Consultants hired to determine the best way for cyclists to travel between downtown and the University of Manitoba warned the city not to build unprotected bike lanes along Pembina Highway.
In a 2009 study commissioned by the city to help determine what new bike infrastructure to build, consulting firms Stantec Inc. and Marr Consulting concluded traffic volumes and speeds on Pembina Highway were too high to warrant anything other than bike lanes that would separate cyclists from motor vehicles.
Given that fully separated lanes would have cost up to $22 million at that time -- and still would have exposed cyclists to danger at intersections -- the consultants advised the city to build new southwest Winnipeg bike routes away from Pembina Highway.
The city heeded this advice for two to three years, when new bike routes were developed in residential neighbourhoods parallel to the busy thoroughfare.
But in 2012, council approved the construction of unprotected bike lanes along a one-kilometre stretch of Pembina between Chevrier Boulevard and Plaza Drive. The consultants warned encouraging people to use Pembina Highway as a cycling route would be counterproductive and undesirable.
"Due to the high volumes and speeds of traffic on Pembina Highway, (alternative) routes would be more effective at encouraging (less-experienced) cyclists," the project team wrote in a report that circulated among city staff in 2009 and was later obtained by the Free Press.
"To create safe cycling facilities on Pembina Highway, full separation from motor-vehicle traffic is a necessity and separation between pedestrians and cyclists would also be preferred."
After reviewing six potential options for fully separated Pembina bike lanes -- including cycle tracks on each side of the street and a path down the centre median -- the consultants concluded it would be far more cost-effective to create cycling routes on side streets and wait for the construction of a bike corridor along the second phase of the Southwest Transitway to provide a more direct alternative for commuter cyclists.
"The project team decided not to recommend treatments on Pembina due to the extremely high costs of construction. There are too many other needs in the city's active-transportation network," the consultants wrote.
Instead of building along Pembina Highway, the consultants recommended the construction of new bikeways through the Crescentwood, Earl Grey and Rockwood neighbourhoods north of Jubilee Avenue and through the Point Road and Crescent Park neighbourhoods south of Jubilee Avenue.
To make this work, the consultants said the city would need to build a tunnel to allow cyclists to bypass the Jubilee Underpass and a new riverside path that would connect Riviera Crescent to Plaza Drive.
The city built the new residential neighbourhood bike routes, but has put off plans to bypass the Jubilee Underpass until its reconstruction, now planned for 2015 to 2019. The Riviera-to-Plaza connector has not been built.
The city also delayed plans to complete the Southwest Transitway, which is now expected to be finished no earlier than 2020 -- on a route that extends as far as 1.6 kilometres to the west of Pembina Highway.
"I think the whole thing has been totally messed up by the delay in rapid transit," said Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi. "It makes sense to have a leisurely route through residential neighbourhoods, but it also makes sense to have a more direct route. Now we have to wait until 2020 for that."
Gerbasi said she sees the unprotected bike lanes built along Pembina Highway two years ago as a stopgap measure. The Pembina Highway route has been criticized since the death last week of a Bombers fan who was cycling to Investors Group Field. He collided with a vehicle near Bishop Grandin Boulevard, while the recommended bike route suggests cyclists exit Pembina before that, at Plaza Drive.