While professing to be advocates for those who want to walk or bike in our city, Councillors Browaty, Schreyer and Wyatt managed to pass a unanimous motion at yesterday’s special meeting of the East Kildonan – Transcona Community Committee to slash the budget for the City’s Pedestrian and Cycling Strategies by 84%, from $334 million to $55 million over 20 years. Their proposed budget for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure would be limited to projects that are part of existing road renewal programs, development projects and major projects. In other words, they are proposing that unless pedestrian and bicycle facilities are part of infrastructure for cars, there will be no money to:
- Eliminate existing gaps in sidewalk networks on major roads
- Provide sidewalks on local roads where none currently exist
- Bring sidewalks up to standard widths
- Build grade separated crossings
- Take advantage of hydro and rail rights of way to build bike and pedestrian paths
- Build protected bike lanes downtown
- Develop a city-wide bicycle network
Pedestrian & Cycling Strategies will Expand and Enhance Pedestrian Network
While the Councillors seemed to imply that the $334 million cost to implement the strategies over 20 years would all go towards the bicycle network, nothing could be further from the truth. The strategies would expand and improve the sidewalk network to make it more comfortable to walk, and improve safety and connectivity for people on foot. The proposed strategy is just what it says it is — a “pedestrian and cycling “strategy. Of the $334 million investment required to implement the 20 year strategies, $138 million, or a little over a third of the total is actually dedicated towards improvements to the bicycle network.
During the nearly two hour debate/discussion on the strategies, it was painfully obvious that none of the Councillors on the committee had taken the time to read through the strategies. None seemed to have any inkling that the strategies call for the city to expand and enhance the pedestrian network (Direction 1A in the strategies) and improve Pedestrian Safety (Direction 3B). How else can we explain their repeated calls to complete the pedestrian network while simultaneously proposing to remove the very funding meant to pay for that expansion?
Poorly Conceived, Self-Contradictory Motion Needs to be Rejected
There may well be aspects of the strategies that can be improved and debated, but the motion put forward by the Councillors is not helpful and will not lead to constructive discussion or debate. City Council should firmly reject the motion as a poorly conceived and self-contradictory reaction by Councillors who are grasping at every opportunity to undermine and delay the proposed pedestrian and cycling strategies, without apparently taking the trouble to read or understand them.