The city councillor representing Winnipeg’s Exchange District is proposing a pilot project to make the area more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.
On Tuesday, Vivian Santos introduced a motion for a ‘shared streets concept’ during a city hall committee meeting.
In a press release, Santos said the idea of the shared streets concept was brought to her attention by both David Pensato of Exchange District BIZ and Anders Swanson of Winnipeg Trails Association.
Santos the plan is to raise the street to the curb level at one of three locations.
“There will not be a defined curb anymore. That’s the shared concept,” she said in a phone call with CTV News.
To help define lines previously bounded by a curb, instead she said there could be trees, planters and different-coloured paving stones.
"If you look in other cities this is how the concept has been implemented," she said.
“This is traffic calming by design.”
Santos said vehicles could still drive on the affected street, they would just have to be more aware that it’s a shared street with pedestrians and cyclists.
The idea was presented after a controversial decision to construct a loading zone along Main Street that narrowed the sidewalk to about half its size to accommodate a safe drop-off/pick-up zone.
“It provides many of the same aims as a pedestrian mall, while still allowing access to delivery and service vehicles - and parking,” said Pensato of the shared streets concept, in the news release.
He said during a temporary trial last summer that saw Albert Street closed to vehicles, it was discovered that while businesses on the block weren’t enthusiastic about a “full-blown pedestrian mall,” there was support for a shared street concept.
The streets being considered for the concept are:
- Albert Street between Bannatyne Avenue and Notre Dame Avenue;
- Arthur Street between Bannatyne Avenue and Notre Dame Avenue; and
- Bannatyne Avenue between Main Street and King Street.
Impact on traffic
In a phone call with CTV News, Pensato said the potential impact on traffic is one of the reasons to study the concept, and the pilot project is formalizing what is already happening on some streets in the neighbourhood.
“I don’t think it would really limit traffic flow. I think it would be minimal, if at all,” he said.
Pensato said because of the way the streets are designed currently, and the already high level of pedestrian activity, he believes the traffic flow reduction may even improve, but awaits the results of the study.
Approval of concept could remove curbs: Exchange District
Pensato said if the project was ultimately approved it would remove curbs on the affected streets and make traffic flow gentler, effectively forcing vehicles to move around 30 km/h.
ISantos said the next steps are to schedule a meeting with the area stakeholders to discuss the shared streets concept and collect feedback within the next few weeks, with the committee reporting back by 2020.
What the project means for the narrowed sidewalk on Main Street
Pensato said if the the shared streets concept was permanently implemented, it would make it possible for a loading zone on Bannantyne Avenue that was removed in June 2018 to be restored.
Santos said this summer, she was disappointed with the new loading zone on Main Street and wanted to find a better solution for the Exchange District area.
Santos said Tuesday she can’t change what happened with the narrowed sidewalk.
“All I would like do is move forward,” she said. “Shared streets concept is a very positive balance to accommodate vehicular traffic, pedestrians and cyclists.”