Main Street sidewalk shrinks to make room for loading zone lost to bike lane

A downtown Winnipeg sidewalk is shrinking to make room for a loading zone lost when bike lanes were installed in the area.

Dance school in McKim Building at Main and Bannatyne told city it needs safe drop-off space for students

Construction on the sidewalk along southbound Main Street at Bannatyne is expected to be wrapped in October, the city says. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A downtown Winnipeg sidewalk is shrinking to make room for a loading zone that was lost when bike lanes were installed in the area.

Construction is ongoing on the sidewalk at Main Street and Bannatyne Avenue, where crews are narrowing the walkway to put in a loading zone for vehicles — a move welcomed by tenants of a building at the intersection, but which city officials say underscores a need for consultation on bike lane development.

The loading zone that previously existed for the building at the corner — 211 Bannatyne — disappeared when the city put in a bike lane on Bannatyne Avenue.

The McKim Building (formerly the Crocus Building) houses the School of Contemporary Dancers and Across the Board Game Café, among other tenants.

Vivian Santos, city councillor for the area, said she learned about the construction this week, when several residents in the area contacted her with questions and concerns about the construction.

In a meeting of the city's infrastructure and public works committee Thursday, Santos said she wishes she'd been notified earlier.

"We're very supportive of bike lanes, have always been supportive of bike lanes," she said. "And I know … this is kind of the aftermath that we're dealing with, and [I] wish it could have gone over a little bit better."

In a statement, a city spokesperson said the project started due to a "unique situation," when a dance school in the building informed the city it needed a safe pickup and drop-off zone for families and children coming in for lessons.

The statement adds the sidewalk's new width will be roughly 2.2 metres, which is "within acceptable accessibility standards for a downtown sidewalk."

"This is not something we wanted to do. We never like to take away sidewalk capacity," said David Patman, Winnipeg's manager of transportation, in the Thursday committee meeting.

"We never want [be] considered rogue engineers, just doing what we want without proper consultation."

'Tough balancing act'

Nick Mann, general manager of Across the Board, said the loss of the loading zone has also had an impact on his business, making deliveries more difficult. He's glad to see a loading zone returned to the space, and he's hopeful the narrower sidewalk won't impact accessibility.

"It's a tough balancing act here, I think, with a lot of the street work — putting in bike lanes, taking away parking, pedestrian traffic," he said.

"There's only so much space, and a lot of stuff that I think needs to happen. And it's tough to figure out how that actually plays out."

Jim Berezowsky, the city's director of public works, said in the meeting there's a "communication gap" between when communities are consulted and when work actually begins.

Patman and Berezowsky both said there were alternative loading zones built into the bike lane plan, but they would have required young clientele of the dance school to cross the busy street.

After public engagement ends, he said, there can be a lapse in time before construction starts, and "nobody understands … from a year ago what the decision was," he said.

"And so we need to bridge that communication gap."

Santos emphasized the importance of large-scale consultation for projects affecting the city's Exchange District.

"I think we're going to learn from this process, right?" she said. "And [for] future bike lanes … I think it's good to have massive community consultation."

The city says the construction will be complete by the end of October, weather permitting.

With files from Sam Samson