Residents protest traffic-calming circles

Dozens of residents gathered Wednesday morning in Winnipeg's River Heights neighbourhood to protest new traffic circles and road closures in the area.

Dozens of residents gathered Wednesday morning in Winnipeg's River Heights neighbourhood to protest new traffic circles and road closures in the area.

About 60 residents met to draw attention to voice concerns and frustrations, saying they were not properly consulted and the so-called traffic-calming devices were installed without adequate evaluation as to how they'd affect vehicles.

"They just didn't need it here. They just didn't need it," resident Debbie Plant said about the city's decision to built the concrete structures. "And I am concerned about ice and snow in the winter."

The city recently installed the raised circles in locations throughout the neighbourhood as well as a concrete barrier on Harrow Street, blocking vehicles from going between Academy Road and Wellington Crescent.

Residents say the circles, in the the middle of some intersections, are difficult to get around for transit buses and emergency vehicles, which could lead to dangerous delays. They will also affect snow-clearing equipment, residents say.

Recently, the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities waded into the issue, saying people who are visually impaired have trouble crossing intersections with traffic circles.

"The traffic circles were in reality designed and installed as a way to spend federal stimulus money rather than to solve any real traffic problem. The result: public safety has been sacrificed in the interests of spending federal money," states a news release from the anonymous group spearheading the protest, Concerned Residents of River Heights (CRRH).

"Grosvenor Avenue, which had only moderate traffic, has been turned into an obstacle course and even a raceway for aggressive drivers."

Coun. John Orlikow, has defended the circles, saying residents previously complained about speeding motorists, and the circles are an effective way to slow them down.

However, he and his opponent in the Oct. 27 election, Michael Kowalson, have stated their dislike for the concrete barrier at Harrow and Academy. Both say if they are elected they will get the city tear up the barrier.

That proves the city has simply squandered tax dollars, the protesters said.

Flyers inviting residents to Wednesday's gathering were delivered throughout the area over the Thanksgiving weekend by CRRH.

The group made headlines on Tuesday for distributing a leaflet that criticized Orlikow for failing the neighbourhood and ignoring his responsibility to consult residents before the barriers and circles were built.

Orlikow claims the group is linked to Kowalson and campaigning on his behalf. Orlikow filed a complaint with the city clerk's office Tuesday, suggesting Kowalson may be violating election spending rules because the leaflets are undeclared, off-book spending.

With files from CBC's Sean Kavanagh