More than $21 million spent on Pembina Highway bike lanes is being wasted because the plastic pylons meant to protect cyclists are flimsy and constantly driven over by vehicles, a City of Winnipeg report states.
The report, headed to council’s public works committee Thursday, recommends better protecting the long cycling path, especially as another $15-million active transportation investment at the Jubilee Avenue overpass opens this month.
However, the plastic "poly posts" are better than nothing, said Trails Winnipeg executive director Anders Swanson. "But we’ve heard that they’re not there when people are expecting them, which makes them kind of pointless."
The pillars are glued to the ground in summer and removed in the winter. But Swanson said riders eager to head out in the spring find them missing as well — or toppled.
"There’s definitely been issues with those bollards being knocked down, through the winter but also in summer," said Bike Winnipeg executive director Mark Cohoe. "It’s pretty disheartening if you’re riding and you see the bollard that’s supposedly providing your protection is run over and squished by an unknown number of vehicles."
Both agreed the piecemeal nature of the Pembina bike lane — protected in some places but mixed in with heavy traffic in others — keeps riders from using the path.
Cohoe said it’s actually easier to clear snow from permanently protected bike lanes compared to the pillars.
"If (snow plows) have something they can put their blade up against, it can make it a bit easier to clear," he said.
The report states it’s not feasible to remove the posts at present, but perhaps in the future: "The Winnipeg public service will review upgrading buffered bike lanes to a protected facility for regional streets and will prioritize this as a future project as part of the Pedestrian and Cycling Strategies projects."
The poly posts were installed before the city’s 2014 active transportation plan, which calls for stronger protection to encourage cycling.
"We have to be continually upgrading. So we welcome the report that takes a look at this," Swanson said.
He said there’s more that can be done to make the bike network connected, reliable, comfortable, and attractive — such as using flower planters to protect bike lanes, as Toronto and Vancouver are learning to do.