Vision Zero: Winnipeg councillor pushes city to adopt no-deaths traffic plan

An increase in Manitoba road fatalities has one Winnipeg city councillor looking at zeroes. St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes is advocating for a traffic safety initiative called Vision Zero — as in zero deaths.

Janice Lukes advocates for Swedish traffic safety initiative that changes roads to slow drivers

A pedestrian was hit and killed at Kenaston Boulevard and McGillivray Boulevard on Monday morning. Traffic fatalities have increased sharply in Winnipeg. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

An increase in Manitoba road fatalities has one Winnipeg city councillor looking at zeroes.

Coun. Janice Lukes wants Winnipeg to implement Vision Zero, a traffic safety initiative created in Sweden in 1994 that has a mandate of achieving zero fatalities on roads.

"Our city is getting bigger, we've got more development of downtown, and people want to walk and bike more because it's physically and mentally beneficial to them," the St. Norbert councillor said.

"Even if the first step is to really refine how we look at intersections on a design perspective, that would be a positive step."

There have been 98 road deaths in Manitoba in 2016, Manitoba Public Insurance reports — a dramatic increase over the 78 fatalities in 2015.

Motor vehicle collisions have killed 53 pedestrians from 2011 to 2015, and 79 per cent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities happen in Winnipeg, an MPI spokesperson said.

Lukes said Vision Zero has achieved massive success in other cities, and she wants to see the same in Winnipeg.

Edmonton incorporated the Vision Zero mandate into its road safety strategy for 2016-20.

The Alberta city has made traffic safety a priority since 2006, said Gerry Shimko, executive director of Edmonton's office of traffic safety.

Shimko has helped implement infrastructure changes based on Vision Zero's ideals, including narrowing roadways so drivers don't feel like they can speed through or creating communities where the speed limit is 40 km/hour.

Design roads to lessen risk

"Speed management is the key," Shimko said. "How you manage it through enforcement is one way, but over time, the research is saying look at designing your systems so pedestrians are less at risk and the drivers feel these are speeds they should comply with."

Edmonton city council has taken a broad approach to traffic safety. In 2011, the city funded an urban traffic safety research chair in the faculty of engineering at the University of Alberta. The program is producing highly trained students who can help shape the city, and the data on which Shimko and his team base their infrastructure changes is local, he said.

Lukes, who recently was removed from city council's executive policy committee, said she'll use the time she will no longer spend on EPC to work on bringing Vision Zero to Winnipeg, starting with a January information session on the initiative.

"It's something that's long overdue," she said. "Transportation is the key to our prosperity and movement, so we need to find that balance, but the roads have been designed for the vehicle. Now we have to take the roads and design them so they're equitable for all."