Open streets return in Winnipeg pilot project, but routes closed to pedestrians
Public works department says Highway Traffic Act prohibits walking on future active transportation streets
A report from the city's public works department says pedestrians should not be allowed to use any of the streets closed to vehicles for a coming pilot project aimed at extending Winnipeg's Sunday/holiday active transportation routes.
The city has plans to reboot the popular program at the beginning of May with vehicular restrictions on 14 streets, but only cyclists — not pedestrians — can take advantage.
The report from public works, made public Monday, says allowing pedestrians on those routes contravenes section 143 (1) of Manitoba's Highway Traffic Act (HTA).
"The HTA currently prohibits pedestrian use of a roadway when a sidewalk is present on the street in question," reads the report.
Thousands of Winnipeggers got some physically distanced fresh air last year on several streets that were closed to most vehicular traffic.
The city expanded its Sunday vehicular restrictions on four streets to seven days a week, and last spring added five more routes.
Enthused by the response, last September city council directed public works staff to look at making some of the streets year-round active transportation routes and expanding the program to other areas of the city.
The recommendations from public works staff say a new pilot program in May 2021 could be undertaken "that excludes pedestrians on the streets," and says to communicate the change in policy, it should be "re-branded" as the enhanced summer cycling route pilot.
Closures last year were a quick decision: director
The director of the city's public works department, Jim Berezowsky, says the streets were closed last year under the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to give residents some physically distanced exercise.
"Things were happening where we had to make decisions on a daily basis to try and operate in the best interest of the public, and keeping people close to home and those considerations were our number one focus while we under that local state of emergency," Berezowsky said.
The city will appeal to residents to obey the law and keep off the streets while on foot.
"We are asking pedestrians to cooperate in a safe and efficient manner as it stands, while we work on a solution. We're reaching out to the public on that. We really do want their support on this so we can find a viable solution here," Berezowsky said.
The chair of the infrastructure and public works committee was repeatedly asked if the proposed pilot would stop residents from walking on the designated routes, and repeatedly Matt Allard gave a similar answer.
"I know that there are circumstances where pedestrians are legally allowed to engage the street," Allard said.
Allard, who has championed the active transportation routes, acknowledged he's liked having the streets open to both cyclists and pedestrians.
"Ideally, that would be the case. The director [of the public works department] has has an opinion on the matter. We're branding these holiday cycle routes in part based on that opinion from the director," Allard said.
Allard said he would have more to say about the issue at a meeting of the committee on Friday.
The popularity of the open streets project last year was highlighted in a survey done by the city. It found 65 per cent of the 5,600 respondents were positive about the routes.
Berezowsky agreed monitoring the streets for breaches of the HTA would be the responsibility of the Winnipeg Police Service, and says if there are safety issues that are raised as the pilot project moves forward, his department will look at those locations "on a case-by-case basis."
The 14 streets designated as part of the enhanced summer cycling route pilot program are:
- Lyndale Drive – Cromwell Street to Gauvin Street.
- Scotia Street – Anderson Avenue (at St. Cross Street) to Armstrong Avenue.
- Wellington Crescent – Academy Road (at Wellington Crescent) to Guelph Street.
- Wolseley Avenue – Raglan Road to Maryland Street.
- Churchill Drive – Hay Street to Jubilee Avenue.
- Egerton Road – Bank Avenue to Morier Avenue
- Kildonan Drive – Helmsdale Avenue to Rossmere Crescent & Larchdale Crescent to Irving Place
- Kilkenny Drive – Burgess Avenue to Patricia Avenue and Kings Drive.
- Rover Avenue – Hallet Street to Stephens Street.
- Youville Street – Eugenie Street to Haig Avenue.
- Alexander Avenue – Arlington Street to Princess Street.
- Ravelston Avenue – Plessis Road to Wayota Street.
- Linwood Street – Portage Avenue to Silver Avenue.
- Harbison Avenue West – Henderson Highway to eastern terminus.