Manitoba

Councillor calls winter bike commuters 'extreme cyclists,' says Winnipeg shouldn't spend money to clear lanes

Coun. Jeff Browaty says the city should not spend money clearing snow from dedicated bike lanes.

Coun. Jeff Browaty made comments before council voted to approve $5.4M of new bike, pedestrian projects

Coun. Jeff Browaty voted in favour of bike and pedestrian projects on Thursday, but warned about the annual cost of clearing snow from dedicated bike lanes. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Coun. Jeff Browaty says people who ride bikes in Winnipeg during the winter are "extreme cyclists" and says the city should not spend money clearing snow from dedicated bike lanes.

"I don't think Winnipeggers are going to embrace winter cycling," the North Kildonan councillor said Thursday during the final city council meeting of the year.

"The majority of people who are biking in the winter, they're the extreme. They're the extreme cyclists and I don't see that changing."

Browaty made his comments before council voted to approve $5.4 million of new bike and pedestrian projects slated to be completed in 2019.

Browaty voted in favour of those improvements but warned about the annual cost of clearing snow from dedicated bike lanes in particular.

"These separated barriers are really quite costly in terms of snow removal. There's an expectation they get there very quickly, so I don't think it's a very good use of resources," he told reporters following the council meeting.

"We are a winter city. There is a lot of snow in the city and I would rather use that money to do a better job of plowing our sidewalks [and] our transportation paths where there is a greater number of people using them."

A dedicated bike lane in Winnipeg's Exchange District on Thursday. (Travis Golby/CBC)

The city set aside $4 million to clear snow from sidewalks and bike paths this year and has been advised to spend an additional $1 million in 2019.

The precise budget won't be determined until council finance chair Scott Gillingham (St. James) presents a draft budget, likely in February.​

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he supports the winter clearing of bike paths — and poked fun at Browaty for voting in favour new bike lanes after sponsoring attack ads against the mayor in 2015 based on the city's planned active-transportation infrastructure.

"That's a flip-flop I'll welcome any day," Bowman said.

Winnipeg Trails Association director Ian Frank said it would be unwise to gauge the demand for winter bike paths by looking at the number of people who ride on routes that are not maintained properly.

"If you don't have a protected bike lane that's plowed, no one's going to ride in it," he said.

"We've done a better job than we did even a few years ago, but it's too hit or miss, it's too unreliable.… People have a hard time predicting when they're going to be able to get all the way to work or all the way home."

Coun. Jeff Browaty says people who ride bikes in Winnipeg during the winter are "extreme cyclists" and says the city should not spend money clearing snow from dedicated bike lanes. 1:57

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