Bridge a 'game changer' for Winnipeg cyclists, city councillor says

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A new cycling and walking bridge in the south end is a game changer for Winnipeg, says a city councillor.

The first big steps towards the Bishop Grandin Walk Bike Bridge Over Pembina Highway project are underway with a public workshop to help shape the design.

"It's a game-changer. It's extremely complicated and dangerous, there's transit routes and buses that are turning around, there's traffic you know Bishop Grandin is a very, very busy primary artery in the south end," said South Winnipeg–St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes.

 "It's going to bypass all of that, right."

The bridge will connect the Bishop Grandin Greenway across the busy intersection of Pembina Highway and University Crescent at Bishop Grandin. That means safer travel for pedestrians and cyclists to Investors Group Field and the University of Manitoba, as well as the new rapid transit stations, Lukes said.

"It's a huge safety factor, that's what it really is," she said.

The bridge is expected to cost around $12 million, according to a frequently asked question section on the city's website. While it isn't completely funded yet, Lukes is optimistic that "it fits the federal transit funding perfectly."

The public information sessions and design are part of the application for federal funding, which have yet to be sent in. But the city still intends to start construction as early as March 2018, with an opening in 2019, as long as Council approves the plan and the funding can be secured.

'A step in the right direction, but really a small step'

The new bridge is a step in the right direction to improve safety in a particularly dangerous area for the city's cyclists, said Jason Carter, a member of Bike Winnipeg and the former president of the Manitoba Cycling Association.

"It's a little piece of what the system needs to be in order to be very comfortable for us and very safe for us," he said.
"A step in the right direction, but really a small step." 

Carter had just been riding in the area when he spoke to CBC News on Saturday and the bridge will make a large impact for cyclists moving east-west.

"There are too many tiny little islands and the light sequence is very long so people are jaywalking anyway. So going east-west it's going to be very good," he said.

However, he said he was concerned that there'd be little impact for bicycle and pedestrian traffic moving north and south.

"In fact, if people do go north-south to get to the bridge, or as they tend to do, to get to a Bomber game, they have to go over that Bishop Grandin bridge," he said.

"Now, that is really a very, very bad what they call mixing zone. In other words, where cars are coming up beside you to hit the verges."

In 2014, Dick Stevenson, a longtime Bombers fan, was on his way to pre-season game when he was hit near Bishop Grandin Boulevard and Pembina Highway. The 69-year-old's death prompted calls for safer streets for cyclists and better access to the stadium.

"A cyclist going southbound is literally stuck between these two sets of cars veering back and forth," Carter said. "There's that problem with that flow so I'm not sure the bridge is going to address that."

Lukes said the city recognizes that north-south commuting for cyclists can still be a challenge but work is being done to increase accessibility and safety.

While still in preliminary stages, Carter said he's optimistic the design can increase safety. Last year, Lukes said the city should implement Sweden's Vision Zero, after there were more than 98 road deaths in 2016 — a dramatic increase over the 78 fatalities in 2015.

Vision Zero was adopted in Sweden in 1997 and shares the responsibility for road safety between road users and transportation system designers. The goal is to achieve zero fatalities on roads through smart transit design that mediates human error.

The city's public engagement session about the bridge's design will take place at the Sky Deck Event Centre on May 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.