Road repaving project under scrutiny over missing bike lane upgrades
WINNIPEG -- A City of Winnipeg paving project is under scrutiny because it doesn’t include upgrades to bike lanes but the city suggests longterm plans don’t include any improvements.
The city’s own active transportation documents call for upgrades to cycling infrastructure to take place in the area at the same time as road construction.
The paving project is happening on a 2.5 kilometre stretch of Roblin Blvd. which is being resurfaced over the next two years.
The two-year road renewal project involves concrete repairs, resurfacing and sidewalk improvements but doesn’t include any changes to the current bike infrastructure, according to project information available on the city’s website.
Instead, the existing shared curb lane bike paths also known as sharrows, which leave little room for cyclists and drivers to share the road, will remain in place for now in both directions with improvements to the riding surface.
That’s left some city councillors, including Matt Allard who chairs the infrastructure renewal and public works committee, asking questions.
“Why is the project website not talking about a painted bike lane which is what the active transportation strategies document calls for,” said Allard.
Allard said a 2008 council-endorsed policy calls for road renewal and bike and pedestrian improvements to be done at the same time.
The sharrows, which are currently identified by painted cycling logos which are fading in many areas, are seen by some as outdated and unsafe.
“Sharrows, I understand to be an inferior product to a painted bike lane,” said Allard.
The city said in a statement late Wednesday evening sharrows are exactly what its planning documents call for on the stretch of road in question.
“The Pedestrian and Cycling Strategies identified painted infrastructure as the appropriate treatment for Roblin Boulevard,” a city spokesperson said in a statement to CTV News. “This infrastructure is in place in the form of a sharrow; the treatment will be renewed as part of the Roblin rehabilitation project.”
The head of the Winnipeg Trails Association says that's not good enough.
“You’re deciding that it’s okay that we continue this lifestyle and that the people around there don’t deserve safety,” said Anders Swanson.
Swanson sees it as a missed opportunity and is calling on councillors and the mayor to step in.
“You have an opportunity here, and you have an opportunity to include active transportation in all of your projects especially the ones that are already identified in your cycling strategy,” he said.
It wasn’t immediately clear what kind of construction work would be required to put in painted lanes as opposed to sharrows.
Regardless, Charleswood resident Tim Seniuk said it would make sense to make improvements to bike infrastructure as part of the road construction process.
“We look forward to stuff that is actually safe and actually good for the environment as well as widening the path for biking which hopefully they’re going to be doing it all at once versus doing it in stages because it seems it’s kind of a waste of taxpayers dollars,” said Seniuk.
He said he was surprised to hear the city doesn’t plan on making any changes and is sticking with the status quo.
“Why wouldn’t you do it all once versus spreading it over multiple years,” said Seniuk. “So you lay new concrete and lay new asphalt only to rip it up and do it again. That just doesn’t seem like money well spent.”
Kevin Klein, the city councillor for the area, said he has concerns about the process.
He thinks it would make more sense to do the road work and improve bike lanes at the same time, suggesting it would be more be cost-effective and less disruptive to traffic.
Allard pointed out painting lines and sharrow symbols are typically a job done by city workers whereas road construction is done by contractors.
Allard says he’s had some communication with the public service and has arranged a meeting with city officials on the issue of the bike infrastructure on Roblin Blvd.