Osborne Bridge rehabilitation and bike lanes by Greg Gallinger

Osborne Bridge Approved Roadview lg

As many of you already know the Osborne Bridge is approximately halfway in to a rehabilitation project. The plans illustrate wider sidewalks, three Southbound lanes, two Northbound lanes, and bike lanes going both directions. When complete the City boasts that:

A team of artists was hired to work side-by-side with the engineers and landscape architects on the design team to provide a bridge that truly fits with the two very distinct neighbourhoods on the north and south side of the Assiniboine River. Special handrails with accent lighting together with a patterned sidewalk on the bridge will celebrate local neighbourhood history, locations, events, and other local heritage elements.

The plans do not however make mention of how the new design will accommodate cyclists, other than the included illustration of painted on bicycle lanes.

Personally I'm skeptical that the new design will make travel across the bridge any safer for cyclists. Painted on bike lanes can easily be ignored, and do not offer any real protection from motorists, particularly when we already have diamond lanes for buses and cyclists that are often abused by impatient motorists who are unwilling to wait in rush hour traffic.

I would have liked to see dedicated bike lanes, preferably on the same side of the barrier as the sidewalks to create a real division between faster traffic.

It seems to me as though Winnipeg squandered an opportunity to present a new generation of bike lanes and set the standard for other areas. As it stands there is a lack of consistency in bike lane design across the City. Even in the Downtown core there are multiple bike lanes. Assiniboine Ave. has it's dedicated bike path, Fort and Garry St. have painted bike lanes, and Portage / Broadway have no accommodations for cyclists at all.

Cities designed to be relevant in the future must start designing infrastructure with equal consideration for all types of traffic and stop treating pedestrians and cyclists as an afterthought.

Running reds and amber light durations by Greg Gallinger

Buried within this Winnipeg Free Press article about photo radar at intersections is the mention of Winnipeg's shorter than average amber lights.

The best piece of journalism in the Free Press' story is actually in the comments section (much to the dismay of this writer who has not been shy to voice his distaste for comments on news sites).

Todd Dube:1

The City of Winnipeg is the only city in Canada that does not adhere to the formula for determining minimum, safe amber times. Winnipeggers "run" red lights at our 80kph camera intersections at a rate of 600% more than the other camera intersections - for the simple reason that those ambers should be 5.5 seconds and not 4 seconds. That is not only profitable but dangerous. The increase in collisions is due to the unnecessary crisis presented to drivers due to the short amber itself. Winnipeggers must read the facts to learn that our true safety has been traded for profit.

As a pedestrian I witness drivers speeding through amber lights and running reds on a daily basis. The southbound lane of McMillan / Corydon Ave. at Osborne St. is one of the worst intersections I've seen. Stand there for five minutes and you'll likely witness more than one car blow through the red.

Frankly I'm shocked their haven't been more accidents involving pedestrians who started crossing when the pedestrian light came on without first checking to make sure there wasn't a car still barreling through the intersection. I personally have become accustomed to waiting a couple seconds after the light to start crossing, even still I've had several close calls where speeding vehicles have disregarded the already red light.

I'm not sure if it's actually as nefarious as some City Hall plot to increase profits, but it is another example of the City's disregard for pedestrian safety.

UPDATE: The City published a report a year ago on March 8th, 2011 that states

Today, the Public Service recommends maintaining the current practice of having four seconds of amber light time and adopting a formula to calculate the all-red light time, as this provides a safer scenario than having a longer amber light time.
They go on to reference research from the State of Georgia legislation. Why are decisions being made based on data from a foreign State, especially one that is geographically different than Manitoba?

1 It should be noted that Todd Dube is no stranger to this issue, he runs the site WiseUp Winnipeg which is dedicated to "publicly expose the deception within the photo enforcement program and to draw attention to Winnipeg’s traffic infrastructure inadequacies (including amber times, speed limits and signage) that are being deliberately exploited by the program to generate maximum “violations” from otherwise safe driving behaviours."

by Greg Gallinger

Are muggings an urban planning problem?

Excerpt from Crime And Urban Environment: Impacts On Human Health

The most widespread problem concerned the lack or inadequacy of a natural vigilance system; there were no urban facilities (such as benches, terraces, kiosks, etc) which would have enabled the users of that space to remain there for a few moments, and participate, albeit unconsciously, in the process of natural vigilance. Also on the subject of natural vigilance, it was found that there was a weak relationship between the interior and exterior of buildings: ground floor windows were frequently protected by bars, and commercial establishments did not have display windows giving visual access directly onto the street. This characteristic is quite possibly a consequence of the feelings of insecurity experienced by residents, who close themselves up inside their buildings (the paradox of “perceived security”).

Last night I was jumped by a group of teenagers after making a stop at the Sherbrooke Inn beer vendor and headed to a friends house on Balmoral St. All that was stolen from me was a twelve pack of beer. I somehow managed to convince the thieves to let me keep my messenger bag and wallet. Despite threatening to “shiv” me I managed to get away from the incident unharmed.

Some people’s immediate reactions would be anger, and prejudice feelings, however the incident got me thinking about the design of the area and how it contributes to crime.

After posting about the incident on twitter I received a lot of replies mentioning how “sketchy” the area is. I think most people are referring to the perceived threat of neighbourhoods with low income housing and provincial housing projects. Subconsciously I believe they are also reacting to the design of the neighbourhood which seems to enable opportunity crime.

I was walking East on Westminster between Langside and Yonge St. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the area here’s a shot from Google Streetview.

Screen Shot 2012 02 05 at 4 21 30 PM

You can see that during the day it’s actually a really nice street. At night though the trees make for a dark walk. They create almost a tunnel of darkness for pedestrians. The fence around Balmoral Hall’s playground also doesn’t help as it creates a barrier between pedestrians and the open park, making it easy for a mugger to block you from escaping, especially when they are working in a small group. Across the street is an apartment building that from the side stands as a massive brick wall, offering no protection in the form of possible witnesses.

This particular strip of sidewalk could be improved by thinning some of the trees that grow against the fence, removing the fence or moving it back several meters so it doesn’t border right on the sidewalk, and improving the lighting situation by adding more streetlights. If the apartment building had a better street level (either an open area with more windows or street level commercial space) it would improve the natural vigilance of the area.

I see crimes like this as bigger problem of public planning rather than a policing problem.

Unfortunately most people’s reaction are to attack the minority groups, the poor that live in the housing projects, and screaming for more police presence.