The City of Winnipeg could spend $22 million over five years in an effort to reduce serious injuries and deaths caused by traffic collisions.
However, some fear the city’s first road safety strategic action plan won’t spark changes soon enough.
Coun. Matt Allard, chairman of council’s public works committee, said he’s disappointed by a lack of immediate steps to make the streets safer for all pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
"I think we can do more. We should fast track the parts of roads (funding) that involve safety," Allard said Tuesday.
The action plan does call for council to begin funding the changes in 2023, which a city staff report deems a key priority.
"The need for such an action plan is clear: between 2012 and 2018, 98 people were killed and 1,113 suffered major injuries as a result of collisions on Winnipeg streets," David Patman, manager of transportation planning, writes in the report.
The new plan would set a target to reduce the number of fatal and serious injury collisions by 20 per cent over the next five years.
To achieve that, the strategy proposes the city create a road safety committee, a road safety branch and three new full-time safety-focused staff positions.
Additional recommendations call for the city to review the policy for intersection warning lights, roundabouts and left-turn signals; evaluate crosswalk safety; install pedestrian refuge islands (where strategic curbs reduce exposure to vehicle traffic); add pedestrian-led intervals (which give foot traffic a head start to walk before a green light allows vehicle traffic in the same direction); upgrade cycling infrastructure; support school biking-education programs; and review the safety of multi-use path crossings for cyclists.
The city should also add more 30 kilometre-per-hour speed limits at neighbourhood greenways (which are meant to safely serve all forms of traffic), review overall speed limits, add more traffic calming measures (such as speed humps or roundabouts) and create public education on road safety, the plan suggests.
Allard argues more immediate action is needed. The city recently identified about $7.5 million of warranted engineering enhancements that could improve safety, which have yet to be funded, he noted.
He would like the municipal government to find the money to commit to that work now, which could improve pedestrian signals, add traffic lights and upgrade crosswalk lights, rather than waiting to select projects next year.
"There are things that we know can do now… I would have wanted to see immediate reaction," said Allard.
The councillor said he believes the cost of the strategic plan is reasonable but thinks the goal to reduce fatalities and injuries by 20 per cent over five years isn’t aggressive enough.
"The public service says it’s important to set targets… but the idea that (portion of) people are still going to die and get injured is (concerning)."
A request to interview Patman was not granted Tuesday.
In an email, city spokesman Ken Allen said the five-year target is both significant and realistic.
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"The goal was set to be ambitious, but achievable, and to set us on a path toward achieving the long-term vision of (a) transportation system that allows people of all ages and abilities to safely move around without experiencing death or serious injury," wrote Allen.
While the action plan funding is sought from next year’s budget, Allen said other road safety investments are taking place in 2022.
"The city is continuously working to improve road safety. Several ongoing road safety improvements are funded through existing programs," he said.
Council is scheduled to cast the final vote on the plan next month.
Joyanne Pursaga Reporter
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.