Residents associations are pushing for more access to two "open streets," despite opposition from at least one city councillor.
Members of multiple associations will lobby city council Thursday to offer seven-day active transportation access on sections of Scotia Street and Rover Avenue. Those are two of 17 roads proposed to become "enhanced summer cycling routes" through a pilot project this year, where vehicular travel will be limited to one block during set hours.
"Open streets" are meant to create more room for cyclists.
"Having the seven-day access brought (Scotia) Street to life in a completely new way (last year) … The community support for the open routes has been very strong," said Brent Johnson, secretary of the Luxton Residents Association.
But last year’s "open streets," included pedestrians. Since then, the city has discovered that allowing foot traffic to share the space with vehicles violates the Highway Traffic Act. This year, it’s proposed the routes be set aside for cyclists only.
The act prohibits pedestrians from walking on roadways where a "reasonably passable" sidewalk is present.
Scotia Street (from Anderson Avenue at St. Cross Street to Armstrong Avenue) and Rover Avenue (from Hallet to Stephens streets) are currently slated to offer enhanced cyclist access on Sundays and holidays only, a limit proposed by Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski).
The groups hope to change that to seven days a week, as is proposed for most of the other cycling routes.
Johnson said he regularly walks and bikes on Scotia Street in West Kildonan and believes that while the one-block limit can inconvenience drivers, the public benefit outweighs any downside.
"There’s certainly a demand and desire for people to experience this part of the city in a different way. Why should we deny that in favour for convenience … for cars?" he asked.
Johnson expects Rover Avenue, which he’s used to commute by bike, would also benefit from such access.
"Rover is a vital link in the active transportation network that the city is slowly but surely developing," he said.
Daniel Guenther, president of the Garden City Residents Association, said Scotia Street also provided his neighbourhood with an outlet for socially distanced exercise last year.
"With Scotia being the closest open street to Garden City… (it) definitely filled that void," said Guenther.
But Coun. Eadie, who has lived in the Scotia Street area for 54 years, said he has received multiple complaints about the seven-day access, which city staff had initially proposed for the two routes this year. Specifically, he said residents were concerned the vehicle travel limit interfered with delivery vehicles and buses last year.
"The people who are for (this) are adamant (the route must be open) seven days and the people who are against (it) don’t want any days," said Eadie.
The councillor said he believes a switch to Saturday, Sunday and holiday access for Rover and Scotia is preferable. He plans to ask council to add Saturday access at its Thursday meeting, where a final vote on the pilot project will take place.
He expects that "compromise" would best address the needs of all residents.
"I’m just moving to balance the ‘for’ and ‘against’ perspectives of people," he said.
Eadie said these routes should otherwise match the timelines of the seven-day ones, by running from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., from as early as May 3 to Nov. 5.
Eadie said he’s asked city staff to explore if Rover Avenue could have its speed reduced to 30 km/h, something active transportation advocates have lobbied for on residential streets.
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.