Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SAFE roads campaign

Recently, we've been bombarded by ads from the WCB and other such groups who are in the business of selling safety (in case you didn't know, safety has become an industry in and of itself), including the, "Is your workplace safe enough to hire your child?" theme.

I thought we rid ourselves of child labour, but regardless...

I'm all for the idea of a SAFE roads campaign. We should all slow down when passing workers, be patient when they are moving equipment, and just relax when we are stuck in a bit of traffic due to construction.

That stated, who is the asshole in charge of signage at these "work sites"? Approach St. James from Sargent only to discover that you may not turn left onto St. James. Hey... relax... the sign says "temporary". Perhaps the workers would be safer if drivers were told in advance of the upcoming mess. When was the last time you saw a "detour" sign in Winnipeg? Consider a mobile, lighted message board on Sargent before Omands Creek informing drivers that "no left turn on St. James" was ahead and, detour, use Empress to Ellice to access St. James . Too difficult.

Also too difficult is the idea that changing the light sequence at St. James and Sargent. You see the intersection has protected left turn signals for both directions of Sargent, but since your choices no longer include turning left, maybe Louis and staff could over ride the arrows and help traffic move through the intersection that is now clogged, instead of having everyone just stop and wait through the left turn signal. Same holds true for William east bound at King. Absolutely stupid, the lights on William westbound are not the same as William eastbound, but as an eastbound vehicle, you have no choice but to turn left onto King because of traffic. You're stuck with NO idea as to the oncoming traffics responsibilities because the lights are not only not the same cycle, (ie they can move when you cannot), and you are committed to turning left. One would think that is all traffic had to turn left, there would be a dedicated left turn... no? Again, this is a construction area. (RRCC at the Royal Bank Building)

Signage is typically non existent until you actually arrive at the construction, and often the lane closures are the most incomprehensible things causing me to bust out into a Mel Brooks line from Blazing Saddles, "hus du gezen in deinen leben!?" William Avenue west bound at Sherbrook, all traffic is forced into the right lane, even traffic turning left. Why? Sure, I know the left lane on the other side of Sherbrook is occupied with east bound traffic, but perhaps a sign for that lane that looks like this...

Or for the illiterate, just an arrow, indicating you MUST turn, and cannot go straight. This would allow the traffic turning right, and going straight to use that lane and NOT wait for left turning vehicles.
Again, a construction area.

Proper signage and proper warnings, detours and better information might be something Chris Lorenc and his association might lobby for. Stop annoying people, stop aggravating them, stop wasting their time, and maybe they won't be so impatient with the folks working on the road.

                                and no... I've never seen one in Winnipeg either.
BTW... it looks like this

Nor have I seen one of these posted a BLOCK AHEAD of the construction area
The City manual mandates nothing more than 50 meters (in a posted 50 km/hr one) before construction, and thedumb asses follow the manual... and no one cares about the people waiting in traffic withhout proper warning of the upcoming roadwork.

In other words, "We really don't care about you, but watch out for us".

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The old "bike /car" debate rears it's ugly head again

Apologies for the delay in posts for my two regular readers.

I was spurred out of my writers block by a cyclist this afternoon. She was about the age of the cyclist tho penned an article in the FreeP last weekend.

The antics of the young woman cycling west on Ellice at 5:25 were stupefying. At Balmoral, she passed a bus that was stopped at a stop... on the sidewalk. She rode on the road from Balmoral to Spence where the bus finally passed her, giving her the obligatory meter. She hopped up onto the sidewalk, where she continued on up to Sherbrook, and then crossed back onto the curb lane. Did I mention that she crossed Sherbrook on a red? Sure, the east bound lanes of Ellice have a protected left turn signal, and there were no cars, but still... I can make great time with my all wheel drive SUV on the sidewalk, and can likely push most cars out of my way if I install a decent bush bar.
I was SOOOO hoping I could clip her helmet with my passenger mirror, but she wisely veered off (without signalling) north bound on Agnes. Good riddance.

What the writer of the article failed to understand, is that Winnipeg drivers are typically stuck travelling twenty minutes in traffic for a trip that really should take less than half that. The same drive on Ellice in the morning from Arlington to Hargrave can take almost as long as riding a bike due to poorly sequenced lights and other horrific traffic planning details. Cyclists (by and large) rub salt in the wounds of drivers by passing them on the right hand side, forcing the car to pass them again (and again, and again) adding to the delay, they skip up onto the sidewalk when it suits them, blow through lights and stop signs.... need I go on?

