Final pedestrian sound signal installed
As a “coo-coo” sound rang out over the noise of traffic, the final
pedestrian sound signal was installed last week at a street corner in River
Heights, during an event hosted by the City of Winnipeg.
Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), chairperson of the standing policy
committee on infrastructure renewal and public works, and Coun. Ross Eadie
(Mynarski) were on hand on Sept. 24 at the corner of Stafford Street and
Kingsway Avenue to announce the successful implementation of audible
pedestrian signals at all signalized intersections throughout the city.
“I wanted to say, I never thought I’d see the day. I thought the plan was
going to be... and I’d be dead before it was completed,” Eadie said with a
Audible pedestrian signals communicate traffic signal timing information to
pedestrians using non-visual, audible tones. The City had originally
anticipated completing the installation of the audible pedestrian signals
at all signalized intersections by the end of 2021.
“The installation of the 670 signalized intersections was made a priority
and completed over a year ahead of schedule,” Allard said, adding it’s a
huge achievement to improve accessibility for Winnipeggers at all
intersections with traffic signals. “With the addition of audible
pedestrian signals, everyone can now safely navigate these intersections
with the help of auditory cues to provide guidance indicating when it’s
safe to cross the street.”
For those not familiar with the sounds made by the signals, the “coo-coo”
typically indicates it’s safe to cross in a north-south direction. The
signals also make chirping, ticking and tocking sounds.
The first audible signal in Winnipeg was installed in 1953 at Portage and
Sherburn by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
“I am pleased that this project is finally completed as it will improve
accessibility and safety for all of our citizens,” Eadie said. “I want to
thank all those who have been involved over the years championing this
worthy effort for the benefit of all Winnipeggers regardless of what part
of the city they live in. We prioritized this project because we understood
and recognized the importance of safety and accessibility for all
The City began installing audible pedestrian signals at signalized
intersections throughout the city in 1996 under then-mayor Glen Murray.
“We who are blind fought for this in the mid-1990s, to convince the city to
move ahead, to install audible signals so we knew when it was our turn to
cross at all the intersections, no matter where you work, live, play or go
to school,” Eadie said.
BREATHING SPACE: School Street pilot project allows students more room to
walk, bike, play
A collaboration between the City of Winnipeg and the Green Action Centre, a
non-profit promoting greener living, is getting a lot of positive feedback
stemming from a pilot program aimed at giving students a little more room
to breathe outside of one Winnipeg school.
The School Street Project, which has become commonplace throughout the
United Kingdom, is being piloted at Issac Brock School in Winnipeg’s West
End neighbourhood. The initiative sees street closures in front of schools
to vehicles, allowing students more space to walk, bike, play and physical
The result? Cleaner air, less noise, calmer streets and less traffic.
“These projects have started to be adopted across North America and other
parts of the world because they are so beneficial, particularly for young
students,” said Denae Penner, Sustainable Transportation Program
Coordinator at Green Action Centre. “It’s really important that students
have the ability to walk a little bit and the start and end of each day,
and the majority of traffic you see around schools in the morning — and the
majority of rush-hour traffic in general — is people driving their kids to
Since students returned to the classroom on Sept. 8, Barratt Avenue, which
runs adjacent to the front doors of Isaac Brock, has been closed to allow
for students to better move around what’s normally a busy area during
It’s part of a 60-day pilot project in partnership with the city, including
backing from Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) and school trustee
The hope, according to the GAC, is School Streets will support families in
choosing to walk or bike to school, reduce traffic congestion in the area,
and alleviate some of the stresses on school buses, while creating safer
streets for children to play around.
“The Isaac Brock Parent Council has always been concerned with making sure
the students and community members have safe ways to get to school,” said
Elizabeth Jackimec, president of the Isaac Brock Parent Council. “We also
encourage active transportation, so this initiative is great.”
The Safer Streets program has been highlighted further since the beginning
of the school year as a strike by Winnipeg School Division bus drivers,
which Isaac Brock falls under, has meant more parents having to drive their
kids to and from school.
“Anecdotally, and what some of the school administrators have said, is the
streets feel much calmer,” Penner said.
