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City council could soon extend temporary cycling and walking routes until September, and explore adding more routes year-round.
A new motion calls for nine routes — in which vehicular access is restricted to allow more room for cyclists and pedestrians — to continue until Sept. 7 instead of shutting down on July 6.
The routes were first promoted as an option for socially distanced exercise during the pandemic.
Mayor Brian Bowman said they are popular.
"There’s a desire to do what we can, especially during the pandemic, to make sure there’s additional safe spaces for people to engage in recreation," said Bowman. "We want to at least look at a pilot that would go to Labour Day, so that we can see how it operates."
On Friday, council asked the public works committee to look into it.
Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), who raised the motion, noted it also calls on the public service to report back in four months on "the feasibility of establishing permanent year-round active transportation routes."
"For little kids that have learned to ride (bikes) on them, for the public health workers who really need us to keep going on prevention, for so many reasons, this is a good motion," said Rollins.
The routes limit vehicular traffic to one block from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily on sections of Lyndale Drive, Scotia Street, Wellington Crescent, Wolseley Avenue, Assiniboine Avenue, Churchill Drive, Egerton Road, Kildonan Drive and Kilkenny Drive.
Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), council’s public works chairman, had planned to raise a similar motion on Friday. However, Allard realized just before a council meeting that he attended by video feed that he’d need to be physically present to sign a new motion, which led Rollins to step in.
Earlier this week, the city announced the current routes would close July 6, under the rationale that loosened pandemic restrictions allow more options for Winnipeggers to get outdoors without violating the public health directive to stay at least two metres apart.
The plan to shut down the routes quickly triggered backlash.
The Winnipeg Trails Association posted a petition to keep the routes open, enhance and expand them. More than 4,000 people have signed it.
Mark Cohoe, executive director of Bike Winnipeg, said his organization will counting the number of users on the temporary routes until May 31.
Cohoe said that data will help determine where the city can best support active transportation. He said the option appears to have grown more popular as many Winnipeggers work from home, keeping them close to the neighbourhood pathways.
"We need to be looking at expanding ways to get people to and from work, so that there are options other than choosing a vehicle," said Cohoe. "We’re seeing an unprecedented number of people getting out walking and biking."
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.
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Updated on Friday, May 29, 2020 at 7:14 PM CDT: Updates story to final version.