Protected bike lanes are bad for downtown businesses: Coun. Wyatt

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Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt is trying to put the brakes on Winnipeg’s new bike-and-pedestrian strategy by warning protected bike lanes could harm downtown businesses.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/05/2015 (2758 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt is trying to put the brakes on Winnipeg’s new bike-and-pedestrian strategy by warning protected bike lanes could harm downtown businesses.

The fourth-term councillor has penned a letter to downtown business owners, warning the creation of 13 new protected bike lanes over the next 20 years may lead to a loss of parking.

“I thought you may want to know this. This is not just a ‘strategy,’ but calls for the amending of the city’s Transportation Master Plan, designating and setting out these streets for this treatment. Once it is in the plan, you are then on the defensive if you want to stop or change it,” Wyatt wrote in an email to an undisclosed number of businesses.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Files Protected bike lane on Sherbrook Street.

In the letter, Wyatt noted he spoke against the city’s bike-and-pedestrian strategy last week at council’s public works committee, “assuming many in the business community have never been consulted.”

He noted the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ spoke in favour of the plan at the meeting.

Wyatt wrote he supports bike-and-pedestrian paths but called the documents making their way through council committees “unrealistic plans that ignore the facts” of how roads are used.

“Maybe a street or two could be designated to improve the protected bike-lane system in our downtown, but to designate a dozen or more streets seems a bit over the top,” he wrote, offering to meet with downtown business owners who are concerned about the plans.

In an interview, Wyatt said he contacted “three or four” downtown business owners because he feared Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who represents the southern half of downtown, would not.

“Downtown Winnipeg belongs to all Winnipeggers,” he said. “It appears to me we’ve forgotten the lessons of the Assiniboine Bikeway audit.”

That audit, conducted following a troubled city effort to conduct $20 million worth of bike-and-pedestrian upgrades in 2010, concluded businesses were not adequately consulted about the construction of a protected bike lane on Assiniboine Avenue as well as traffic-flow changes on the downtown street.

St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes, city council’s public works chairwoman, said she isn’t sure why Wyatt is trying to foment downtown opposition to the pedestrian-and-cycling strategy, which comes before council’s executive policy committee on Wednesday.

“He’s free to do what he wants,” said Lukes, the former director of the Winnipeg Trails Association. “Any dialogue toward active transportation is a good thing, as nothing can be built until we have consultation.”

Lukes, however, questioned why Wyatt is so concerned with the relocation of on-street parking spaces when downtown suffers from a surfeit of surface parking. She also called the Assiniboine Bikeway one of the most utilized bike lanes in the city, despite the fact it’s interrupted by the Heritage Landing apartment construction.

“It’s a proven fact more people walking and biking bring value to businesses,” she said. “I have no idea what he’s doing, but I’m pleased to see he’s engaging.”

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ plans to consult with its members about the protected bike lanes as well, executive director Stefano Grande said.

“We’ve advised them consultations are just starting. There are no designs,” Grande said.

Gerbasi concurred, saying nothing will move forward without “extensive consultations” that may include plans to create more parking-protected bike lanes such as the one on Sherbrook Street, where parking stalls are placed between traffic and a bike lane.

Wyatt also said he met with Jason Fuith, Mayor Brian Bowman’s chief of staff, to request an amendment to the pedestrian-and-cycling strategy that would see Transcona greenways placed on hold until residents are consulted. Wyatt questioned why the mayor’s office appears to be rushing the strategy through council.

Mayoral spokeswoman Carmen Barnett said the strategy has been in the works since 2011, when a council seminar was held and Wyatt was a member of executive policy committee.

Following his election in 2014, Bowman chose not to appoint Wyatt and Gerbasi — two of the three most experienced members of council — to EPC.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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