LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Long-planned bike lanes a good use of bridge fund
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Brandon City Council deserves commendations for establishing an active transportation reserve fund.
Consultations for the city plan and the recent municipal election show there is public excitement for active transportation, and it’s great to see city hall acting swiftly to put investment in place.
A key question is where the money for that investment might come from, and cash currently sitting in the Eighth Street bridge reserve seems like a good start.
Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Ward 2) raises the important point that the bridge money was intended specifically for the downtown and flats areas — not as a new benefit, but to help replace a loss — and an active transportation reserve risks being diluted and spread across other areas.
Luckily, a solution presents itself in existing City of Brandon planning documents: the Downtown Brandon Secondary Plan, the Assiniboine Gardens Secondary Plan, and the Greenspace Master Plan all contain active transportation recommendations that are specific to downtown and the flats.
These plans say we should build east-west paths along Parker Boulevard, Hilton Avenue, Stickney/McDonald Avenue, Pacific Avenue and Lorne Avenue, along with some shorter north-south routes.
While not a bridge, this network would provide essential new connections in and between these neighbourhoods. New paths would plug directly into our existing system, join essential destinations like the Ashley Neufeld Softball Complex and Andrews Field, link up with the soon-to-be-completed Daly Overpass, and finally begin to tie the centre of our city to the perimeter path.
These long-standing recommendations only await funding. With $1.6 million sitting in our reserve, we don’t have near enough to build a bridge, but protected bike lanes are much cheaper. That money would go a long way toward fulfilling the vision in multiple city plans and would provide immediate benefits that are specific to the downtown and flats areas.
Meanwhile, filling big holes in our existing active transportation system will be good for the entire city.
Active transportation is popular, and whether you’re walking, biking, using a wheelchair, or taking a scooter or a stroller, your trip should be as safe and convenient as it would be in a car or pickup. Studies show that you’ll be healthier, happier, and more likely to support local business. (Yes, even in the winter.) You’ll also leave the roads less congested for those who do prefer or need to drive. Plus, did I mention it’s cheaper?
It’s in our best interests to invest in active transportation, and we have money in the bank. By focusing first on the downtown and the flats, we’ll be using the funds for the purpose intended, we’ll open up amenities that the entire city can enjoy, and we’ll contribute to a more vibrant community.
If we hurry, we might even be able to do it this construction season.