$20 million dollars dedicated to increasing cycling routes and pedestrian paths around the city do not include one of the city’s main veins, Pembina Highway, a route that many students at the University of Manitoba use to get to the Fort Garry Campus.
“In one respect we’re absolutely thrilled about the $20 million, but we’re really disappointed that there’s no funding to address Pembina Highway to get people to the university safely,” said Janice Lukes, director of the Winnipeg Trails Association.
The road poses a number of problems for students who want to cycle to campus safely.
“The whole length of it is troublesome. It’s a combination of cyclists having to share the same space as buses and parked cars.”
“We have buses that are not sharing the same sort of speed or road, and then we have weaving in and out of traffic in rush hour,” said Anders Annell, coordinator of the Bike Dungeon of the University of Manitoba Recycling and Environmental Group.
However, other projects included in the $20 million may produce an alternative to Pembina Highway.
“In fact, we’ve had a consultant through this year’s capital budget investigate the issue of Pembina Highway,” said Kevin Nixon, Active Transportation Coodinator for the City of Winnipeg Public Works Department.
“Of course it’s one of our biggest issues. It’s very difficult cycling and we have a great deal of cyclists on [Pembina Highway.]” The coordinator has suggested that streets in Fort Rouge be used as an alternative to Pembina Highway.
“This is a huge step up for the active transportation program, not only because it boasts 37 different projects. They were 37 of the most important ones, and some of them will affect the University of Manitoba,” said Nixon.
Of the 37 projects, four or five will affect the U of M, including a section of Bison Drive that will make Waverly and Waverly West closer to being connected.
“The city is hoping to have some of the projects completed by the end of the year, through most commence next year. In fact some of these things we’re hoping to do [ . . . ] before the snow falls this year,” said Nixon.
Currently, the biggest issue with active transportation in Winnipeg is connectivity between off-road pathways and on road infrastructure.
“Really, right now we’re at a very basic level of active transportation infrastructure [ . . . ] This $20 million is going to almost put us at the forefront [ . . . ] so it’s huge news,” said Lukes.