Monday 26 December 2011

Destroying brand new infrastructure: It's a Winnipeg Thing

For a person who only bikes a half-dozen times a year, I'm surprisingly supportive of active transportation infrastructure. In a quiet sort of way though. I don't go around pushing the active transportation gospel on unwilling victims, and I realize that regardless of how much you try to develop it, only a very small percentage of people will ever commute by pedal power in a city as sprawling as Winnipeg.

However, I would love to see an integrated network of paths that would let me bike around the city without having to compete with vehicular traffic, and was therefore pumped when the brand new Bishop Grandin Trail West opened late last year. Now, if I wanted to I could bike all the way to Assiniboine Park or my friend's place in White Ridge without riding on a major road!

Winnipeg's newest active transportation corridor claimed the starring role in this year's International Trails Day festivities in Winnipeg, and earned sparkling praise from Winnipeg's AT Madame Janice Lukes: "This new trail is a stellar example of community connectivity."

It also happens to be a stellar example of poor planning, because this is what the trail looks like now:

Less than a year after it was paved, the trail was torn up and the communities are connected no more. That's about $2 million of trail torn up to make way for the construction of the Kenaston extension through Waverly West -- something that has been planned for over six years.*

I suspect the Winnipeg Trails Association is in denial because they have not yet recognized this destruction on their web site. Both the Bishop Grandin Trail West map and their spiffy new BETA version map show the trail as being intact, which it very much is not. In fact, there are "No Trespassing" signs at the start of the trail section (which I, um, didn't notice until after I had taken the above photo. I mean, after my Research Assistant Julio took the photo.)

How does this happen? This particular section of trail was funded by the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, which is an extension of the Canada-Manitoba Infrastructure Program. This is separate from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund that gave birth to many other active transportation improvements of questionable wisdom, but like that program this one is a use-it-or-lose-it affair with a specific deadline for spending your money. I have noticed that putting a drop dead date on spending money will ensure the money gets spent, but greatly increases the chance that it will be spent poorly.

I can't tell you if this botched trail was a result of deadline-related pressure, or bad communication, or something else, but there is really no excuse for it. Somebody at City Hall needs to oversee this stuff and connect the dots. I've heard of other instances where a road was repaved, only to be torn up right away for sewer repairs or some such thing. Perhaps a big chunk of Winnipeg's multi-gazillion dollar infrastructure deficit it due to one $50k/year slacker who spends his time on Twitter instead of cross referencing project dates?

Anyhow, at some future time we'll get to see if this stellar example of community connectivity will be reconnected, and if there will be some reasonable way to navigate the new intersection at Bishop and Kenaston. I sure hope so, because some day I might actually want to hop on my bike and ride to Assiniboine Park for the afternoon. Well, okay ... I'll probably take the car, but it would be really nice having that option of biking though.

* Waverley West Area Structure Plan, December 2005. Dollar value estimated based on this article that specs $20m for 12 km of trail. Total length of trail between Waverly & Scurfield is 1.8 km, much of which is torn up,

did you know: that the MTS Centre got $34 million from the Canada-Manitoba Infrastructure Program?


Anonymous said...

Winnipeg's bike transportation infrastructure is a joke. ATAC and BTTF seem to be proponents of the "if we build enough disconnected trails, eventually we'll end up with a connected network" school of thought.

How are you supposed to cross Pembina using the Bishop Grandin pathway? Why does the Winsmart pathway not connect the foot of the main/norwood bridge to Assiniboine? Why is there a pathway from Pembina/Bison to NOWHERE? Why are they advocating a dangerous partial bike path on Pembina between chevrier and Plaza?

Absolute Joke. And the sad part is that they could spend a lot less money and get much more effective bike infrastructure.

cherenkov said...

There are definite problems. Crossing Pembina at Bishop is one of those for sure, and that's another reason why commuting using designated paths is not really realistic for most people. I still see the AT network more as a sprinkling of recreational trails around the city rather than a bona fide alternative for getting yourself from A to B.

Maybe that Chevrier-Plaza path is another example of spending money to meet a funding deadline.

Anonymous said...

And how about the links between the bike lobby and the BRT lobby? Seems like there is quite a bit of palm-greasing going on between those two groups.

Anonymous said...

Really - 34 Million from feds

So let me get this straight. Chipmans got

34 Million from feds
30 million from Crocus
50 million from Assiniboine Credit union, who's loan just so happens to be guaranteed by Provincial VLT money.

Not bad and lets not forget, they tapped into another 15 million ( Infrastructure ) or so for their "barn " arena out by the downs.

Wow, those mennonites sure hit the nail on the head this time around. Atta boy Toews, you pulled it off

Anonymous said...

Seriously ... who really gives a fuck? Most people I know don't. I still can't believe we wasted 20+ Mlion on bike paths that are used 4 months maybe 5 out of the entire year while major roads like Pembinia and Portage crumble.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2, it one of those gotta have for a major metropolis.

cherenkov said...

Wow lots of Anons around here.

Anon2: I don't think they knew how successful the arena would be. As it turns out, Chipper and Thompson are probably making out like bandits.

Anon3: the paths are kept clear during the winter and used all year `round, (although obviously they get more use during the summer.) Your point about priorities is a valid one though.

Marty said...

Mr. C: I dare you to look at the Assiniboine bike path and repeat the remark about them being kept clear. It's a hazard for pedestrians using it or going across it this December anf for cyclists. Not scraped once.

Anonymous said...

What doesn't seem to be mentioned very often is that all the Federal money ATAC got from the feds wasn't designed to make commuting easier or better for those that do it already or are comfortable riding on high speed arteries. It was earmarked for recreational cyclists, specifically those that used sidewalks the majority of the time.

The problem with not stating this is that drivers get pissed because they see cyclists using roads when infrastructure exists. Cyclists get pissed because they use roads because the infrastructure isn't really appropriate for serious commuters. And those that ride on the sidewalk are still to scared to ride on anything but the sidewalk.

Anonymous said...

As a year-round cyclist (I don't have a car) I can tell you these paths are needed. But like all the other commentors said they are pointless bcuz of stories like this.

@Marty - It's not just the paths that haven't been cleared... nothing has been cleared yet this year!

cherenkov said...

Marty: they do plow the paths after a larger snowfall. Sometimes before the streets!

Gil G. said...

Happy New Year Cherenkov. You should do a year in review post.


cherenkov said...

Posted! HNY to you too.

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