Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/7/2015 (2135 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Children will lie bleeding in the street. The Richardson Building will crumble into cinders. The Red River will burst into flames. Brian Brohm will be named the Bombers’ starting quarterback.
These and other nightmares will most certainly befall Winnipeg if the city goes ahead with a plan to build more bike lanes, a form of infrastructure that poses the greatest threat to this city since the Soviets stopped aiming nukes at us.
Insane, you say? Don’t just take my word for it. Five city councillors claim to be so perturbed by the idea of expanding Winnipeg’s bike-and-pedestrian network, they spent $3,500 worth of public funds to decry the Great Evil Of Our Time.
In radio ads, Couns. Russ Wyatt (Transcona), Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) and Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) decry the city’s long-term pedestrian and cycling strategy, a planning document that envisions $334 million worth of spending over the next 20 years.
"Envisions" is the key word, because the strategy is a planning framework. It grew out of the city’s Transportation Master Plan, a 2011 document that envisions billions worth of new regional roads and transit corridors.
Both documents may very well recommend quintillions worth of new stuff, because transportation plans are just wish lists. The city only builds what it can afford, either by paying cash or by financing the work over decades through loans from banks or construction companies.
This real spending is laid out in the city’s capital budget. Only this document allows the city to fork over big wads of cash to pay for infrastructure.
In 2015, for example, the capital budget calls for the city to spend a total of $561 million. The vast majority of this money -- $330 million -- goes toward water and sewer upgrades.
Of the remaining $231 million, no less than $103 million is spent on roads. A grand total of $2.4 million pays for sidewalks, walking paths and bicycle corridors.
In other words, the city currently devotes 0.4 per cent of the capital budget to bike-and-pedestrian infrastructure. On July 15, council will consider a plan that advocates greater bike-infrastructure spending – but actually does nothing to ensure that actually happens.
Consider, for example, the 2011 Transportation Master Plan, which suggested Route 90 from Ness Avenue to Taylor Avenue should be reconstructed, the Louise Bridge would be replaced and Marion Street would be rebuilt from Youville Avenue to Lagimodiere Boulevard – all by 2016.
That is not going to happen. You can’t build hundreds of millions of infrastructure in less than six months. This is why Winnipeggers ought to take transportation plans with a grain of salt.
As veteran members of council, Wyatt, Browaty and Eadie know perfectly well they’re expressing opposition to a paper menace. Yet they’re actively campaigning against the cycling-and-pedestrian strategy, leading rookies Schreyer and Dobson along the garden bike-path.
Together, the Anti-Spoke Blokes don’t just condemn the theoretical commitment of cash for bike lanes. They’ve treated the wish list like gospel, claiming it will compel the city to stop clearing snow from sidewalks.
It’s more likely to see the Red burst into flames. Any council that scales back snow clearing will be committing suicide.
Anyway, Mayor Brian Bowman calmly dismissed the anti-pedal pushers, questioning their use of public funds for attack ads. The mayor expressed particular disappointment with Browaty, who sits on executive policy committee but will not be kicked off.
The mayor’s real problem lies with Wyatt, who’s been hurling metaphorical faeces at Bowman since the fall. Remember, Wyatt also was the architect of the disingenuous, city-funded "Responsible Winnipeg" ad campaign, which tried and failed to win public support for golf-course sales.
Given the infrastructure headaches facing Winnipeg, it’s difficult to believe Wyatt and his anti-bike buddies truly believe bike lanes are worth blowing political capital. The real agenda appears to be to present a challenge to a rookie mayor.
In fact, neither bike lanes nor roads are Winnipeg’s biggest infrastructure problem. In the coming years, Winnipeg must find billions to pay for sewage-treatment upgrades the city must undertake but cannot afford.
Politicians don’t talk about sewage because it isn’t sexy. What will get their attention? Check out your water-and-sewer bills, which are rising every year to pay for the real financial nightmare facing this city.