One of Winnipeg's most-prominent "open" streets could have its hours significantly shortened, in the wake of residents' complaints of conflicts and traffic hazards.
Council’s executive policy committee voted 6-1 Wednesday night to reduce operations of the Wellington Crescent (Academy Road to Guelph Street) enhanced summer cycling route to weekends and holidays only, starting Sept. 7.
Without the proposed change, seven-day access would continue until Nov. 5.
City council is set to cast a final vote on the issue in July, along with a move to reduce the daily Kings Drive (Kilkenny Drive to Patricia Avenue) route to weekend and holiday access (starting Sept. 7).
The Winnipeg active transportation pilot project follows a 2020 "open street" program for cyclists and pedestrians. (Foot traffic isn’t permitted on-road along this year’s routes, as it goes against Manitoba's Highway Traffic Act.)
The routes restrict vehicle travel to one block between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. to allow more room for cyclists, with most doing so seven days a week.
The EPC decision came after the committee heard complaints the 14-hour daily vehicle restrictions created new traffic risks.
Area resident Brenlee Carrington Trepel said Wellington Crescent is already busy. The program creates a "hazardous" mix of cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians, the latter of which continue to use the route despite the latest rules, she said Wednesday.
"You have a very serious safety issue that is created," Carrington Trepel said, stating more than 100 residents have expressed similar concerns.
Many vehicles are now avoiding Wellington and relying more on residential streets and Academy Road, making crossing Academy more dangerous, she added.
Some residents have also been harassed for using the routes to access their own homes, Carrington Trepel said.
One man who uses the Wellington Crescent cycling route with his family told the Free Press the reduced hours would be a step backward for active transportation access in Winnipeg.
"I (also) think it distracts from the bigger issue that there’s a clear demand for these kinds of programs and amenities… I think any conversation about this has to (include that)," said Zach Fleisher.
Adding more permanent routes in Winnipeg would help prevent conflicts between different modes of travel and avoid congestion, he said.
"I think the biggest issue we’re facing right now is there’s a huge pent-up demand for active transportation in the city."
Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), who represents the area, said he too believes the vehicle restrictions could divert too many cars to Academy Road.
"Those cars have to go somewhere... If in September, if everyone goes back to school and back to work, if an overload happens on Academy, cars (are)… going to go down residential streets. I share that concern. I do not want to see a whole bunch of cars going down residential streets," he said.
Coun. Matt Allard, chairman of the public works committee, said he believes the proposed change offers a compromise that reflects feedback from the neighbourhood.
"I think it addresses concerns from people and recognizes the desire of those who would like to keep this program going," said Allard (St. Boniface).
Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) cast the sole vote against the route reductions.
Rollins told the Free Press she believes open streets have been essential to Winnipeggers’ physical and mental health throughout the pandemic, so they should continue to be available as much as possible.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.