Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/7/2015 (2509 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s not really clear what Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt has against Winnipeg cyclists — maybe he never got a bike at Christmas as a kid — but his battle against the city’s 20-year cycling-and-pedestrian strategy seems a bit over the top. And it marks a clear departure from his work on city council in 2009.
On Wednesday, executive policy committee approved the $334-million plan, with North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty the lone EPC standout. Couns. Browaty, Wyatt, Ross Eadie and rookies Jason Schreyer and Shawn Dobson have formed an alliance to pool their constituency-outreach money to go public in opposition to the plan. Two radio ads have been bought suggesting the money could be better spent on sidewalks and roads.
While Mr. Browaty claims the ads are designed to communicate with constituents, the actual message provides little if any real information about the proposed strategy. Instead, both ads direct people to phone Mayor Brian Bowman to complain about the plan with little context or clear information. And while the councillors have every right to use their money to inform their constituents about city hall business, radio ads that provide little information, directed at the entire city rather than at the councillor’s constituents, quickly become viewed as partisan.
But more to the point is the confusion over the 180-degree turn by Mr. Wyatt on the issue of cycling.
A news release from city hall in April 2009 has Mr. Wyatt joining with partners from Bike to the Future, the Winnipeg Trails Association, Climate Change Connection, One Green City, Resource Conservation Manitoba, the Manitoba Cycling Association and the now-defunct Centre for Sustainable Transportation (CST) to announce three active-transportation initiatives, including the release of a the city’s bike map for 2009 and a bike-to-work day. An enthused Mr. Wyatt called on Winnipeggers to participate in the cycling initiatives and "get active."
Included in that news release was the initiative: OttoCycle: Building Better Biking in Winnipeg. The city and the CST provided city cyclists with a GPS device so they could track their bike route to help "determine where to build potential cycling infrastructure."
So it is clear that in 2009, city hall was talking with Winnipeggers about a cycling strategy, making Mr. Wyatt’s complaint the plan passed by EPC was rushed and done with little consultation moot. And it’s even more staggering given, as Mr. Bowman took pains to point out, the strategy is simply that — a strategy. Nothing yet is set in stone.
So is this all a temper tantrum from Mr. Wyatt designed to build him some capital with right-leaning Winnipeggers, particularly those who are interested in development? If so, it’s pretty shabby politics. Or is it, as suggested by the Free Press’s Bartley Kives just Mr. Wyatt "hurling metaphorical feces" at the mayor — something he’s been doing since fall? If that’s the case, it’s juvenile and threatens to derail an important strategy that is long overdue.
As study after study has shown, improving cycling-and-pedestrian facilities takes cars off the road, resulting in savings in the long term. According to statistics, one in five downtown residents relies on a bike as their primary source of transportation. Active cities with safe pedestrian and cycling routes are healthier and more vibrant.
It’s clear Winnipeg’s cycling-and-pedestrian strategy has had many stops and starts, but this is a line-in-the-sand (er, on the street) moment. The decision by EPC to pass the strategy means the principles can now move forward and city council can make the ultimate decision on spending, as the projects proceed over time. And not get mired down by the childish and short-sighted rhetoric of grandstanding politicians.