Pedestrians on Wellington want barricades to stay, others say scrap 'em

Visitor Lisa Craig was out on Wellington Street Saturday. She was joining her husband in town while he attends a work conference, and said she enjoys how quiet the downtown thoroughfare is. (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)
Visitor Lisa Craig was out on Wellington Street Saturday. She was joining her husband in town while he attends a work conference, and said she enjoys how quiet the downtown thoroughfare is. (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)

As Lisa Craig strolled along Wellington Street Saturday, she embraced the calm, car-free atmosphere.

"I've enjoyed wandering quite safely with no cars out on the roads," said Craig, who was visiting the nation's capital from St. Catharines, Ont.

Barricades have kept vehicles off the street in front of Parliament Hill ever since police cleared out the last of the Freedom Convoy protesters in February 2022.

But in a few days, city council's transportation committee will discuss whether to remove the barricades and reopen the area to vehicles.

"I understand people [who] live here might have a different perspective," Craig said. "But it's made it quite enjoyable."

WATCH | Vehicles still banned from Ottawa's Wellington Street: 

Thursday's meeting will come after some MPs recently recommended the federal government take over ownership of Wellington.

"I don't like the way it looks right now — it's a reminder of the convoy," Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said of the barricades last week, adding that he's eager to hash out a long-term plan for Wellington with the federal government.

But several pedestrians who spoke to CBC Ottawa Saturday say they're all for keeping motorized vehicles off Wellington.

A place of 'tranquillity'

"I just love the calmness, especially on my commute to work [in Gatineau] in the mornings," said Mohsin Bhujwalla, who also cycles on the road.

"It's lovely to have that tranquillity and be able to not be distracted by noise pollution and fumes."

Local runner Christiane Lalonde agreed the barriers should stay.

"It would maybe hopefully attract people and turn this street into a more high-[foot]-traffic area and bring a bit of life to the city."

Guy Quenneville/CBC
Guy Quenneville/CBC

Police have 'learned their lesson' 

Paul Champ, the lawyer representing downtown residents in their class-action lawsuit against convoy participants, agreed with Sutcliffe that if the goal is to prevent another large-scale protest, the barricades are no longer needed.

"I'm not worried in the least about ... trucks possibly trying to come back," he said.

"I think police have learned their lesson, and all the public authorities have learned their lesson — as well as the protesters themselves."

CBC asked the Ottawa Police Service on Saturday if they are planning any security measures around the area as the one-year anniversary of the protest nears but did not immediately hear back.

Business group worried

Kevin McHale, the executive director of the Sparks Street Business Improvement Area, said he also wants the barriers gone.

Like Champ, McHale said he's confident the police would quash any copycat convoys. He pointed to how officers handled disruptions during last spring's Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally.

Officers didn't use barricades but tactical teams moved in swiftly and quickly used tow trucks to remove prohibited vehicles.

"The techniques are there in order to make sure it doesn't happen again," McHale said.

As for Wellington Street's future, McHale said he's worried about the impact on downtown traffic flow and tourism should vehicles be banned from the area for good.

"What we saw this summer was a very empty, barren space that ended up just being occupied by a few lone protesters of all kinds of different causes and government vehicles racing back and forth," he said.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Ayesha Madura, who was also out on Wellington Saturday, was mixed on the issue.

She said it's easier to ride her bike to work, but conceded driving into Ottawa from Gatineau has become "tricky" now that motorists can't ride through Wellington.

"Rather than going straight to the ByWard Market, I have to loop around," she said. "Which is kind of inconvenient."