A group of Wellington Crescent residents are asking Winnipeg city council to keep their stretch of road in the “open streets” program.
Wellington Crescent is one of 13 streets where motor vehicle traffic is restricted to one block from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily under that program, which began in April and is set to last until November. Similar restrictions are in place on weekends only for four other routes.
It follows a similar program last year, which aimed to allow Winnipeggers to get out safely on the roads during the pandemic.
Earlier this month, dozens of people in the Wellington Crescent neighbourhood raised concerns about safety and traffic due to the closures.
“There’s a perception that Wellington residents don’t approve of this program. That’s false,” said Bill Hamlin, who lives in the area and has now created an online petition, asking city council to keep the program as is.
At a June 10 meeting of the city’s public works committee, the councillor for River Heights, John Orlikow, tabled a motion to give the director of public works the power to set and amend the dates and times for the open streets program in consultation with area councillors.
That motion was approved and went to council’s executive policy committee, which voted last week to end the program for Wellington Crescent at the beginning of September, rather than November. The proposal is now set to go before all of city council this week.
Hamlin says the city should stick with its original plan.
“The city undertook an engagement process and 75 per cent of residents approved this,” he said. “Winnipeggers across the city approved this. It’s an overwhelmingly popular program.”
He wants the city to keep the program in place until November and hopes once it’s done, the city and residents can all agree on a long-term solution.
“I respect the opinion of all my neighbours,” said Hamlin, whose petition on the website change.org had more than 700 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
“A lot of the concerns raised, I don’t agree with. Some of the concerns are valid. That’s why we need to work together and find a permanent, long-term solution.”
Sharon Kirk and her family have lived on Wellington Crescent for more than 10 years. She says she’s enjoyed seeing so many people make use of her street over the past year.
“We find that the community is safer now that there are many more eyes out on the street daily,” she said, adding she thinks there’s less litter on Wellngton because the city has also added more garbage cans.
“Even in the middle of the day, there’s people walking, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding.”
Kirk says she uses Academy Road to get to work now and has had no issues.
The Winnipeg Trails Association hopes city council keeps the program in place, since it connects many active transportation routes.
“I think that this is exposing a lack of of a strong plan for transportation, mobility and health as we come out of the pandemic,” said Anders Swanson, the association’s executive director.
“We need to rethink the priorities at the top because we wouldn’t get to this situation if we had a clear vision, a clear plan — something more than this just little barricade.”
City council will vote on Wellington Crescent’s participation in the “open streets” program at its meeting this Thursday.
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