Winnipeg councillor creates proposal to upgrade city tracks as physical distancing continues

A Winnipeg city councillor is pushing for the city's walking and running tracks to be upgraded as more people spend time outside to exercise during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Global News / File

A Winnipeg city councillor has taken some time during the novel coronavirus pandemic to investigate the city’s running and walking tracks, and he says he’s hopeful that work can be done to refurbish some of them — especially since many Winnipeggers are looking for ways to exercise outdoors in the summery weather.

“I’ve always been a runner, and we built a new (track) in my ward last year, and it’s fantastic — my ward is well-served now,” St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes told 680 CJOB.

“When the pandemic started, I started reading these articles and opinion pieces saying we need more cycling infrastructure and more paths… and I thought, if this about more places to walk, we shouldn’t forget about these walk-run tracks we have throughout the city.”

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Mayes said he left his ward and started exploring tracks throughout Winnipeg — including some he’d never been to — and produced a report on their status.

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His recommendation is that eight of the 21 tracks he visited be upgraded at a cost of just over $3 million — but only if funds from other levels of government become available for projects like this.

“In 2010, federal money was used to help out the Maples track and to help out the Elmwood track, so it’s not crazy that we could use some money from other levels of government,” he said.

“I don’t think we need to put it all into cycling paths — some of it, for sure, but we’ve got this other infrastructure. People use it… I think there’s some real interest in it.”

Mayes said his research showed that many of the city’s running tracks were installed in the 1960s, and few have been updated in the years since.

“It’s not top priority but it’s something I don’t think we should forget about… by their nature, they’re opened to the public. Schools would get good use but also the general public, which is the goal here,” Mayes said.

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The track issue, he said, is something he’s hoping to include in the larger debate among Winnipeggers — and city council — about improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.

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With the influx of people trying to get outside during the pandemic, the city’s rules around walking and biking are causing some confusion.

A Westwood resident told 680 CJOB that while she thinks it’s great people are out walking and biking on the city’s newly designated active transportation routes, the barricaded streets are causing issues for people who live there.

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Darlene van Ruiten lives on Assiniboine Avenue and said there’s confusion for local residents who need to drive down the road to park in their driveways.

“I have been yelled at in my car personally and I know other neighbours have as well, just from people that are biking, or having kids on small trikes and wondering what we’re doing there — yet we’re allowed there and we’re going slow.

“With people following the rules and going up alternative roads in blocked sections, the smaller bays and streets are getting inundated with new traffic,” van Ruiten said.

The city temporarily expanded its active transportation routes in late April in an effort to help with social-distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Winnipeg officials discuss reopening golf courses, transportation routes – May 5, 2020

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