City seeks to tweak ‘open streets’ blueprint
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/03/2022 (432 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s 2022 version of “open streets” could look much different, with rules that vary by route — though all would slow down drivers in an attempt to welcome cyclists.
If city council approves, the proposed “enhanced summer bike route program” will reopen 14 of the 17 routes tested last year, with speed limits reduced to 30 km/h from 50 km/h, from May 1 to Oct. 31. Each route could also have its own additional rules and barricades that apply at yet-to-be determined times throughout July and August, and on weekends during May, June, September and October.
During those times, two of the routes (on Wolseley Avenue and Scotia Street) would keep the one-block vehicle travel restriction that aimed to offer more space for active transportation in previous years, while “no thru traffic limits” (which require vehicles to turn right or left) would be placed at some “strategic locations,” a City of Winnipeg staff report notes.
(Open streets were renamed enhanced summer bike routes, and restricted to cyclists last year, after the city discovered inviting pedestrians to use them broke traffic laws.)
Ian Walker, who relies on cycling as his main mode of transportation, welcomed the speed reduction.
“If the road is going to be shared as an active transportation (route with) automobiles… people should be going (closer to) the same speed just so that everybody’s comfortable on it,” said Walker, who also serves as chairman of Safe Speeds Winnipeg, which advocates for slower residential speed limits.
He said imposing the slower speed on a 24-7 basis should support more commuting by bike, making it safer to choose green transportation at any hour.
“Getting on to a bicycle is a really easy way for a lot of people to (cut their carbon emissions), but people will only get on to a bicycle or use another mode of transportation if they feel comfortable and safe doing it,” said Walker.
However, the project also has its critics.
Wolseley resident Ray Hignell said he felt perfectly safe cycling in his neighbourhood for many years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, without such routes in place, leading him to believe the changes aren’t needed.
“I’ve ridden a bicycle for a long time and… I never had a problem,” said Hignell, adding he’s concerned the proposed bike routes will lead drivers to seek out alternate routes, which could have several downsides.
“You are changing traffic patterns, which changes the value of people’s houses. You are making people drive longer distances, which wastes their time, and… it is causing people to burn extra fuel.”
”You are making people drive longer distances, which wastes their time, and… it is causing people to burn extra fuel.”–Ray Hignell
However, the head of council’s public works committee said the city has heard plenty of support for the routes.
Coun. Matt Allard expects to support the proposal, which would require full council approval.
“In order to be sustainable as a city, economically and environmentally, we need to give people transportation options and safe transportation options. I think any improvement that makes it safe and more pleasant to use a bicycle, as opposed to other modes of transportation, is going in the right direction,” he said.
And while 2022 appears set to mark a major shift from one-block vehicle limits to reduced speed limits on most of the cycling routes, Allard said he expects the new rules should be clear for drivers.
“At the end of the day, drivers are to observe the traffic regulations on every street… I think through communication, particularly with the signage… it’ll be pretty obvious to drivers what to expect on the streets,” he said.
”I think any improvement that makes it safe and more pleasant to use a bicycle, as opposed to other modes of transportation, is going in the right direction”–Coun. Matt Allard
The original “open streets” concept began in 2020, as a way to allow socially distanced outdoor exercise during the pandemic, with the one-block travel restriction intended to ensure more room for cyclists and pedestrians.
In an email, city spokeswoman Julie Horbal Dooley said this year’s site-specific rule changes reflect public feedback.
“We heard that residents living on the routes broadly enjoy having some element of cycling accommodations through their neighbourhood but do not widely support the daily one-block restrictions on their respective streets. With this in mind, we developed street-specific measures we feel would strike a balance between providing local access and creating a safe and comfortable cycling environment,” said Horbal Dooley.
The “individualized approach” also reflects each street’s traffic count, she noted, with more restrictions on busier routes.
The proposal also calls to reduce the total number of enhanced bike routes by three this year, eliminating routes on Assiniboine Avenue (since it’s recommended for a separate speed limit-reduction trial project), Rose Lake Court (due to low use) and Wellington Avenue (where a protected biked lane would be preferred), according to a city report.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.