City takes step toward widespread installation of eye-level crossing lights
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This article was published 08/03/2022 (458 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Eye-level lights intended to improve safety at pedestrian crosswalks by better catching the eye of drivers could soon be installed across Winnipeg.
A new motion calls for the city to ensure low-mounted, eye-level safety lights are installed at all lighted pedestrian crosswalks “as soon as possible.”
It was approved Tuesday by the public works committee but requires a final council vote.
“We know these work, we know they’re cost-effective, we know they’re installed after people die (at crosswalks),” said Coun. Matt Allard, public works chairman, who raised the motion.
“There’s a blind spot where if you’re too close to a crosswalk, you may not see the lights, so therein lies the problem… I think it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when there’s going to be another collision — another person injured or another fatality.”
The motion follows a recent Free Press series, which noted a traffic-safety activist has lobbied the city to add more of the eye-level lights for more than a decade. Christian Sweryda argues overhead lights are more difficult to see for drivers whose vehicles are close to an intersection, while eye-level ones are more visible.
“We know these work, we know they’re cost-effective, we know they’re installed after people die (at crosswalks).”
– Coun. Matt Allard, public works chairman
While the City of Winnipeg has tested the idea through a past pilot project, Allard’s motion notes just 25 low-mounted lights have been installed permanently at crosswalks to date.
He said 158 locations are still awaiting funding to add the lights, while $145,000 was approved in the 2022 budget to convert 15 more. Allard is pushing for council to increase that amount to $1.6 million to complete all of the installations.
The motion also calls for sites to get new crosswalks where city engineers have deemed they’re warranted. The public works projects could be funded from the street renewal budget, unspent construction funds and/or reserves.
Jim Berezowsky, Winnipeg public works director, said a clear funding source is critical to ensure expediting the light installation doesn’t force the city to postpone other important projects.
“If we’re talking about every single crossing in a specific year… What other projects then have to fall by the wayside that are just as (important) safety-wise for all of the citizens of this city?” said Berezowsky.
Allard’s motion does not set a specific deadline to get the work done.
It also calls for all new installations of lighted pedestrian crosswalks with overhead lights to include an additional low-mounted light.
“I think it’s incumbent on us to get these installed because we know that they’re a cost-effective way to improve safety.”
– Coun. Matt Allard
A past city report found the eye-level lights improve safety by increasing “yield compliance” among drivers.
Allard said the city has added the low-mounted lights at crosswalks after fatal collisions involving children occurred in the past. He deems his current motion a major safety priority.
“I think it’s incumbent on us to get these installed because we know that they’re a cost-effective way to improve safety,” said Allard.
The Free Press series noted six crashes occurred at crosswalks with overhead lighting over a 19-month span from February 2018 to September 2019, which caused four deaths.
That included crashes at crosswalks that killed two children.
In 2019, four-year-old Galila Habtegerish was killed at the pedestrian corridor on Isabel Street at Ross Avenue. In 2018, eight-year-old Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam was killed at the pedestrian corridor on St. Anne’s Road at Varennes Avenue while on his way to school.
Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight
Christian Sweryda has spent hundreds of hours cataloguing and tracking the changes to intersections in Winnipeg. His findings point to financial mismanagement in the public works department.
That research is the basis of a Free Press investigative series by Ryan Thorpe: Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight.
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.