The city should pay close attention to the serious concerns raised by some Wellington Crescent residents about the consequences of favouring cyclists and restricting motorists. What the city must ignore, however, is the suggestion by several residents that their high-end addresses entitle them to special treatment.
To bestow municipal favours on the basis of property value is a type of classism that has no place in Winnipeg. It would be a logistical nightmare, for example, if city staff had to prioritize posh areas for services such as fire, police and snow-clearing. It would also violate the egalitarian foundation of democracy, where citizens, regardless of address, get equal access to government consideration.
'Open streets' drive Wellington Crescent residents crazyClick to Expand
Posted: 7:00 PM Jun. 11, 2021
Closing Wellington Crescent to vehicles has driven some residents of the city's toniest street to distraction and forced the city to reconsider the designation.
In a package of letters submitted to the public works committee, residents argued their mental health, safety, and human rights are being violated because motorists are restricted to one block of travel between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week.
That said, it’s equally important not to stoop to negative stereotypes. Many critics in public forums are denouncing the recent feedback on bike routes as the laments of well-to-do Winnipeggers who don’t want their tony street to be sullied by visitors.
It’s a pilot project, after all, and feedback is warranted. These Wellington Crescent residents took the opportunity to offer their feedback, plenty of feedback, a prerogative that could be equally exercised by homeowners along any of the other 17 city areas involved in this summer’s Enhanced Summer Bike Routes program, formerly known as Open Streets. Their views were outlined in about three dozen letters, citing problems with the traffic-calming program that restricts motorists to one block of travel between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Homeowners wrote about increased trash on the ground, and dog deposits on lawns. Many were also miffed that their alternative driving route, along Academy Road, is now so crowded that traffic is slowed.
Alarmingly, several letter writers described conflict. One wrote: "I was threatened, yelled at, and physically blocked by cyclists and pedestrians, on a daily basis, while driving the one block allowed to access my residence." Another wrote: "When you close the roads, the people that live on the street are treated like trespassers onto their own properties."
While councillors should thoughtfully weigh such concerns, they should ignore an attempt by several letter writers to wield their property taxes as a lobbying weapon. One writer noted: "I pay almost 12K a year in property taxes." Another wrote: "I hope that with our hefty property tax bill our voices will be heard."
Councillors should be wary about granting Wellington Crescent an exemption that could set a precedent and undermine the entire open–roads program.
The letters were submitted to the city’s public works committee, which then recommended Wellington Crescent be removed from the open-streets list. The recommendation now goes to council’s executive policy committee.
Councillors should be wary about granting Wellington Crescent an exemption that could set a precedent and undermine the entire open-roads program. Council could be required to grant similar exemption to any street where a few homeowners took the initiative to door-knock neighbours and obtain a petition and letters seeking, like Wellington Crescent, an exemption from open roads.
Councillors, and Wellington Crescent residents, should live with the current open-road restrictions until this year’s pilot program ends on Nov. 5. It will then be decided which routes will be included in next season’s open-road program.
Wellington Crescent is a beautiful area with well-tended properties, grand homes, lush gardens and flowering trees. It’s to be hoped homeowners fortunate enough to live there can bear with the added cyclists and pedestrians for now, perhaps even considering it a community service that their haven offers visitors a geographical tonic from the stressful grimness of the pandemic.