Manitoba

Winnipeg crosswalk where student died expected to be safer by start of next school year

The Winnipeg crosswalk where an eight-year-old boy was killed on his way to school this February will have a new safety mechanism once students return to class this September.

Faster flashing lights, closer to eye level being installed at St. Anne's Road and Varennes Avenue

A teddy bear was taped to the post of the crosswalk at Varennes Avenue and St. Anne's Road after the fatal crash where Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam died on Feb. 13. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

The Winnipeg crosswalk where an eight-year-old boy was killed on his way to school this February will have a new safety mechanism once students return to class this September.

The city's public works committee moved Tuesday to accept the department's recommendation for low-mounted flashing lights near eye level at the crosswalk on St. Anne's Road at Varennes Avenue to get drivers' attention.

The planned improvement is in addition to the overhead crosswalk signs and flashing amber lights, which are sometimes easy for drivers to miss.

City traffic experts have been examining how to improve pedestrian visibility and safety at the crosswalk since the crash that claimed Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam's life on Feb. 13. He was hit by a truck.

The review found at least two other people had died and one person had been injured at that same intersection between January 1980 and December 2016.

The city plans to prune two elm trees to improve visibility and use rapid rectangular flashing beacons — RRFBs — which are mounted lower to the ground and flash quicker.

David Patman, the city's manager of transportation, compared the beacons to strobe lighting. They have proven effective in other cities in getting drivers' attention, he said.

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, whose ward includes the crosswalk, has campaigned for changes since the crash.

After Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam's death, city staff have worked to improve pedestrian visibility and safety at the crosswalk. (obittree.com)

"Something needed to be done now, and I'm pleased to see we're taking action," Mayes said in an interview.

He acknowledged the city considered improvements in 2012 but no plans were undertaken. 

Tesfamariam's school, École Varennes, immediately addressed safety at the crossing following the tragedy by extending the supervision hours of the crossing guard, said Louis Riel School Division acting superintendent Christian Michalik.

Patman said the fatal crash happened after the guard left for the morning.

In response to the fatal crash, Varennes said the division did a comprehensive review of child pedestrian safety, published this month.

The report suggests that schools prioritize walking routes where there are already patrols, crossing guards and controlled intersections. 

Rectangular flashing beacons, like this one installed as a pilot project in Nova Scotia, will be installed at the intersection in addition to the traditional overhead crosswalk. (YouTube)

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

With files from Gavin Boutroy and Darren Bernhardt

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