The purpose of walkways

Riverside walkways and trails can enhance pedestrian, cyclist experience

On Sept. 27, Winnipeg City Council approved the $10-million St. Boniface Tache Promenade project. The City says this will improve connections to St. Boniface destinations and increase pedestrian and cycling opportunities.

“There’s a walkway there, but it’s pretty tired. I described it as dilapidated. The sidewalk is too narrow. The riverbank is in need of stabilization,” Matt Allard, city councillor for St. Boniface, says of existing pedestrian infrastructure along a section of Tache Avenue.

The project will construct a 2.5-km walkway closer to the Red River along Tache Avenue, between Provencher Boulevard and Despins Street. It will include a 100-metre-long elevated lookout in the forest canopy overviewing the river.

Allard notes that much of project will involve riverbank stabilization, sidewalk reconstruction and street repairs. He says the Winnipeg Foundation, a charitable organization, contributed $1 million for the lookout.

Riverside walkways have benefits, Dr. Richard Milgrom, head of the Department of City Planning at the University of Manitoba, says.

“It’s an amenity for people who live in the neighbourhood, but it also becomes a more regional amenity, because people might come and visit it,” Milgrom says.

He notes that this can lead to individuals visiting the St. Boniface Cathedral or The Forks to take a detour along the riverside, which brings more people into different parts of the neighbourhood.

Milgrom suggests this can be helpful for smaller businesses, and he adds that more onlookers in an area can contribute to safety.

The concept of the Tache Promenade is part of the Go to the Waterfront vision, produced for The Forks North Portage Partnership and the City of Winnipeg. The vision focuses on a network of sidewalks, trails and walkways along the riverfront connecting to The Forks. The document also suggests eventually expanding this system into the St. Vital, Assiniboine and Kildonan Parks.

“What The Forks and many other groups have been pushing for is to get these trails contiguous, meaning that they’re integrated into the urban fabric and integrated so you can go a long distance,” Ted McLachlan, a senior scholar with the University of Manitoba’s Department of Landscape Architecture, says.

McLachlan says the Disraeli Active Transportation Bridge is an example of the City taking seriously the need to connect its riverside network of paths. The Disraeli Active Transportation Bridge was opened in 2013 and connects Point Douglas to Elmwood.

McLachlan believes riverside walkways like the Tache Promenade have great importance for encouraging a beautiful experience for walkers.

“We’ve spent most of our time in this city building roads for the movement of traffic, in detriment many times to creating quality spaces for pedestrians. Pedestrians are always that piece of concrete stuck on the side of the road,” he says.

McLachlan adds that walkers have different needs than drivers, and that they need spaces to stop, talk with others and have a great view.

“You have a phenomenal view, both the suspension bridge, the (Canadian) Museum for Human Rights, The Forks, the Fort Garry Hotel – it’s really one of the most beautiful views in Winnipeg,” he says.

Published in Volume 72, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2017)

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