Activist, Business Owner Offer Free Flashing Lights for City School Zones

Winnipeg Free Press / Ryan Thorpe / June 20, 2017

A Winnipeg activist called on the city Tuesday to install flashing lights in school zones and threatened to do so himself – regardless of legal consequences – should they refuse.

Todd Dube of WiseUpWinnipeg (WUW) made the pledge at a protest held on the 500 block of Harrow Street.

"I would say it’s a pretty bold threat," said Dube. "If they want to come and take them down, then I guess they can do that. If they want to come and charge somebody, then I guess they can do that too. It’ll just bring more attention to this. So to answer your question: yes, I’m prepared to do it."

WUW is a local activist group dedicated to fighting the city’s photo enforcement program, which they say does not improve citizen safety and functions as a cash grab for the city.

The protest Tuesday was held after a Winnipeg business owner, Chuck Lewis of Mr. Electric, built 20 solar powered flashing lights and offered to donate them to the city’s school boards.

He says he will personally pay to have them installed and maintained in all city school zones, which he suspects would cost him about $20,000.

Lewis says he is prepared to buy 60 more lights should the city approve the installations.

The city has no plans to take Lewis up on his offer, according to a city spokeswoman.

At Thursday’s protest, one of Lewis’ lights was temporarily screwed into an existing school zone sign, which the city spokeswoman says is a violation of the province’s Highway Traffic Act.

"It’s really a no brainer and it wouldn’t cost them (the city) any money," said Lewis. "I don’t know why they’re not open to it. With trees sometimes you miss these signs, but a flashing light makes everyone pay attention. It just makes sense."

Lewis went on to say if the lights saved one child’s life it would be worth it.

In Dube’s opinion, however, the city’s photo enforcement program and refusal to install flashing lights in school zones is not about safety.

"This safety rhetoric needs to end," said Dube.

"People aren’t looking for tickets and nobody wants to endanger kids. If the city has true intention of reducing speeds in school zones, don’t you think they would want people to know that the speed is reduced in these otherwise innocuous spots that bring them $500,000 a week in ticket revenue?"

He went on to claim it is time for the city’s photo enforcement program, which he described as both abusive and unfair, to stop.