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Spinning their wheels on safety

Cyclists on back burner with stadium: advocate

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"In the big picture, active transportation is never front and centre. We need leadership on this file,'"cycling advocate Janice Lukes says. Photo Store

A member of the event-day advisory committee at Investors Group Field said the death of a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan on Tuesday was tragic but not surprising.

Janice Lukes, the active-transportation representative on EDAC and a longtime cycling advocate, said with so many other issues to deal with at the stadium over the past 12 months -- parking, buses and construction problems -- cyclists have been on the back burner.

"In the big picture, active transportation is never front and centre. We need leadership on this file," she said.

The risks for cyclists were brought up at every EDAC meeting over the past year, she said, and while other members -- including representatives of the city, the University of Manitoba, the Bombers, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic department, Winnipeg Transit and residents who live near the football stadium -- agreed the risks were a problem, nobody seemed to know who had the ultimate responsibility for fixing them, she said.

To prove stakeholders could act when they wanted to, Lukes cited the "million dollars worth of buses" that were activated to correct the many problems fans had getting to the Fort Garry stadium after the first game last year.

The only thing that caught Lukes slightly off guard was that Dick Stevenson's cycling accident prior to Monday's exhibition game happened during daylight hours.

Most of the committee's concerns surrounded what would happen after the final whistle had blown and cyclists, many of them inexperienced, headed home.

"Some fans (who are driving) have had a few drinks. Many of these cyclists don't know to wear reflective colours or put lights on their bikes," she said.

Bombers CEO Wade Miller said nothing is more important to the football club than fan safety. He left no doubt, however, about who should be driving the bus.

"Which is why we have an official request into the City of Winnipeg to immediately address outstanding pedestrian and cycling concerns. We look forward to their leadership on this issue," he said.

A spokeswoman for the city said active transportation is a top priority. To prove her point, she pointed to the $85 million the city has spent on it since 2008.

A spokesman for the province said the Selinger government is also committed to providing opportunities for safe and convenient cycling in Winnipeg and across the province. Since 2000, he said, it has invested more than $40 million in active-transportation infrastructure and programs including developing the Trans-Canada Trail in communities throughout the province, developing trails along the floodway, supporting rapid transit as well as providing funding for more than 65 active-transportation projects in Winnipeg and 34 more in other communities.

Other major projects to come in the government's five-year plan include an active-transportation overpass at the Perimeter Highway and Highway 59 and the redevelopment of the Pembina-Jubilee Underpass, which will include additional vehicle and bike lanes.

Lukes said the city has been delinquent in reinstalling "bollards," which are 1.2-metre-high plastic posts with reflectors that delineate the bike lane between Chevrier Boulevard and Plaza Drive.

"The city put them up last year, but they haven't put them up this year. We need leadership on the city's active-transportation file," she said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 A4

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