It’s not about bikes, it’s about openness
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2015 (2765 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Contrary to what’s been written, I am a big fan of active transport (AT) (Give cycling, walking plan green light, June 11). I have worked with my community over the last 10 years to build a dedicated AT network that is now more than 15 kilometres and hopefully growing. It is therefore disappointing not being able to support the existing proposed policy.
Following the last election, the first time non-executive policy committee members heard about the report was on Jan. 23, when we received an email from Bike Winnipeg asking us to vote for the report. This was very interesting, because we had not received any report, yet clearly the bike lobby had, or at least was aware of its contents. Following this, I contacted the mayor’s chief of staff who assured me no report was complete.
On Feb. 19, a council seminar was held and no report recommendations were provided. Around this time, I made a point of meeting with the director of public works who assured me I would have input into the report, especially when it came to the Transcona ward.
This never occurred.
It wasn’t until May when the massive report was placed on a committee agenda all members of council finally saw the recommendations. Privately, I immediately contacted the mayor and the chair of public works and requested input into the report, especially when it came to the community I was elected to represent. These requests were either ignored or denied.
Let me explain my concerns. Not only does the report call for spending $334 million, it is the type of estimate that could go up to 100 per cent higher. It also calls for massive changes to the roads within the ward I represent.
In the Transcona ward alone, the following streets are targeted for traffic calming measures, such as bump outs, speed humps, parking reductions and other specialized treatments: Kildare (east and west), Ravelston (east and west), Concordia East, McMeans East (Redonda to Kildare) and Ravenhurst, Redonda, Wayoata, Day streets and Devonshire Drive. Most of the residents of those streets have no clue what is now being recommended to council. No consultations were made in the community.
When you read the report, it is clear the goal is to drive traffic off of these streets, yet these are most of our main collector streets. Where exactly is the traffic to go? Plus, the report calls for a multimillion-dollar pedestrian bridge at the end of Ravelston over Lagimodiere to Callsbeck Road (both gravel roads). It ignores the need for more important road/rail crossings of existing AT paths we already have.
Fundamentally, the $400,000 report has been written by the bike lobby and has little to no connection to the communities they are about to affect. And yet I acknowledge we do need improvements in our AT path network, as none of the networks is connected and huge gaps exist.
On June 30, a meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee was held in an attempt to address concerns. Suggested changes included an amendment of the city’s zoning bylaw to require a public hearing before anyone’s street is changed. This could be triggered by the city or by a petition of property owners representing 50 per cent of the home/business owners. Other changes could see the existing Disraeli pedestrian bridge to be included in the plan, as it has been left off. Build better bike path connections into Kilcona Park, consistent with the Kilcona Park master plan, which was adopted by council last year but completely ignored in this report.
Finally, we suggest reducing the ridiculous $334-million budget. At a time when we can’t even keep up with fixing what we have, this is only a pipe dream that will frustrate the bike lobby when we can’t find that money or upset ratepayers who would need to raise taxes by about four per cent (minimum) to pay for this alone.
The mayor calls this plan only a guideline. But that is misleading as the report going to council says it will be adopted as policy. That’s a pretty big difference. Policy signals the contents of the report are to be implemented. The mayor is being somewhat patronizing to tell us, “do not worry, it is only a guideline.” If he’s serious, the word policy should be removed on the report and changed to guideline.
When Mr. Bowman ran in last fall’s election, he promised it would not be business as usual. He called for democratic changes, the biggest being the election of EPC by its peers.
The powers of EPC appointment are at the heart of the strong mayor model, which exists in no other big city in English Canada. He was right to question it and demand change.
However, since October, the mayor has done the opposite. He has taken the full mantle of power and cloaked himself in the robes of emperor. This will only cause more acrimony in the future, rewards inefficiency and incompetence and does nothing to foster healthy public policy development amongst all of council.
Russ Wyatt was first elected to council in 2002. He has served as chairman of the rapid transit task force, of downtown development, of the alternate service delivery, and of finance and as deputy mayor.
Updated on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:44 AM CDT: Adds photo