Manitoba

Winnipeg should adopt Vision Zero to end traffic fatalities, bike advocate says

Bike Winnipeg executive director Mark Cohoe says the city should look to Sweden's Vision Zero to make the city safer for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians.

'No loss of life is acceptable' and Swedish safety project could save lives, says Bike Winnipeg's Mark Cohoe

A Winnipeg bike advocate says it's time to implement the Vision Zero approach to eliminate traffic fatalities. (Jenna Reid/CBC)

Could a road traffic safety project from Sweden have lessons for Winnipeg? 

Bike Winnipeg executive director Mark Cohoe says the city should look to Sweden's Vision Zero to make the city safer for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians.

"What Vision Zero is, really, it's a policy and it starts with the fundamental decision that no loss of life is acceptable," Cohoe said on CBC Radio's Weekend Morning Show.

"Human life and health are really the paramount values and those can never be exchanged."

Vision Zero was adopted in Sweden in 1997 and shares the responsibility for road safety between road users and transportation system designers. The goal is to achieve zero fatalities on roads through smart transit design that mediates human error.

"It might mean something as simple as if you are rebuilding a roadway, instead of just having people cross the street from behind a line of parked cars maybe build a little curb bump out so someone gets a little closer to the street and has a bit more visibility, just to see vehicles and for vehicles to see people," he said.

In November, Winnipeg city councillor Janice Lukes said the city should implement the policy, after there were more than 98 road deaths in 2016 — a dramatic increase over the 78 fatalities in 2015.

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

"It's a good fit everywhere," Cohoe said.

"We want to make sure that we are not just saying that we have a transportation system in this city, we want to have a city where we can go out, have fun and come back home safe."

He said what makes Vision Zero successful is recognizing that people are fallible and are going to make mistakes, "but what's really critical is that mistakes should not lead to death or a serious injury."

Cohoe said the city needs to look at its roadway system and transportation systems to find a way to "allow a little give and take and provide a bit of a buffer."

Cohoe added that it means changing attitudes to recognize that getting somewhere safely all of the time is more important than getting somewhere fast.

Earlier in January, Coun. Matt Allard authored a motion asking the city to work with Manitoba Public Insurance to popularize the "Dutch reach," a manoeuvre intended to ensure people in cars don't fling open their doors and into the path of oncoming cyclists without warning.

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