Bike study scrapped

By: Matt Preprost

Originally published in The Times
Published July 24, 2013

Local councillors and bike advocates are cycling different paths when it comes to building an active transportation network in northwest Winnipeg.

Earlier this month, the city confirmed it was suspending a $400,000 consulting study to develop a strategy to build future bike and pedestrian paths in the city. Instead, the city says it will spend that money on a handful of projects which are already underway.

Mark Cohoe, executive director of Bike Winnipeg, said the decision means the city is continuing to miss the big picture due to the competing interests and ideas of cyclists, residents and politicians, and will miss out on opportunities that could save the public money down the line.

“They’re not looking at how individual projects fit into the whole,” said Cohoe.

“When we don’t have an overall strategy looking at the whole network, it’s hard to figure out what the role of one route would be in the network and what kind of infrastructure would fit that best.

“Sometimes it can be a neighbourhood street with a sharrow (a shared or painted lane on the road). But, if it’s going to be a spine in your network, a sharrow won’t cut it.”

Cohoe has been developing a proposal for a path that would run through the Manitoba Hydro right-of-way that runs alongside McPhillips Street, from the Perimeter Highway to the McPhillips Street Station Casino.

The nine-kilometre stretch passes near several shopping destinations, including a Wal-Mart, Safeway and Superstore, and connects into a number of schools. He sees opportunities along the path for community and butterfly gardens and gathering spots for the community.

Cohoe led a group of about 10 people through the area in late May as part of the Jane’s Walk event looking at alternatives to cycling along McPhillips. He plans to hold a series of open houses on the project in the fall.

“It really could create that situation of giving people the opportunity to take a short trip by bike instead of by car,” said Cohoe, who lives in Corydon Village.

Area councillors, however, have different ideas.

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie wants the city to carve up a pathway along the old Winnipeg Beach rail line owned by CP, which runs along the western edge of Riverbend before bisecting the West Kildonan, Garden City and North End communities.

Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma wants to see the city complete a trail connection from Kildonan Park under the Chief Peguis Trail and into Rivergrove.

And Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan said he’d like to see buffered bike lanes, similar to those built along Pembina Highway earlier this year, placed along Main, Arlington and McPhillips streets.

“Without a strategy, where do we go first? Where do we spend the money?” said Eadie, who opposed cancelling the contract.

“If we’re not going to have a strategy, it’s just going to be randomly picked.”

Sharma said the city’s public works committee will put the cycling strategy on its agenda when it resumes sitting in September.

“There seems to be some agreement to have the study, but how much do we spend on it?” said Sharma, who sits on the committee.

Pagtakhan said the city does need an overall strategy for cycling and pedestrians, but should complete its existing list of projects before committing dollars and embarking on a study.

“If we were to ask people, would they rather see a study or would they rather see dollars put on building actual active transportation routes, I believe people would want to see tax dollars put on actual routes,” he said.

Cohoe believes the city can do both.

“You can definitely work on projects and plan for the future,” he said.

Twitter: @timesWPG