Bike-path, walkway boom

March 20, 2010
By: Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press

For the first time in Winnipeg’s history, the city will spend almost as much money building bike and pedestrian routes this summer as it will fixing local and regional streets. The city plans to stagger the construction of 34 active-transportation projects over the next six months, as engineering and construction firms race to build $20.4 million worth of new bike and pedestrian routes before Halloween.

The unprecedented expansion of Winnipeg’s active transportation network will add 101 kilometres of new AT routes — 30 kilometres of dedicated bike and pedestrian paths and 71 kilometres of cycling routes on streets — to the city’s existing network of 274 kilometres.

During a regular year, the city only spends $3.25 million to expand its active-transportation network. But the availability of federal infrastructure funds convinced the city and province to shell out more for AT in 2010. Since all the money must be spent by the end of October, the city’s public works department and outside consulting firms found themselves under pressure to complete the initial design and engineering work.

Construction tenders and the actual work will be staggered between late April and October to prevent any one company from struggling beneath the weight of too much work, active-transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon said. Most of the projects will be completed by the deadline, he predicted. But it’s unclear what will happen in Omand Park, where opposition from several dozen Wolseley residents scuttled a $1-million bridge over Omand’s Creek. Another route planned for Kildare Avenue was moved to Pandora Avenue following consultation with Transcona residents, Nixon said.

The city has one more public consultation planned for the project. New routes along the Seine River, Dakota Street, Dunkirk Drive, Eugenie Street, Lagimodiere Boulevard and Archibald Street will be on display at a Morrow Gospel Church open house on April 29.

But Winnipeggers may still be unaware some lanes of existing city streets will be converted into bike routes featuring either bike lanes or separated bike boulevards.

For example, three or four roundabouts will be placed on Grosvenor Avenue to calm traffic in River Heights. Portions of Nassau Street North will only allow motor vehicle traffic in one direction. A downtown stretch of Assiniboine Avenue will also include one-way sections to prevent the loss of parking spaces alongside a new bike boulevard.

One of the side benefits of the project is preventing cars from shortcutting through residential neighbourhoods, explained Nixon, who worked alongside city transportation managers. But the main goal is to make it easier and safer for cyclists to commute through Winnipeg. “We’re not trying to replace the automobile. We’re not trying to get anyone on a bike,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is give people options.”

Some motorists, however, remain skeptical. Mike Mager, president and CEO of CAA Manitoba, said even though most drivers support the expansion of cycling infrastructure, they’re also annoyed by increasing congestion on Winnipeg’s streets. An informal survey of consultants working on the AT project confirmed Nixon’s prediction of project completion by the end of October, albeit with a caveat: There will be gaps on several routes, as some legal easements have yet to be obtained.

The creation of trail signage also may have to wait until 2011, Nixon added.

274 kilometres
Winnipeg’s existing active-transportation network

30 kilometres
Additional bike-and-pedestrian paths the city plans to build by the end of October

71 kilometres
Additional bike boulevards and bike lanes the city plans to build on city streets by the end of October

$20.4 million
Cost of the active-transportation infrastructure stimulus program, shared equally by all three levels of government

$21.3 million
Money devoted to fixing streets this summer, not counting sidewalks, back lanes, gravel roads and major projects

— Source: City of Winnipeg

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