Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/1/2011 (4033 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Tighter safety measures could help bridge the gap between the needs of cyclists and pedestrians at one of Winnipeg’s busiest bottlenecks.
Plans for the latest version of the $18-million Osborne Street Bridge rehabilitation project — which will stretch from River Avenue to Broadway Avenue along Osborne Street — were recently unveiled, featuring two options.
The first option is the preferred blueprint recommended by the city’s Neighbourhood Advisory Committee. It includes revamping the bridge with separate sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and cyclists in both southbound and northbound directions. Concrete shoulder barriers would separate the two lanes.
The second includes a multi-use pedestrian-cycle lane next to the southbound lanes of the bridge.
A key figure in the planning process said the first option is more viable for several reasons including safety.
"The second option is a bit more unusual and faced some opposition from residents at the open house," said Matt Chislett, bridge projects engineer for the city’s public works department.
"There are potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. During community consultation, we became aware there is a significant population of older people in that area. Many have vision and mobility impairments and are very uncomfortable having commuters zipping past," Chislett said.
Chislett said that planners are constrained by the unique demographics of the compacted stretch of land.
"The second option would require some property acquisition at the southwest corner of the bridge, which we found out afterwards," said Chislett, noting that approximately 40,000 vehicles use the bridge every day.
He added that the pathways would be affected — or "discontinuous" — at certain points, such as near the Roslyn Square Apartments at the corner of Roslyn Road and Osborne Street. "We have to work with the useable width of the sidewalk by this heritage building, so there’s no real opportunity to widen there."
Chislett said the consultation process for the massive project has included "all sorts of surveys and meetings with stakeholders" such as BIZ groups, Great West Life — who are based just north of the bridge — and cycling advocacy group Bike to the Future.
BTTF co-chair, Curt Hull, 55, thinks the separate pedestrian and cycle lanes make sound safety sense.
"It’s important to have a cycling solution on the bridge, because right now we have conflict, especially at rush hour, which makes the recommended option attractive prospect for cyclists," said Hull, who lives in Fort Rouge.
Hull said the vision reflects a "compromise, considering the different restraints developers had to contend with."
"Also, when you cycle on the sidewalk, you become very vulnerable at intersections. We want cyclists to have routes that are segregated lanes. Personally, I think this makes crossing the bridge safer and more pleasant for everyone," Hull said.
He added that Osborne Bridge is at the "crossroads of all major routes making it a key to the connectivity process for cyclists. The active transportation work done with bike paths in recent years has made a significant improvement to the network."
Area resident Jenn Halyk, 32, has lived in the village since 1999. The marketing manager — who regularly drives and walks across the bridge — thinks the proposal is a "good thing, because so many people are riding their bikes on the narrow sidewalks."
"If you’re a recreational cyclist who likes to use the sidewalk, where else are you going to go? There’s very little room to manoeuvre," Halyk said.
"And just the other day I was driving behind someone who was riding a massive tricycle on the road in bad conditions. They were wearing no safety gear and I had to swerve in the snow at the last minute to avoid them."
Area councillor Jenny Gerbasi said the opposing views of cyclists and pedestrians have been an issue of conflict in the community for some time.
"I know that cyclists using the sidewalks has been a problem in the past, so the rehabilitated bridge will certainly be a big improvement compared to now," Gerbasi said.
"Also, with barriers on either side of the pedestrian walkway, the bridge should be a better and safer place for everyone."
Chislett said work on the bridge is set to begin in April and should be significantly completed by October 2012. It will remain open during construction with a reduced number of lanes at different times.
For more detailed information, visit www.winnipeg.ca/publicworks/majorprojects/osbornebridge.
Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at email@example.com or call him at 204-697-7111.