November 24, 2017

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A tragedy waiting to happen

Main Street strip rife with speeding drivers, jaywalkers: activists

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A truck drives through flashing lights at a crosswalk at Main Street and Jarvis Avenue.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A truck drives through flashing lights at a crosswalk at Main Street and Jarvis Avenue.

Northbound drivers accelerate as they emerge from the Main Street underpass in the darkness. Jaywalkers — some with impaired judgment — cross eight lanes of traffic along the four long blocks between Higgins and Euclid avenues.

The combination has proven to be deadly and needs to be addressed immediately, neighbourhood activists say.

The hit-and-run at Main and Sutherland Avenue that killed 23-year-old Cody Severight on Tuesday night — an off-duty Winnipeg police officer is charged with impaired driving causing death and leaving the scene of an accident — prompted a call for a lower speed limit. The speed limit along that strip is 50 km/h.

“People have to slow down,” said Leslie Spillett, executive director of Ka Ni Kanichihk, an Indigenous resource centre. “People live in this neighbourhood. There’s children and elders, old men. They deserve to be treated as human beings.”

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Northbound drivers accelerate as they emerge from the Main Street underpass in the darkness. Jaywalkers — some with impaired judgment — cross eight lanes of traffic along the four long blocks between Higgins and Euclid avenues.

The combination has proven to be deadly and needs to be addressed immediately, neighbourhood activists say.

The hit-and-run at Main and Sutherland Avenue that killed 23-year-old Cody Severight on Tuesday night — an off-duty Winnipeg police officer is charged with impaired driving causing death and leaving the scene of an accident — prompted a call for a lower speed limit. The speed limit along that strip is 50 km/h.

"People have to slow down," said Leslie Spillett, executive director of Ka Ni Kanichihk, an Indigenous resource centre. "People live in this neighbourhood. There’s children and elders, old men. They deserve to be treated as human beings."

Vince Sansregret, a community development worker for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, works closely with residents of a highrise apartment block at Main and Jarvis Avenue. A marked pedestrian crosswalk with warning lights is located just outside the building’s front door.

During the past few years, Sansregret has asked summer students to keep a close eye on traffic passing through the crosswalk. Many drivers failed what he called the "eyeball test." Some were speeding. Others didn’t stop, even when pedestrians pressed the button to activate the warning lights.

"We’ve come to the conclusion that there’s inherent risks for the older adults there," he said. "Crossing that section can be quite scary for them."

A main concern is that for northbound traffic, there’s no stop light between Higgins and Euclid. Sansregret said after the underpass "you’re almost travelling on a straightaway."

At the same time, the stretch is a high-traffic area for jaywalkers, many hopping between hotel bars on the strip in the evening.

"We know they need to get across the street," Sansregret said. "But we also know that when you’re consuming alcohol and you also have mobility issues, sometimes you’re looking for the quickest way to get across the street.

"There are many moving parts to this," he said. "You have a residential block on one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. You’re coming out of an underpass that’s dark. Along with a population of people who, for many reasons, want to get back and forth across Main... and sometimes might not abide by the best possible route.

"It’s a densely populated area. It can be a challenge."

Sansregret suggested adding flashing lights for northbound traffic after exiting the underpass.

"In our minds, there’s probably a better way to try to create safety for everybody," he said. "Signage and lighting would certainly be ways to do that."

Longtime Point Douglas activist Sel Burrows said residents recently banded together to paint the underpass and have lighting installed. But he and others doing the painting noticed first-hand how drivers heading north would shoot out of the underpass.

"It just seems instinct; as people come out of the dark, they speed up," he said.

In addition to more signage, Burrows said the city should consider erecting some sort of barrier on the median between south and northbound traffic on Main Street in the area.

"Because we have a lot of jaywalkers there, I’d like to see a pedestrian barrier... where it’s more difficult (to cross the street on foot)," he said.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @randyturner15

 

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