'Very bold ambitious plan': Windsor active transportation plan gets green light
A long-awaited active transportation master plan has the green light from Windsor city council, with councillor Kieran Mckenzie even calling it a "momentous" occasion for the city.
The document is meant to help guide up to $150 million in spending over 20 years on infrastructure for modes of transportation other than cars and trucks.
The plan has been in the works since winter 2018 and was approved by council Monday night at its regular meeting.
Brian Patterson, a Vancouver-based consultant with Urban Systems Ltd. hired to advise the city, agrees the plan is a bold one for Windsor.
“It's really hard to change how people travel, how people move throughout the community and most cities have a really hard time changing mode share so — this is a very, very bold, ambitious plan,” said Patterson. “And it'll take a lot of investment and priorities and tough decisions to make that target a reality.”
That key target of the new plan is to more than double the number of commuter trips made in Windsor by walking, cycling or using transit from the current 10 per cent to 25 per cent by 2041.
“This is an exciting night for us and I think it's a game changer to see all of those councillors accept what we're doing and where we're going,” says Lori Newton, a cycling advocate with the grassroots group Bike Windsor-Essex.
In addressing council, Newton expressed her support of the plan but, also her reservations it will never be fully realized.
“The plan of course is only going to be as good as the political will to implement. The Bicycle Use Master Plan was a visionary document. We had it for 20 years and we did not implement it so, I implore you to take this really seriously,” said Newton.
Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens dismissed any concerns council isn’t fully behind the new plan.
“There's no worry that the political will won't be there. I think the worry is that there's never enough money to do everything that you want to do,” said Dilkens.
The plan could add $6 million in annual spending to the city budget. Also approved at Monday night’s meeting was adding the position of an active transportation coordinator as a first charge in the 2020 budget.
“We know that this 2020 budget is going to be particularly difficult and will be very difficult probably to see even the initial $6 million happen in year one,” said Dilkens.
Patterson has recommended some “quick wins” to council to help jumpstart the building of an active transportation network in Windsor.
“Some of the quick wins that we identified were setting up a downtown network of protected bike lanes where most people are, most of the jobs are,” said Patterson.
The city has made progress in building more cycling infrastructure including new lanes connecting Seminole Street to Pillette Road.
Construction has also begun construction of the city’s new West End Transit Terminal on property abutting Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare as part of efforts to improve local transit.
Despite the improvements, bike lanes in Windsor remain unprotected and Newton points to the concern it causes users — highlighting how much further the city has to go.
“We do have a lot of identified dangerous intersections and if we can put paint on the road, people will see that, people will start being educated and they will get excited about the direction that we're taking this,” said Newton.
Another safety measure Newtown hopes to see is reduced speed limits for residential streets.
“If you are hit by a car going 30 kilometres an hour versus 50 kilometres an hour, it's a life or death change,” says Newton. “So, absolutely, I think we heard from council tonight that there is an interest in potentially looking at lowering speed limits and bringing in measures that will help our streets be safer.”