The commuting challenges in the Manchester and Highfield Park area come as no surprise to the area councillor.
Ward 9’s Gian-Carlo Carra commuted to work with local cyclist Kevin Schlauch a while back along 42 Avenue SE through Manchester and into Highfield Park, so he saw things first hand.
“We rode 42 Avenue from Elbow to Highfield Park. Two bikes, riding side by side, you sort of command the space,” Carra said.
“But the ride back, by myself, it was really scary and lonely.”
Carra said he’s been on the file for a couple of years, realizing there was an infrastructure dead zone. He added that they examined a number of different solutions that would bolster the area’s commuting options.
At first, they looked at using the service road along the existing LRT line between 42 Avenue and Chinook Centre as a north-south route. He said after it was costed out it wasn’t feasible, given all of the lights and crossing arms that would be needed.
(Carra did note that the upcoming Green Line’s service roads for the vast majority of the southern portions will include a multi-use pathway.)
That’s when their eyes turned to the 42 Avenue SE multi-use pathway possibility.
Carra said they envision a multi-use pathway that connects with Stanley Park in the west and the Bow River pathway system in the east, then linking with the proposed north-south Green Line multi-use pathway, and, of course the pathway to nowhere along 11 Street SE.
“It’s such a critical, interesting link and it’s really sort of focused on a river-to-river connection for recreation and then an opportunity to inject a ton of people into the employment heavy areas of Manchester and Highfield,” Carra said.
Of course, added to the mix is the growth of the Barley Belt. Carra acknowledged an overwhelming number of patrons get to the area by foot and bike.
“There’s a real sort of push to figure out how to not only get people to the Barley Belt, but to get them through the Barley Belt safely,” he said.
That’s something the brewery operators in the area’s craft brewing scene want to see happen sooner rather than later.
“I don’t think it’s a barrier to the success of the Barley Belt,” said Banded Peaks Brewery owner, Colin McLean.
“I think it needs to be a part of it. And frankly, from a cycle infrastructure standpoint, the entire Manchester area is just a blank zone on the city map.
“We’re playing a part in that. But there’s commuters in there that are asking for bike lanes because it offers them safety.”
It doesn’t come without a cost. The area’s cycling infrastructure needs were costed out at roughly $13 million, city cycling coordinator Tom Thivener told LiveWire last week. He added that they’re nearing the end of their current funding for cycle infrastructure so any new improvement would need to go to the next city budget.
But Coun. Carra said he’s working his end to see if they can include it in the city’s upcoming budget. If not, he’ll lobby for the cash to come from elsewhere, he said.
In the meantime, the push from commuters and the burgeoning brewery industry in the area is bolstering his case.
“Having a vocal community advocating for it is very important to me,” Carra said.