Some say it’s a desperately needed active transportation path, while others blame it for triggering conflict between cyclists and drivers.
The hotly debated call to reduce access to the enhanced summer cycling route on Wellington Crescent (Academy Road to Guelph Street) sparked plenty of passionate feedback at Thursday’s city council meeting.
By 8 p.m., councillors had yet to vote on a motion to reduce the route’s operations to weekends and holidays only, starting Sept. 7, instead of a previous council-approved plan to let seven-day-a-week access continue until Nov. 5. Council was expected to vote sometime Thursday night.
Sharon Kirk told councillors reducing access to the route would set a bad precedent for other streets in the pilot program.
"Removing Wellington Crescent from open streets early… could set a precedent for other open streets to be taken off as well," said Kirk.
The Wellington route is one of 17 street sections where vehicle travel is restricted to one block between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. to allow more room for cyclists, a follow-up to the 2020 program known as "open streets." Most of this year’s routes operate daily, though a few are already limited to weekends and holidays.
Kirk said the four drivers who live at her Wellington Crescent home have not experienced delays in their commutes since the change took effect.
"This fall, when schools open and more cyclists commute to work, it is critical that Wellington Crescent remain closed to vehicles (except for one-block access) until November for the safety of these community cyclists," she said. "The ability to exercise (safely) should be considered a human right."
However, several other Wellington Crescent residents said the route has forced vehicle traffic to increase on other nearby routes, made turning onto Academy Road "a nightmare" and added congestion to back lanes.
In addition, several residents said some cyclists have lashed out at drivers for using the one-block travel option to reach their homes.
"Many individuals apparently feel empowered to be the street police and do not hesitate to lecture, scream, swear, give finger gestures, photograph without consent and physically attempt to block access to our (homes)," said Leah Restall.
In one case, Restall said that included a male cyclist who refused to let her pass in her vehicle. She said the cyclist swerved back and forth in front of her car, appeared to photograph or videotape her reaction and then yelled obscenities at her.
Brenlee Carrington Trepel, who gathered 68 pages worth of letters that support the route reduction, said more than 100 households want that change. Meanwhile, a petition that calls for council to keep Wellington’s daily access in place until November had gathered more than 1,700 online signatures by Thursday night.
Late Thursday afternoon, Coun. Matt Allard shared a motion that would cancel the change, leaving daily access in place. Allard, council’s public works chairman, said he was "optimistic" council would support that.
"In terms of public opinion, I think the route is popular and I think, even (with Wellington residents), it’s popular… I’m hoping the program works well and we can make it a permanent addition," said Allard (St. Boniface).
Mayor Brian Bowman previously voted in favour of reducing the route’s operations, along with most members of his executive policy committee. Bowman told media Thursday that many residents weighed in on the topic following that vote.
"This is a prime example of where having open, transparent opportunities for Winnipeggers to weigh in on matters that affect them is something that benefits the decision-making at city hall," he said.
Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), whose ward includes Wellington Crescent, was absent from Thursday’s council meeting due to a personal matter.
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.