Manitoba

Bike lanes win support at mayoral debate on Winnipeg urbanism and design

Winnipeggers need more ways to get around the city on foot and on bikes, seven mayoral candidates agreed during a debate on urbanism and design.

7 candidates at mayoral forum on urbanism and design supported measures to increase alternative transit

Brian Bowman, from left, Tim Diack, Umar Hayat, Venkat Machiraju, Jenny Motkaluk, Doug Wilson and Don Woodstock participate in a mayoral debate on urbanism and design on Wednesday at The Forks. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Winnipeggers need more ways to get around the city on foot and on bikes, seven mayoral candidates agreed during a debate on urbanism and design.

All but Ed Ackerman took part in the forum hosted by Storefront Manitoba and attended by about 50 people Wednesday night at The Forks. Storefront Manitoba is an organization that promotes an appreciation of architecture and design in the province.

While candidates differed on many of the topics — which ranged from their visions for the city to how they would sell Winnipeg to the world — all seven agreed the city could use more active transit.

Jenny Motkaluk, who previously lived in Montreal and Vancouver, said while living away, she came to "really embrace" walking and cycling.

"One of my favourite things about living in Vancouver was that I could access probably any shop or service I think within 500 metres of my door," Motkaluk said.

The candidate for mayor, who is opposed to opening Portage and Main to pedestrians, said she is supportive of a more walkable downtown, but in order for this to be happen successfully, Winnipeg's downtown needs more density.

"We need to work harder to get there," she said.

"There need to be places to go and there needs to be shops and destinations that are in close proximity."

On Tuesday Motkaluk seemed to be less in favour of bike lanes, saying they were pushing businesses out of the Exchange District and blaming them for a courier refusing to deliver parcels. 

Brian Bowman, who spoke before Motkaluk on the topic of active transit, touted bike lanes built in Winnipeg during his mayoral term and said he would work to better connect separated bike paths. 

"I want everyone to feel comfortable biking — and having your children bike with you — across the city," he said.

About 50 people attended Wednesday's mayoral debate featuring seven of the eight candidates. Only Ed Ackerman did not take part. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Venkat Machiraju said Winnipeg should follow in the footsteps of Edmonton and create a pedestrian department, and Umar Hayat said more people would choose to leave their cars at home if bike lanes formed more of a network.

Tim Diack said the city should have alternative transportation available all year, which means improving snow clearing along bike routes.

Silos at the city need to be broken down to enable more active transit, said Doug Wilson, while Don Woodstock, a former Green Party candidate, said Bowman did not go far enough promoting active transit during his four years in office.

"I'm an environmentalist at heart," Woodstock said. "I'm a strong believer in making sure people can walk to work." 

Audience member Brose Haberman, 24, was surprised all candidates seemed to agree on a future of Winnipeg that includes active transportation networks.

"I was very happy," Haberman said, adding bike lanes are still a touchy subject for many drivers in the city.

"But if you think about it, bike lanes mean that bikes are no longer on streets, so I think that's in the best interest of drivers, and in the best interest of pedestrians and, most importantly, in the best interest of cyclists."

During the debate, Bowman challenged Motkaluk to take a stand on whether she supports growth fees and what her tax plan will be. Motkaluk said she is still reviewing her position on growth fees and details related to her plan for property taxes would be released soon. 

Woodstock criticized the format of the debate, which allowed both Bowman and Motkaluk more speaking time than the other candidates. 

with files from Bartley Kives

While candidates differed on many of the topics — which ranged from their visions for the city to how they would sell Winnipeg to the world — all seven agreed the city could use more active transit. 2:22

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.