the mornings, especially this past September due to construction on Bison Drive. Moreover, many students cannot afford the time or the gym pass to work out. The price of gas, insurance and car maintenance, not to mention a U of M parking permit, are rising year after year.

“From a social point of view [cycling is] actually saving everybody money”,î said Hull. “Bicycles donít take as much room, you don’t have to build as much space for them to drive on, and it doesn’t cost as much to repair as opposed to car and truck traffic going down the highways.”

With all this in mind, it is only appropriate for government officials to take this issue seriously. As reports have demonstrated, there are quite a few Winnipeg cyclists relative to other cities in Canada. Mayoral candidates should be making significant efforts to improve this method of commuting.

“I’ve been pretty lucky, only having the experiences of being cut off or pushed off the road by other vehicular traffic. People I know have experienced far worse”, commented Marcel Lennon, a university student who frequently rides to school. “As for positive experiences on my bike . . . there’s nothing like beating the bus from confusion corner to the university.”

Bike to the future reports on cycling in Winnipeg

posted at October 04, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
October 04, 2006
The Manitoban

Cyclists in Winnipeg are working hard to get the government to consider the many ways they could improve cycling infrastructure in the city. The new group, Bike to the Future, has taken action by discussing, recording and delivering their ideas to the city and the province.

Over the summer, a group called Critical Mass campaigned worldwide to promote cycling and increase awareness of insufficient cycling infrastructures. Bike to the Future is a combination of those who were involved in Critical Mass as well as newcomers who want to make a difference in the issues Winnipeg cyclists have to deal with on a daily basis.

Molly McCracken, a co-ordinator for the Bike to the Future events, explained that the group exists to allow people to share their constructive ideas on how to make cycling better and safer in Winnipeg.

Everybody has so many great ideas for making cycling better so we just wanted to create a base for people to share those views,” said McCracken.

On Sept. 20, Bike to the Future held a forum at the University of Winnipeg. About 100 people participated; ideas were discussed and three presentations were made, on the topics of cycling in other Canadian cities, the City of Winnipegís parkway system, and the active transportation study being conducted by the city.

According to McCracken, a facilitator took notes throughout all of the discussions and presentations and a report was developed with information from the evening.

On Sept. 26, about 30 cyclists got together and delivered the report to political representatives at the provincial legislature and city hall.

The report begins by pointing out that both the City and the province should “encourage and celebrate cycling as a healthy form of transportation,” as well as, “recognize the diversity of citizens who cycle for various reasons, from recreational to commuting, in the summer and winter.

The bulk of the report included information from the three presentations and a breakdown of what people came up with during the 11 topics of discussion that included “What is your vision for cycling in Winnipeg?” “Dude, donít steal my bike! What can be done?” and “Listening to cyclists! How are we going to make cycling a priority at city hall?

Bike to the Future places emphasis on people seeing cycling as transportation, not just recreation. Suggestions were made for police and cyclists to work together, for more places to lock bikes to be provided, for better co-ordination between different levels of government and to subsidize bus passes for people without cars.

Under the category of “Policy Changes,” Bike to the Future wanted “a mayor who bikes to work,” and under “Dreams” they included “close more streets to cars” and “make cars illegal.

The day after the reports were delivered, the province announced $50 million in funding for Winnipeg roads. McCracken said Bike to the Future was very excited about the announcement.

The city is a little bit more difficult,” she explained. She mentioned that Winnipegís mayor, Sam Katz, wasnít around to accept the report and states that the city is “really big on bike trails,” which in her opinion, doesnít cut it when someone is commuting.

Bike paths are really nice for Sunday bikers but we also need to have commuting routes and bike lanes and secondary streets that have traffic calming,” she said. “Thereís all these different ways of doing it, but the city really has cars on their brains.

Bike to the Future will continue to meet and discuss plans to improve cycling. They are currently trying to keep up with the civic election and are encouraging candidates to commit to better bike route planning and safer cycling in Winnipeg.

Bike to the Future made suggestions for both the City of Winnipeg and province of Manitoba.

The City was encouraged to:

  • Develop a detailed plan for a citywide network of commuting routes
  • Integrate cycling needs into all road construction
  • Integrate transit with cycling

The province was encouraged to:

  • Re-examine the Highway Traffic Act to meet the needs of cyclists
  • Build on the low-cost helmet program and offer other incentives to encourage cycling
  • Develop a bicycle policy in the Ministry of Transportation like the government of Quebec
  • The report also stated that Manitoba Public Insurance should be educating both drivers and cyclists on “safety and mutual respect.”

