New cycling traffic lights causing confusion among Winnipeg drivers

WINNIPEG — There‘s a new bike lane on Garry Street and it comes with a new traffic light system, but the additions are causing some confusion for drivers and cyclists.

Lori Masihi drives downtown on a daily basis. She said the new lights on Garry Street are confusing.

"The one on Garry and Portage, I noticed that it was red and I was concerned because I was going straight,” she told CTV News Winnipeg. “So I was like, ‘am I supposed to go straight?‘”

She‘s not the only one. City Councillor Matt Allard said he had a similar experience.

"I actually just crossed the intersection with a friend and had that same gut reaction." 

Garry Street recently re-opened after the bi-directional bike lane was installed. Mark Cohoe, the executive Director of Bike Winnipeg, said he thinks it’s going to take some time for people to adjust.

"This kind of starts the first part of the network of protected bike lanes, which is really great to see,” Cohoe said. “They have these lights now that make it safer for cyclists, especially at intersections." 

While the additions are designed to improve safety, City Councillor Janice Lukes said are a few kinks that still need to be worked out.

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"It doesn‘t seem that intuitive as it could be,” Lukes said. “I think when you‘ve got bikes and cars and intersections together, it needs to be pretty intuitive."

This light system is known as a priority cycling signal. The idea behind it is to lessen the chance of accidents between bikes and cars turning across the bike lane.

Here is how it works. The city said the light changes to green for cyclists and traffic going straight, but the left turn lane light stays red. This gives pedestrians and cyclists the chance to cross ahead of left turning vehicles. When this light changes to green vehicles can proceed with their left hand turns.

Allard said he’s made inquiries as to why the intersections are set up this way.

"I‘m looking for a thorough briefing about why it‘s set up that way,” Allard said. “If there‘s other options, I‘d like to know about them."

The city of Winnipeg told CTV News, it plans to install better signage and create online infographics for all road users to learn more. It also said it is planning to install equipment to detect when cyclists are in the lane, to signal the light change and help keep left-turning traffic flowing. 

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