Sure, I know that loosing momentum at a light or a stop sign requires effort to get up to speed again. I know that sitting in line in the curb lane means I'm sucking in exhaust fumes from the cars waiting around me. I know that stopping at a light when it's safe to proceed, especially at a one way, (where right turns aren't permitted on red for whatever unknown reason) makes NO sense, BUT as someone using a vehicle on the road (highway), I am obliged to follow the rules.

So are cyclists, and here lies the crux of the problem. Bike to the Future, the Cycling Association, and all the other Birkenstock wearing, tree hugging, granola crunching, NDP voting, composting experts (Rob Altemeyer et al) figure they can be indignant about the lack of infrastructure for a mode of transportation that will NEVER be replaced in Winnipeg. The car.

We live in one of the coldest major cities on the planet, and while some of these fools may think cycling in the winter is "cool", I think someone should do them a favour, and ride over their bike the next time one of those idiots falls over in front of them (providing the rider is clear of the bike). Riding a bicycle with snow/ice on the road should be against the law, plain and simple. You are NOT riding in control. I once watched one of these clowns fall off their bike in the intersection, get back on, fall again, get back on... Catch on already!

Back to the article in the FreeP, specifically the comments section, one poster nailed it. Darren Gundmundson posted the following,

I am an avid driver.

I am an avid cyclist.

As a cyclist I hate cars; as a driver I hate cyclists.

Perhaps contradictory, but I am human. As such, when placed in situations that are, for the most part, unreasonable, avoidable, and untenable - on occasion I will lash out at those around me. It is because I am frustrated at the situation.

On most days, the five kilometre drive that I take from my house near Main and Inkster, to downtown takes twenty-five to thirty minutes, both ways. Between the ill-timed lights, photo radar, buses darting in and out, drivers who think the speed limit is 20 kmh, multiple cross walks, stoned pedestrians, and crumbling infrastructure - this City has become intolerable.

As a cyclist, the trip takes about five minutes less, but I have to shoulder check each and every vehicle, avoid the same stoned pedestrians, suck in gallons of diesel fumes from the buses, stop nearly every block, and avoid wrecking because of the, again, crumbling infrastructure.

Think about this.

In the past four decades Winnipeg has grown from 500,000 to over 750,00 people. Yet, in that time the City has actually reduced the number of lanes available to traffic. It is absolutely insane.

We are growing, yet the City reduces the lanes of traffic.

We need a Freeway system that actually helps people get in and out of downtown.

This frees up the non-thoroughfare lanes for bikes and blades, and alleviates driver frustration.

Make is easier for people to get around, stop this nonsense of taking away lanes of traffic and letting our roads crumble

Well said Darren. It's amazing how eloquently you summed up the problems faced by Winnipeg drivers with such few words, none of them profane.

Mayor Katz. Any chance you could get Darren in a position that might have him direct things down at Streets and Transportation? Maybe he could replace Louis? You don't need a traffic engineer for that job. I know this, because the engineer you have is doing SUCH a bad job, someone without a degree can certainly do better. Traffic should be intuitive. Go to the corner, watch traffic and see if it works (or doesn't work) and then fix it. In Winnipeg, we put up all kinds of "no left turn" signs when traffic tries to get off a major road to travel on residential streets. That's NOT fixing the problem you dolts! Fixing the problem would be making the traffic on the major route actually MOVE.

As for any cyclists reading this, I'll pass you ONCE and give you your meter (3') space, but be warned, if you pass me on the right, hop the sidewalk, or blow the next light, you're fair game... watch for my mirror, or if I'm lucky enough to have a passenger, the door.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Buchko gets skewered (or butchered)

My Winnipeg is a funny city. I'll admit, I'm a pessimist. I find fault with a lot of things, but I really do try to be fair about them.

I may not always BE fair, but I TRY to be.