$1.7-M deal for new bike path

posted at September 21, 2006 00:00 (over 6 years ago)
September 21, 2006
Winnipeg Free Press

WINNIPEG is poised to buy a 6.7-kilometre stretch of unused railway in the northeast quadrant of the city to build a bike path — and future rapid-transit corridor — all the way from the inner city to East St. Paul.

Businessman and philanthropist John Buhler has brokered a $1.7-million deal that will see the city take over the Canadian Pacific Railway’s dormant Marconi Line, a north-south route that runs parallel to Raleigh Street and Gateway Road, from Nairn Avenue to the city limits.

The deal, which still requires approval this morning at a closed-door meeting of city council’s property committee, will see the city begin building a bicycle path on the linear parkway in 2008 and then convert the line into a bus rapid transit or light rail corridor at some point in the future.

I’m interested in preserving what we have and turning it into something spectacular,” said Buhler, a farm-machine magnate who’s spent more than $7 million on charitable projects in Winnipeg and across southern Manitoba in recent years.

I’m an old railway man — when I see a train, I still slow down to watch it. Some day, there’ll be a high-speed rail line going all the way to Birds Hill Park.


Although Winnipeg currently has no plans to build a light rail system, the five-year capital budget forecast calls on the city to spend $3.9 million next year to begin planning rapid-transit corridors along Pembina Highway and in the east side of the city.

There is no money set aside for future rapid-transit spending, but the purchase of the corridor paves the way for changes to the capital budget forecast next year.

The city actually entered into negotiations to buy the Marconi Line back in 2003, when trains stopped running along the route. But Winnipeg could not strike a deal with the CPR, which originally wanted $4 million for the railway, according to city documents.

In July 2005, Buhler stepped into the negotiations and spent a year whittling down the asking price.

This July, he struck a tentative deal to buy the land from the CPR with the intention of flipping it to the city for $1.5 million.

According to the terms of the deal, Winnipeg will cover the legal and administrative costs, but Buhler will donate $150,000 toward the construction of a bike path along the route, paying half of the money up front and the rest when the trail is finished.

Trail associations and the province may also kick in cash to complete the bike path. The plan calls on the city to cover no more than half the cost of the trail.

Buhler is also planning to buy a chunk of the line inside the Rural Municipality of East St. Paul to let the bike path connect with existing trails and eventually Birds Hill Park.

Presumably, the city would then connect the old Marconi Line to Whittier Park and then through Old St. Boniface to Esplanade Riel.

You’ll be able to walk or ride your bike all the way from Birds Hill Park to The Forks. This is an opportunity to build something that will serve citizens in the northeast part of the city for many, many decades to come,” said North Kildonan Coun. Mark Lubosch, an avid cyclist and rapid-transit proponent.


John Buhler is a hero. This deal would not have been possible without him,” Lubosch added.

Buhler, who owns property next to the Marconi Line in the Bowman Industrial Park, said the North Kildonan councillor is making too much of his role. Mayor Sam Katz played a big role in the deal, Buhler insisted.

Katz refused to comment on the deal last night, as the matter remains confidential until it’s approved. A press conference announcing the plan is slated for today at noon.

Rapid-transit activists, including mayoral challenger Kaj Hasselriis, have repeatedly criticized Katz for cancelling former mayor Glen Murray’s plan to build a bus rapid transit route along Pembina Highway — and then redirecting federal money earmarked for the plan to improve community centres.

The Buhler-brokered Marconi Line deal may allow Katz to save face, but a source close to the mayor insisted today’s announcement has nothing to do with electioneering.

Sam’s been pushing for this for a long time,” Buhler added last night. “They’re making too much out of me.

According to city documents, the city will pay for the $1.7-million Marconi deal by redirecting $1.2 million from future transit fare revenues currently earmarked for other projects, and remove $500,000 in unallocated cash from a public works land-acquisition fund.

The deal has three hurdles to clear: this morning’s closed-door property committee meeting, a subsequent meeting of the mayor’s cabinet and then next Wednesday’s council meeting, the final gathering of its kind before next month’s civic election.

