Consultation? What does that mean?
It means there could be some preeeetty significant changes to you car-drivers in the somewhat near future and there ain't nothin' you can do about it.
The Active Transportation open house took place today at the Red River College downtown campus. The event had numerous boards depicting the plans for bike corridors, mostly attended by people who ride bikes and attended very sparsely by people who don't.
I thought this open house was a joke. It wasn't about consultation, it was about showing the plans they had. Upon questioning an on-hand consultant, they went into defense mode to defend their plans as were, or if you pressed for more information such as funding or budgets, they responded with "I don't knows." They had no idea, the details of otherwise completely OBVIOUS things such as snow removal, or how intersections work. It became very obvious very fast: these plans are made for cyclists without thinking about the motorist. Everything is about giving bicycles priority.
How do you do open house consultation? You do what David Asper did tonight at the University. More on that in a second post. But I digress....
Which doesn't say a lot about these so-called "consultants". Some of these active transportation things CLEARLY have things in them that HAVE NOT BEEN analyzed very well. Some things that should be obvious, completely overlooked. And why?
Well, because these plans are made for cyclists to accomodate vehicles. Whereas these plans should be made for vehicles to accomadate cyclists.
These plans are like, cyclist utopia.
Let's summarize the four proposed routes and then dive into some rather ludicrous details:
Assiniboine Avenue to Osborne: I'll start with the biggest joke of them all. Simply put, this is a fucking nightmare. A few points....A cycling-only lane physically separated by a curb, 3 metres wide, from Main to Kennedy. This will result in "significant parking loss" and also completely re-route traffic on Assiniboine under the guise of "traffic calming," all to accomodate cyclists.
Bannatyne and McDermot, from Waterfront to HSC: This plan involves, on McDermot, a cycling lane the whole way. Note that a cycling "lane" is just paint on the road and a "cycling track" is a lane physically separated by a special curb. That's all good and dandy. But on Bannatyne, because there is room, there will be a cycling track. This track will be 1.5 metres wide on the curb lane side of the street.
Alexander/Pacific/Elgin: This one is pretty good. This connects both Red River College campuses via Alexander and Pacific. Most of it is through somewhat residential streets, which makes things easier. What makes things stupid is how they handle high-traffic intersections, such as Alexander and Isabel. Clearly none of these consultants have driven a bike down this route. It also calls for changing some streets to a forced right turn, blocking off through traffic so bikes can go through, and funneling motor vehicle traffic elsewhere.
Eugene/Youville/Egerton: This one, like Alexander, makes some sense by using residential streets. Again, what doesn't make sense is the installation of forced-right turning in a couple of areas. Utterly stupid.
And now for some details...
As I said earlier the consultants could explain the diagrams and such very well, but were completely and totally inept at answering questions about any aspect of these plans that was NOT ABOUT BIKES.
And even if it was about bikes, they would simply defend their design. I personally watched one woman absolutely give it to two consultants, about the Alexander/Isabel intersection. She had incredibly valid criticisms. The consultants attempted to defend the design, but didn't get anywhere, because this woman clearly knew more than the consultants did on this issue. The consultants stood there and started nodding in agreement after some time. Did they take a few notes down? No. Ask for her information? Not that I could see. So what kind of consultation is this? Your complaints are duly noted, thanks for coming?
When I questioned the usefulness of a "cycling track," the answer was for cyclist safety and for "B-type cyclists." Remember, a cycling track is a lane for bikes physically separated from traffic by a special curb. A "B-type" cyclist is someone who does not ride their bike to wherever very frequently and are not experienced cyclist commuters. I asked this question because, really, is a dedicated bike lane and some paint not enough? How about snow clearing? But no, it's not the cyclist commuters they are bowing to here, it's everybody and anybody who owns a bike and may or may not be inclined to ride it.
And how DO you clear the snow, I asked? With a bike lane, it's simple. You can clear it just the same as you do with everything else. With a cycling track? That requires either a new machine or a sidewalk machine. I even had one consultant tell me that cycling tracks would get PRIORITY for snow clearing!
...WHAT? What kind of fucked up city do we live in where CYCLISTS safety in the winter comes BEFORE VEHICLE SAFETY?!
How much money would it cost to clear cycling tracks? No answer. Actually, anyt question about money was deflected. How much does any of this cost, ballpark figure? No answer. How much has the city budgeted for consulting? No answer. They couldn't answer anything about cost for ANY OF THIS! So how did they design these plans? Without regard for COST!
One of the things that makes the least sense, aside from cycling tracks on a street like Bannatyne, is the idea of creating a "forced right" situation in the residential neighborhoods. Say we have a four-way stop. With these plans, they would plunk down a barrier on one of the streets to prevent through-vehicular traffic. Of course, this adds to traffic volumes on other residential streets, and creates a thoroughfare for cyclists. It's a RESIDENTIAL STREET! We're talking about SAFETY right? Jeebus, it's not like these corridors are for cycling down Pembina where safety IS an issue, they're going down YOUVILLE!
I inquired about the installation of roundabouts instead of lack-of-foresightingly blocking off streets and creating forced-right turning. Makes sense to me, nobody has to stop and everybody wins. Bikes don't have to stop, motorists don't have to stop, it's "greener," it's win-win for everybody. But no....it was...TOO EXPENSIVE to install roundabouts in residential neighborhoods! Not only is it too expensive, but it also allows vehicle traffic on ALL neighborhood streets. No WONDER roundabouts aren't on the table. They keep cars ON THE ROAD!
What bothers me most about this? That consultants were directly involved here. What SHOULD have happened, was the consultants set up their little boards, and leave. They had a vested interest in what they were presenting, they defended every aspect of it. Was there true data collection? Was there any value to this "consultation?" Will any of these plans change? I highly, highly doubt it.
So why can't they use some common sense here instead of pandering to cyclists?
Why can't they install roundabouts instead of blocking residential streets and creating forced-right turns?
Why can't they take a lesser travelled residential street instead of a precarious high volume one?
Why can't they just paint a bike lane on the road and call it a day instead of making a new curb and new infrastructure just for cyclists?
Why can't they put a bike lane on Assiniboine instead of turning it into an absurd clusterfuck of intertwined one-way streets and single-lane roads with parking on both sides all designed for "traffic calming?"
Why can't they scale back their plans in the interest of saving money? Unless City Hall is prepared to doll out at least 10 million dollars, there is absotively no bloody way all four of these plans will see the light of day in their entirety.
Don't get me wrong here. I'm SUPPORTIVE of getting cyclists some road space. But this is absurd. There's good ideas in some of these plans, I'll give them that. But it's the bad ideas that they cling to and defend. It's when they make the motorist the second-class citizen in the transportation department that things go sour. It's when you put consultants in charge of drafting plans that would see the priority on roads go from car owner, to casual bike rider, things go awry.
I'm ALL FOR improving cyclists' lives. But unlike the multitude of bike lobbies in this city, I ACCEPT that Winnipeg is a car-driven city. We aren't going to change that, and it's absurdity to try to do so.
What we can do is put some things in place to make it easier and more attractive for cyclists. We can make little bike lanes like there is on Princess now. We can use existing infrastructure and turn it into cyclist's paradise such as the Marconi Line. We can plan bike lanes and even cycling tracks when we build new roads, or widen existing ones. That's how you can do it intelligently.
Up tomorrow: How to consult the public properly, featuring David Asper and the new Stadium Plan.
Until then, look forward to road blockages, new one-ways, cycling tracks, bike priority queing at intersections, and potentially dangerous, not-very-well-thought-out cycling lanes.