Reading the comments in the FreeP and the Sun surrounding the recent announcement regarding the completion timeline for the new stadium, and I see a thick skin is required to do almost anything in this city.
It's not that there isn't blame to be placed for a timeline gone horribly astray. It's not that we haven't been BS'd since the inception of the whole debacle, by every politician and the original suspects involved. It's not that Winnipeg hasn't already had it's share of over priced, over budget, over promised, over hyped projects (do I need to list them for you?)

What concerns me is roasting the wrong guy at the stake.

I have NO idea of Buchko is going to be any good as the Bomber CEO or not. I can't see why he wouldn't, as it's a business, not unlike any other business. Sure, there are things to learn, but in the end.... it's a business.

Commenters are laying the blame at "Butchko" 's feet. and IMHO, it's quite unfair. Firstly, from what I can tell, it's spelled Buchko, regardless of how it's pronounced, secondly, he's only been in the role since January, and the seeds of the entire mess were sown well before he came on board.

Sure, he made some pretty silly claims when he came on, obviously relying on intel that came from people wanting to cover their own "tight ends" (that was a foot ball joke), and he continued to keep things quiet while he got to know the ropes and the various players. You can't HONESTLY have expected the man to get a firm grip on matters that involved the club, the building and the timeline/season schedule in the first few months, could you?

By April, one would reasonably have expected a realistic update. People knew.

Why we weren't told this earlier is any one's guess. Mine is that Garth was still trying not to come in like a bull in a china shop and step on everyone's toes. Let's face it. He's not there to make friends, but he does have to work with these people. (and even FOR some people)

What happened BEFORE Buchko came on? The Bombers CEO was Ossama AbouZeid, a PEng who was "thrust" in to the position, ostensibly because someone had to do it, and he was already running the stadium construction (and still is). Review  the statements he made in December 2011.

Ossama AbouZeid, interim chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Football Club, says he will know in a couple of months if construction of Investors Group Field will be finished in time for the 2012 CFL season.
"I think realistically sometime in February, we have to say, 'How severe was the winter? What's the prognosis for the spring?' Then we can make a realistic assessment," AbouZeid told reporters on Wednesday, after the stadium's name was unveiled.
"If I'm not ready, I have to make a Plan B. It is not [enough] just to stand in front of you and tell you, 'Oops, I am behind.'"

AbouZeid said the construction timeline will depend not just on weather conditions, but when construction crews can get under cover.
"Very soon, once the stadium [is] closed and once they put the roof sometime in January … everything will be under my control," he said.

So where did the wheels fall off the communication wagon? If the last guy knew he'd know in a couple of months where he stood insofar as a timeline goes, just what went wrong between knowing in February and actually coming clean in May?

Did this have to do with "pie in the sky" hopes they'd somehow make up for (what they claim are) 60 lost days due to wind? Today we heard about the big pre engineered trusses, the two cranes doing a tandem lift, the cranes operating at 98% capacity, blah blah blah.

Clearly the project manager KNEW all this in February. Did he TELL Buchko? Was the board against announcing all this mess to ensure season ticket sales didn't fall off the scale?

Who can we blame?

From what I've read, Ossama AbouZeid has been a pretty straight shooter. Maybe no one asked him the right questions, or maybe he was told to be quiet by others. Whoever tells the CEO that has to be pretty high up.

The Politicians didn't want to have egg on their collective faces. They all gathered round the announcements and promises, beaming smiles, and rolling out the words "world class" whenever they could.

The Bomber Board "sold" their fans on the last game in the old stadium hoopla, and they certainly didn't want to come clean on what they knew when they knew it.

Mostly though, I blame one guy. In March of 2010, he was granted a loan of $90 million , conditionally to have excavation begin that year, for an opening date of 2012. He changed the design a few times, so much so that he was finally removed from the whole deal.

Fill in the blanks. One guy was in charge of the thing (and he had never built a stadium), he dug a hole, but kept changing the design, effectively breaking his contractual agreement, and was removed from the partnership.

Now start with a hole, and re design a building completely... not just pretty drawings, but the actual working drawings, the calculations, the steel layout where a hundred foot truss meets up with a steel post as wide as your Aunt Nelly, and has thirty 3/4" bolts that need to align.

An impossible task to be sure, so I submit, that Buchko is the fall guy for Asper... who happens to be... on the Bomber Board... Buchko's boss so to speak.

Asper'd again.