The question of whether bike lanes help or hinder traffic safety generated a cycle of barbs at city hall in a dispute between council's current and former public works chairs.

On Tuesday, Coun. Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) appeared before the committee she used to oversee to express concern that the city is about to delay the construction of an adjustable grid of downtown bike lanes.

​This prompted her successor, public works chair Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge), to suggest bike lanes do not protect cyclists from traffic accidents at intersections.

Morantz also asked Lukes if she is familiar with the work of 87-year-old U.S. cycling activist John Forester, who lobbied in the 1970s for cyclists' right to use the road and argued against keeping bicycles separated from motor-vehicle traffic.

Lukes, the former director of the Winnipeg Trails Association, asked Morantz if he was familiar with anything about cycling before he became public works director.

Outside the committee room, Lukes called Morantz ignorant.

"I think he just doesn't understand. He doesn't follow this," Lukes said. "It's just ignorance."

Coun. Janice Lukes

Coun. Janice Lukes (South Winnipeg-St. Norbert) says Coun. Marty Morantz displayed ignorance. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Lukes said she remains upset that Morantz amended her request to ask the city to study the idea of installing an adjustable downtown bike grid as a means of quickly creating more room for cyclists. Morantz, she said, amended that motion to simply find out whether the grid is consonant with city active-transportation guidelines.

"Had he read it in the first place, he would have seen that it was in there, but this was more of a delay tactic," Lukes said. "This probably won't happen in two or three years or longer. The only way it will happen sooner is if it's the mayor's priority."

Morantz said he has conducted his own research into urban cycling and he believes there is an alternative to what he described as the "conventional wisdom" about protected bike lanes.

"I don't think any debate is ever settled," Morantz said. "I think it's important for people to know that there's another school of thought."

Morantz said city hall should be lauded for spending more on cycling infrastructure "than we ever had before" and denied he is attempting to scuttle an initiative favoured by Lukes, who was removed from the city's executive policy committee last fall by Mayor Brian Bowman.

Bowman, for his part, said he believes protected bike lanes do serve cyclists well.

"That's what the experts tell us," the mayor said. "When we developed our pedestrian-cycling strategies, it contemplates protected bike lanes in many cases."

The city plans to spend $4.7 million this year on conventional bike-and-pedestrian infrastructure, plus another $3.6 million to extend buffered bike lanes along Pembina Highway between DeVos Road and Killarney Avenue and $1.6 million to create protected bike lanes on Empress Street between Portage Avenue and St. Matthews Avenue.

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