Hundreds join June 30 Critical Mass — which ends peacefully

posted at July 05, 2006 06:41 (over 6 years ago)
July 05, 2006
Marlo Campbell
Uptown Magazine

Two months ago I didn’t even know what a Critical Mass was.

Now I can say I’ve participated in the largest one in Winnipeg history.

The June 30 ride was a big deal for me. I’m not a particularly physically active person and I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a child. As such, I was nervous about my lack of cycling skills, let alone the very real possibility of debilitating muscle cramps and/or a full-fledged asthma attack.

However, I had decided it was important to experience a Critical Mass first-hand if I was to write about it with any credibility. Uptown has been covering the story since freelance photographer and Uptown contributor Jon Schledewitz was arrested while covering the May 3 event, and Uptown deputy editor Mike Warkentin witnessed May 26’s contentious ride, which ended in a melee of arrests and allegations that police used excessive force. In case you haven’t heard, Critical Mass is a loosely organized movement, involving leaderless groups of cyclists who get together monthly and ride through the streets in cities all over the world.

Individuals participate for a variety of reasons — some are making a public statement about car culture and our society’s gluttonous consumption of fossil fuels. Others show up to promote cycling, protest inadequate bike infrastructure or meet other like-minded people. Some just want to have fun in a large group.

Apprehensive but undaunted, I got my partner to show me how to work the gears and brakes of his bike in pre-Mass preparation. I did a leisurely test ride around my neighbourhood and discovered cycling was not nearly as exhausting as I had expected.

Of course, trying to keep up with rush-hour traffic on a muggy Friday afternoon is a different story, and after pedalling furiously down Notre Dame Avenue for 15 minutes, I arrived at Central Park — the rendezvous location — panting, sweaty and ready to pass the hell out.

At least 200 people were there — a huge increase from the 50 to 70 Winnipeggers who had participated in the May 26 ride.

Uncertain-looking newbies stood around waiting for direction while more experienced Massers wandered through the crowd and passed out literature, including a 31-page ’zine, Velodrama, featuring background information, safety guidelines and tips on how to interact with police and media.

For a bunch of activists with no leader, it seemed as though the cyclists had managed to get a lot done. Then again, according to Velodrama “reporters are a crafty bunch. They can and will take anything you say and edit to suit their own purposes.”

Clearly my perception can’t be trusted.

Before the ride started, excitement was in the air, along with an occasional waft of marijuana smoke. An enterprising Dickie Dee guy had parked himself in the middle of it all and was doing a brisk business. Some people were decked out in costumes. Others carried signs.

Police officers on bikes kept their distance but made their presence known. While they weren’t overtly friendly, they weren’t particularly menacing, either, and they all wore yellow Lance Armstrong bracelets, which I thought was cute.

Hundreds of bike bells signalled the start of the ride (how did everyone know?), and we set off en masse toward Portage Avenue — a rag-tag group of cyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters and at least one guy in a wheelchair. Our numbers had grown to around 300, and we stretched out over several city blocks. ‘Corkers’ stood with their bodies between us and the cars as we approached the first major intersection and proceeded through. When the light turned red light and the procession continued, no one was arrested or ticketed. I began to relax.

I had expected confrontation. Instead, the mood was festive. As we crossed Main Street, a man trapped in the long line of waiting cars (thanks to us) actually got out of his vehicle and applauded. People honked in support. When we ended up at The Forks, cyclists lifted their bikes in the air and cheered.

The post-Mass media release issued by Const. Jacqueline Chaput of the Winnipeg Police Service paints a decidedly different picture. It points out that many cyclists disregarded the Highway Traffic Act by taking up all lanes of traffic and riding on the sidewalk (both true). It says by doing so these cyclists endangered themselves and others (debatable — I felt very safe throughout the entire ride, and I’m awkward at best on a bike).

It continues, somewhat ominously:

“Based on Critical Mass’s choosing not to make the ride a peaceful and orderly event, we will evaluate the issue which may guide our response regarding any future rides.”

Huh? I thought both cyclists and police officers behaved appropriately and respectfully. To me, the ride was peaceful and orderly. And it was fun!

Then again, I’m just a crafty reporter, so don’t believe anything I have to say. Instead, show up at the next Critical Mass, on July 28, and judge for yourself.