Manitoba

Group calls for biking infrastructure to be included in upcoming roadwork of major Winnipeg street

City councillors and advocates of Winnipeg's North End and active transportation are calling on the City of Winnipeg to include bike lanes in the redevelopment of Salter Street.

A section of Salter Street will get a facelift soon, but bike lanes not in current plan

A group made up of Winnipeg city councillors, residents and advocates meets on Friday to measure how much room would be needed to install bike lanes on Salter Street. (Darin Morash/CBC)

A group made up of city councillors, some North End residents and transportation advocates spent part of Friday measuring parts of the sidewalk on Salter Street in Winnipeg to see whether they could be changed to make room for bike lanes.

A section of Salter Street, which runs from the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge to the Vince Leah Recreation Centre in the Margaret Park area, is set to undergo a major facelift this spring. The  work is supposed to include improvements to pedestrian safety and accommodation, according to the city's website.

But a group of people, including two city councillors, wants bike lanes to be added to the street when the work is done.

"I'm really frustrated that … there is nothing north of the CP railway line for cyclists to stay safe while keeping pedestrians safe in their space," said Coun. Ross Eadie, representative of Winnipeg's Mynarski ward that includes Salter Street.

Eadie added that provisions for cyclists would also help motorists, because "if I was driving a car and I hit somebody on a bike, I'm not going to feel very good for the rest of my life about that."

Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas), a supporter of the North End and an advocate for safer street design and active transportation, is backing Eadie's idea to get bike infrastructure on regional roadways.

Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski ward) is frustrated by the lack of cycling infrastructure north of the CP rail lines. (Darin Morash/CBC)

"We know residents around this neighbourhood walk, cycle, they take active transportation, such as public transit, and they also take vehicles. So it's important to acknowledge that we have to have our spaces equitable for everybody, for all modes of transportation," Santos told reporters Friday.

Santos says she wants to work with Eadie and the chair of the city's infrastructure renewal and public works committee to come up with ways to encourage policy that incorporates active transportation in regional roads.

The work on Salter Street will stretch from the bridge, which crosses over the rail yard, to Cathedral Avenue near the St. John's Library. It is part of the city's 2020-2022 William/Salter/Selkirk pavement renewals project.

That section of the street will have its concrete joints repaired, as well as sidewalks and curbs. A new layer of asphalt will be laid on top of the current roadway to smoothen the road and help improve drainage, according to the city's website.

There was no public engagement for the project due to its limited scope, the site says.

However, advocates and residents of the area are concerned that not including bike lanes puts people at risk in the area, and keeps the North End lagging behind when it comes to bike infrastructure.

Anders Swanson wants to see biking infrastructure in the North End because there is a 'void' when compared with south Winnipeg. (Darin Morash/CBC)

"There's no excuse not to put bike lanes on a street like this, that leads to a bridge like that, through a community like this, in the middle of a pandemic. It's absolutely wrong," said Anders Swanson, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association, which advocates for active transportation.

"It's an abdication of their duty to take care of people riding on the sidewalk, and to provide for the health and transportation options that people need."

Winnipeg's North End is an active community. Many residents walk, cycle or take other modes of active transportation, so installing bike lanes on a major road in the neighbourhood is especially important, Swanson says.

The only time to add the necessary bike-lane infrastructure planning is during major reconstruction, he added.

Nelson Flett, who lives in the area, just wants him and his children to feel safe when being on the street.

"I'm anxious and very on-guard," Flett said about riding his bike on Salter Street.

"I don't know if someone's going to come ride and hit me, or someone's on their phone. There are many reasons that a distracted driver would hit somebody."

Flett believes infrastructure that is friendly to active transportation would encourage more residents in the area to travel that way.

The group calling for a bike lane is unsure how much it would cost install bike lanes on Salter Street, but say it is a public safety issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter with CBC Edmonton who focuses mainly on data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at nick.frew@cbc.ca.

With files from Stephanie Cram

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