Unearthed crosswalk safety report draws ire

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In 2016, the City of Winnipeg found crosswalks with amber lights installed at eye-level are much safer than the typical overhead lights, but the study was not made public.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/02/2020 (1009 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In 2016, the City of Winnipeg found crosswalks with amber lights installed at eye-level are much safer than the typical overhead lights, but the study was not made public.

Not much was done on the matter until pedestrians eight-year-old Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam and Galila Habtegergish, 4, were killed in collisions at crosswalks in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

“I’m outright angry,” said Christian Sweryda, a law student and road safety advocate who uncovered the study through an access to information request.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES The crosswalk on St. Anne’s Road between Varennes and Bank avenues where an eight-year-old pedestrian Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam was killed in 2018.

The study, which was also not shared with city councillors at the time, showed drivers are 100 per cent more likely to yield for pedestrians with the lower-mounted lights, when seen from 60 metres away.

“How do you do a study, find out that it improves safety, then shelve it?” said Sweryda, alleging the city has known its crosswalks are unsafe since 2012, when he began advocating for such lower-set lights.

He also got copies of emails from 2013, in which Michael Cantor, the city’s traffic signal engineer, flagged the issue to higher-ups.

“I addressed this in 2012, Michael Cantor brought this up in 2013, they studied this in 2016, a child was killed in 2018, and they had seven months to react between that child (Surafiel) being killed on St. Anne’s Road and the four-year old dying on Isabel (Street),” Sweryda said angrily.

The city had previously installed lower lights as a pilot project at the same intersection where Surafiel was killed, but they were removed before the fatal incident, then later reinstalled. Sweryda has submitted another access to information request to find out why they were removed.

Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) said councillors were only made aware of the 2016 study after Sweryda sent the report to CBC News and media approached her.

She said the city is now working on a consultation-based road safety action plan to make crosswalks safer.

Winnipeg will look into different options, such as amber lights or flashing beacons, according to Santos, adding she hopes to get the report to council by next year.

“I don’t want any more delays,” she said. “I am concerned that this report has been there for four years, and it’s taken a few pedestrian deaths for the city to move along, which is very unfortunate.”

Sweryda countered, sating the city does not need a year to decide to invest in new crosswalk lights.

“Why are we studying something that is common sense?” he said Sweryda, adding other cities in Canada installed similar lights more than a decade ago.

melanie.ritchot@freepress.mb.ca

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