Like some other movable barriers–like planters that separate bike lanes in other cities–the concrete curbs are a cheap and simple way for a city to test out a new bike path.
"The idea of putting something temporary on the ground so that you see how it works is really powerful," says Martha Roskowski, vice president of local innovation for People for Bikes, a U.S. bike advocacy organization. "It's really smart, because then the engineers and designers can go out and look at it, and if it's not working operationally–like if cars can't make the turn, or people are confused–they can tweak it. They can adjust them."
Temporarily building the lane can also make the case for a permanent lane more persuasively than renderings.
"Usually, the city just comes out and says, 'Here' s the designs of what we want to do,’ everybody argues about it, and then they put it out there," says Roskowski. "Places like Memphis, Tennessee, and other cities have actually used it as part of the process. To say, 'Okay, we're going to put it on the ground for six months. We'll tweak it, we'll see how it works.' . . . Actually having people see it often ameliorates some of the concerns about it."
If Winnipeg had installed typical permanent lanes, Whitehouse says, they would have performed a complete road renewal that could cost millions. The adjustable lane barriers, which city engineers designed based on similar barriers used in other Canadian cities, cost $15,000 to install on two city streets. A 100-meter stretch took only three hours to install.