At Friday’s meeting, Winnipeg’s city council extended eight of nine temporary cycling and pedestrian routes put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic until September, but councillor Kevin Klein argued successfully to have the closed stretch in his ward axed.
The routes see stretches of roads closed to vehicles travelling more than a block from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, to allow room for pedestrians and cyclists. Typically, four of the routes are closed to vehicles from dawn until dusk on Sundays and holidays in the summer.
Klein, who represents Charleswood-Westwood-Tuxedo, lobbied at the meeting to have a stretch of Assiniboine Avenue from Bedson Street to Westwood Drive cancelled after complaints from residents.
Meanwhile, cycling advocate Anders Swanson argues the success of the routes points to the need for improved cycling infrastructure in the city.
The routes were extended and expanded by city officials — first in April and again in May — before the Friday council vote to keep the routes until Labour Day.
“It’s a huge success, and that huge success is the reason to keep it going,” said Swanson, the Winnipeg Trails Association’s executive director.
“What exactly is going to happen (in September) that people are going to suddenly not want to do this anymore?”
Swanson and the association want to see an expanded cycling and active transportation network throughout the city.
“We want the certainty of a network that reaches the whole city for equity reasons because it’s fair and people need it,” he said.
Swanson said anecdotally he’s heard of people deciding to take up cycling this summer that had not considered it before.
“I can’t count on both hands the number of office workers I’ve spoken to who’ve said they’re going to try something new this time — that they’re starting to bike,” he said.
“Bicycles are flying off the shelves, it actually looks like the toilet paper section of the grocery store a couple months ago if you go to Mountain Equipment Co-op.”