Non-profit groups ask city to make Winnipeg streets safer, more pedestrian friendly for newcomers

The Immigrant Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba is among groups calling for a 30 km/h speed limit on residential Winnipeg streets.

Advocates want 30 km/h speed limit for all residential areas; city piloting reduced speeds on 5 streets

Mathew Joseph is IRCOM's program manager. He said reducing residential speed limits to 30 km/h would make Winnipeg's streets safer for newcomer families. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

A group of Winnipeggers hosted a block party on Thursday to urge the city to make streets friendlier for pedestrians cyclists, particularly those who are newcomers to Canada.

Organizers of the "Love 30 on 30" block party — held on Ellen Street between McDermot and Bannatyne on Thursday, the 30th day of the month — say they want the city to reduce all residential speed limits to 30 km/h.

"There are hundreds of children who live in this building," said Dorota Blumczynska, the executive director of the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), outside an IRCOM residential building on Ellen Street that is home to 65 newcomer families.

"They spill out and when the summer gets warm, they want to come out and play. And those are the moments, regrettably, where children would take a risk, and that risk can cost them their life."

Signs posted outside IRCOM's residential building on Ellen Street. Community groups hosted a Love 30 on 30 block party Thursday to show the city what safer streets could look like. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Blumczynska said she wants the city to reduce the speed limit on residential streets like Ellen, which will reduce that risk. 

IRCOM was among the organizers of Thursday's event, along with the Green Action Centre, the Winnipeg Trails Association, Plain Bicycle, Safe Speeds Winnipeg and Notre Dame MLA Malaya Marcelino.

'Think inclusively'

Mathew Joseph, IRCOM's program manager, said the safety concerns were heightened last year, when a mother and her young daughter, who were also IRCOM tenants, were hit by a car on Isabel Street. The four-year-old girl was killed.

The family is from Eritrea and spent a decade in refugee camps in Israel before coming to Canada. Joseph said many newcomer families in the city come from places where they don't encounter as much car traffic as they do in Winnipeg.

"Bike and walking are the modes of transportation, so when they come to a city where the cars have almost the same numbers as people, it becomes very difficult," he said.

Reducing the speed limit would help newcomer families feel more safe, Joseph said.

It could also help them in the fall, when their kids are expected to go back to school, and might encourage more biking and walking, he said. 

"When they dial down the speed, people are more connected. The drivers see what's going on," said Joseph.

"I think it's time we think inclusively, to include everybody in urban development and change spaces." 

Children wait for their balloon animals at the Love 30 on 30 block party. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Winnipeg police said this year, there have been seven collisions involving either a cyclist or pedestrian in the city. Three of those collisions were fatal, including one this week, when a cyclist was killed in a hit and run near Gateway Road on Wednesday night.

Pilot project to launch 

Winnipeg city council has approved a pilot project to reduce speed limits to 30 km/h on five residential streets. They are: 

  • Roch Street from Poplar Avenue to Arby Bay.
  • Eugenie Avenue from St. Mary's Rd to Youville Street.
  • Warsaw Avenue/ Fleet Avenue from Nassau Ave to Lindsay Avenue.
  • Machray Avenue from Fife Street to Main Street.
  • Flora Avenue from Sinclair Street to King Street.

The pilot will begin either in fall 2020 or spring 2021. The city says it will monitor the project through surveys, data collection, field observations by engineering staff and public feedback and engagement. 

The "Love 30 on 30" block party runs until 8 p.m. on Thursday.

With files from Sam Samson and Darren Bernhardt