Unconventional street plan proposed for Exchange District

Winnipeg city Coun. Vivian Santos is proposing an unconventional streetscape plan for parts of the Exchange District, after the public works department narrowed part of a Main Street sidewalk by installing a loading zone.

'Shared street' concept already adopted in Canadian cities like Montreal, Halifax

A conceptual design for a Halifax street shows the concept, which eliminates the curb making the roadway level with the sidewalk. Pedestrians, cyclists and cars move freely within the space, forcing vehicles to travel at a slower pace making it safer. (Halifax Regional Municipality)

A Winnipeg city councillor is proposing an unconventional streetscape plan for parts of the Exchange District, after the public works department narrowed part of a Main Street sidewalk by installing a loading zone.

"It's very unfortunate what happened there," Coun. Vivian Santos told CBC News over the phone. "I wouldn't have probably gone this direction if [public works] had just not done what they did, and would have just come to me in the first place."

"This solution would have probably been a way better solution than the cutout of the loading zone."

A "shared street" is a concept where the sidewalk curb becomes level with the roadway. Santos says that means pedestrians, cyclists and motorists are all on the same roadway and everyone would travel at a similar pace because of that.

Argyle Street in downtown Halifax implemented a street-share concept in late 2017. (CBC)

The curb being level with the road also allows the street to become more accessible, especially for people with physical disabilities, and Santos said pedestrians would be able to cross the street virtually wherever they want, as opposed to crossing at an intersection.

It's important to note that there is still going to be a sidewalk for pedestrians but instead of the edge being marked by a curb, Santos says it will be edged with planters, trees or different coloured paving stones. 

Santos said she decided to propose the idea after researching other cities that have created similar infrastructure. She said it's a common concept in Europe, but a few Canadian cities implemented it as well, including Bear Street in Banff, Alta., Saint-Catherine Street in Montreal Que., and Argyle Street in Halifax, N.S.

Pilot project

On Tuesday, the public works committee supported Santos' proposal for the city to consult with businesses and residents in the Exchange about possibly implementing the shared street concept on a pilot basis.

The administration was directed to develop a cost estimate and conceptual design for the committee within six months.

"Right now, the Exchange District is changing and moving towards being more pedestrian and cyclist friendly," Santos said. "Vehicles that do go down Bannatyne [Avenue], Albert and Arthur [Streets] are already going at a slower pace…because of the amount of pedestrians around there."

"So this would be a nice transition into that direction of having a shared street concept pilot project."

Banff's Bear Street is set to be converted to a shared street concept in spring of 2020. (Town of Banff)

Santos said the affected streets would be Bannatyne Avenue and Albert and Arthur streets. However, she's open to others that the committee may come up with.

She said this area was chosen because there was a pedestrian mall pilot project conducted on Albert Street last summer which used a similar concept and closed the street to vehicular traffic.


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