Close calls with cars at crosswalk raise concerns about pedestrian safety, Winnipeg woman says

One Winnipeg woman is raising concerns about crosswalk safety after she had a couple of close calls with vehicles that failed to stop, two days in a row.

Mel Marginet walks through the crosswalk at Osborne Street and Beresford Avenue regularly. 

She tries to be careful, making eye contact with drivers before walking into the street, but twice this week cars nearly hit her while she was out walking her dog, she said.

In one instance, “there was a large truck … so making eye contact is impossible, because the truck is so big,” Marginet said.

She and another woman were left stuck in the middle of the street, “looking over as the vehicles are blowing through.”

Tragic incidents

The city launched a program to install new signals after a number of tragic incidents in recent years, but progress has been slow.

An eight-year-old boy died after he was hit at a crosswalk on St. Anne’s Road in 2018.

The next year, a four-year-old girl died after a driver failed to stop at this crosswalk on Isabel Street.

In both cases, the city responded by installing the lower-mounted lights. 

Two teddy bears, one brown and one purple, have been placed at the base of a light pole next to a busy street.
A memorial sits at a crosswalk at the intersection of Isabel Street and Alexander Avenue in Winnipeg on March 20, 2019. A four-year-old girl and her mother were struck by a car in the crosswalk. The girl later died from her injuries. (Warren Kay/CBC)

The signal at Osborne and Beresford, however, only has overhead signals.

“Our way of responding is very reactive. We wait for tragedy and then we sort of think about maybe doing something about it.”

Since 2021, all new crosswalks include the lower-mounted signals. The city has also begun installing them at existing crosswalks.

So far, 57 of 184 that were identified in 2021 have been installed.

Public Works Committee Chair Janice Lukes said the city is doing everything it can to protect vulnerable road users.

“It could never be fast enough, but we’ve made more progress, I’d say, in the last six months than we have in the last eight years. We are hiring staff. We have a plan in place. We’re working on many, many different strategies.”

This year’s budget includes $145,000 for adding new low-mounted signals to existing crosswalks. So far this year, the city has installed nine and plans to add 14 more.

Last year, the city budgeted $1 million to install new pedestrian crossings. 

“Pedestrians are one of five key focus areas in the Winnipeg Road Safety Strategic Action Plan and there are 14 actions geared toward improving pedestrian safety,” a City of Winnipeg spokesperson wrote in an email.

“This includes evaluating the safety performance of different types of crosswalks in Winnipeg and updating the guidelines we use to determine the type of intervention that is required (signs, pavement markings, beacons, etc.).”

While Marginet approves of the new signals, she said it’s only one response to a complex problem.

“I think the bigger issue is the speed of the vehicles, the size of the vehicles and how many vehicles there are trying to get through here every day.” 

Marginet said she’d like to see the street lanes narrowed, which could force drivers to slow down and would hopefully lead to fewer close calls.

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