The same day a 37-year-old female pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle on William Avenue — the ninth such fatality this year — the City of Winnipeg issued a request for proposal, calling for the development of a road safety strategic action plan.
The RFP announced Tuesday, which seeks to develop a five-year-and-beyond plan, is aimed at assessing the current state of road safety in the city and to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement through a combination of public engagement and analysis, city hall says.
The document notes previous endeavours — including the Manitoba Road Safety Plan developed in 2017 — didn't go far enough in addressing the unique issues Winnipeg faces: "In order to achieve the long-term vision of Towards Zero (fatalities), there is a need to develop a road safety strategic action plan that is specific to the City of Winnipeg."
Between 2013 and 2018, nine cyclists and 27 pedestrians were killed in collisions on Winnipeg streets, according to data from Manitoba Public Insurance, which has run an aggressive advertising campaign aimed at reducing motor-vehicular fatalities province-wide.
Thus far in 2019, nine pedestrians and one cyclist have been killed in Winnipeg.
While individual incidents reasonably spur media attention and vocalize concern from politicians and public figures, cycling and pedestrian advocates say the numbers only tell part of the story.
"The reality is it's a pattern," Anders Swanson, executive director of Winnipeg Trails Association, said Wednesday. "Every single incident is a failure of the system in place. And behind every one of those 'numbers' is a person, and their families."
The Towards Zero ideology has been on the city's radar since 2017, when a standing policy committee requested the delivery of a road safety strategy. Swanson is optimistic the new strategic plan request could actually move the needle and prevent future injuries or fatalities.
"I think it's a really important step, and gives a framework to operate under where we start off by saying, 'We haven't gotten this right, but we envision a city where people don't get killed in traffic,'" he said. "(The RFP's) main purpose is to evaluate the effectiveness of what we're already doing and find other things we need to do.
"If it does that, it will be hugely beneficial."
The sentiments were echoed by Bike Winnipeg executive director Mark Cohoe.
"They seem to have adopted a safe systems approach, and they're really underscoring those as the principles a road safety plan would follow," he said. "I think it's a recognition that we're seeing too many collisions, too many injuries, and too many fatalities on Winnipeg streets."
Mayor Brian Bowman reiterated pedestrian and road safety is a priority for his government. He cited the city's 20-year cycling and active transportation strategy and $43 million in federal gas tax revenue earmarked for pedestrian and road safety improvements as proof.
In April, city council approved $2.5 million in spending in 2019 on road safety measures to be determined by public works, as well as $750,000 in funding for three active transportation studies. This fall, in response to calls from advocates, council will also be reviewing the proposed lowering of the default residential speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour to 30 km/h.
"The numbers show we have a problem," said Cohoe. "I think every one agrees we want to see those fatalities and injuries disappear. We have to culturally recognize there's an imperative to do that."
According to the RFP, the deadline for consultants to apply is Oct. 8, the city will award a contract Oct. 29, and the funds available for the contract total $275,000.
A verbal update on the road safety strategy is on the agenda for Thursday morning's standing policy committee on infrastructure and public works meeting.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.