City of Winnipeg turns to street art to calm traffic on cycling routes

The city is watching paint dry along select summer cycling routes in hopes of slowing motor vehicles down more than slashing the speed limit has been able to. 

Local artists are being commissioned to help paint colourful murals on pavement along some city Enhanced Summer Bike Routes after a recent analysis of traffic use showed drivers were still going too fast despite a posted 30 km/h speed limit. 

The pavement art helps calm traffic because it creates the perception a roadway is more narrow, said Erik Dickson, a livable streets specialist with the City of Winnipeg’s public works department. 

Fifteen artists are currently working at 16 sites along four of the reduced-speed routes, including parts of Wellington Crescent west of Academy Road, Lyndale Drive, Churchill Drive and Kilkenny Drive. 

There are 15 enhanced summer routes in all, open from May to Oct. 31. Each has a reduced road speed limit, while a select few have areas in which motor vehicles must turn off after travelling one block. 

The art also has the effect of drivers slowing to take it in, said Dickson. “People slow down to take a look at what’s happening,” he said. 

The city is partnering with local public art collective Cool Streets Winnipeg for the $50,000 traffic-calming project. The group was involved in a lauded 2021 effort to transform the look of eight city bridges. Most of the money is to pay the artists, Dickson said. 

“It’s a quick turnaround project, but we’re really really happy with the response [from them],” Dickson said. “We haven’t done an installation, especially on this scale before, on this many streets.” 

Eric Dickson is a liveable streets specialist with the city’s public works department. He says the traffic-calming effort is also beautifying the areas it’s happening in. (CBC)

The traffic calming efforts are needed, especially with the end of the designated routes looming, said Jason Carter, a member of Bike Winnipeg and former president of the Manitoba Cycling Association. 

He pointed to a curved section of Wellington Crescent running along the Assiniboine River not far from Doncaster Street as an issue — the same where a teen girl was killed in 2012 while a passenger in a speeding SUV that crashed. 

Carter said he was almost struck in the same area by a van which left the road and crossed over onto an adjacent cycling path when he used to commute through the area. 

“Had I been going a little faster I would have been knocked into the river,” he said. 

Traffic volume will pick up along that section in the late fall and winter as more drivers access the road, but without speed limit or other restrictions, which will end. 

“So really, whatever you can do to slow that track down really helps,” Carter said. 

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