How that changes when the strike ends is unknown, but so far, feedback has
“Response from residents I have interacted with so far has been really
positive, and already, without any nudging or any kind of push from us, the
families who are waiting to get their kids from school are spreading out on
the street to give their kids more space to ensure physical distancing is
being met,” Penner said.
It’s too early to say whether or not the Safe Schools program will be
implemented at other schools at this point, Penner said.
“But I do know that the traffic engineers at the City of Winnipeg, who have
been supporting us, are looking into more innovative approaches to address
road safety concerns around schools,” she said.
*Public works chair wants 15 permanent seasonal traffic-restricting open
Winnipeg city council’s public works chairman wants to prioritize
pedestrian access on sections of more than a dozen streets.
Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface) is lobbying colleagues to permanently add
seasonal active transportation routes on 15 streets, which would run seven
days a week between the May long and Thanksgiving weekends each year.
The routes would include 10 sections of "open streets" the city tested out
this year, continuing to limit vehicle traffic on them to one block from 8
a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The routes were created to provide extra space for
pedestrians and cyclists to stay active, while offering room for them to
also keep least two metres apart from others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In my opinion, and I think the opinion of many across the city, (the
routes) were a tremendous success. They were very low cost and opened up
very large recreational opportunities for Winnipeggers… I don’t think
COVID-19 is necessarily going away, so Winnipeggers will potentially need
those recreational opportunities again next year," said Allard.
The councillor raised a successful motion to support the change at a public
works committee meeting Wednesday. If council approves it, the motion will
have Winnipeg’s public service study the 10 routes and consider adding
others on five additional streets. A report on implementing those changes
would return for a second round of council votes, perhaps in November.
Allard hopes a final decision will be made in time for the routes to reopen
by May 2021.
Some of the 10 temporary trial routes closed for the season Sept. 7. Others
will be offered until Oct. 12, but only on Sundays and holidays.
The closures triggered plenty of public pressure to extend the active
transportation access, especially through online petitions and social
media. However, not all Winnipeggers support the seven-day-per-week routes.
"Why would you close a road seven days a week when there’s nobody using it
for walking and cycling during the daylight hours because they’re at work
or school? That’s nonsense," said Riverview resident Tom Pearson.
Pearson said he’s concerned the Churchill Drive route in his neighbourhood
also diverts drivers to streets that actually have more pedestrians than it
does, creating a new safety risk while also interrupting commutes along
The city must consult the broader public before considering permanent
changes, Pearson said. He fears politicians may otherwise base decisions
solely on input from those who support the change, which he argues could be
a "vocal minority."
Mark Cohoe, executive director of Bike Winnipeg, said he’s convinced there
is ample demand to warrant the number of open streets the motion
"Looking at the numbers we saw biking down those roads this year, there’s a
huge amount of demand to have that kind of access," said Cohoe. "I think
it’s (also) something that moves the city forward towards its goals on
climate change, towards its goals on sustainability."
He expects the city’s approval process will offer time and flexibility to
assess feedback on each individual route and make adjustments to address
some residents’ concerns.
For example, Cohoe said he agrees the Churchill Drive route warrants extra
consideration, suggesting it may be better suited to offer a protected bike
lane than an open street section.
Allard said public feedback will be incorporated in the November report.
If the changes are implemented, seasonal open streets would resume every
year on sections of Wellington Crescent, Lyndale Drive, Scotia Street,
Egerton Road, Kildonan Drive, Kilkenny Drive, Rover Avenue, Vialoux Drive,
Wolseley Avenue and Churchill Drive. New routes would also be added for
parts of Glenwood Crescent, Youville Street, Rosseau Avenue and Ellen
Street, as well as two sections of Alexander Avenue.
Closing roads to cars showed promise
AMONG the many assumptions the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to confront
is: why are we driving everywhere? An initiative that let people physically
distance while getting fresh air and exercise was the restriction of
motorized traffic on certain city streets. It was instituted in the spring
and city council voted to extend the restrictions through the summer. The
limitations were lifted on Tuesday.
In a city where many events were cancelled, fitness and entertainment
venues were shuttered, and many people worked and studied from home, the
street closures allowed many thousands of Winnipeggers to get out and enjoy
themselves. Wide, paved surfaces are good for pedestrians, cyclists,
wheelchair users, skateboarders and many more to travel safely while
maintaining physical distance.
The move on the city’s part coincided with a boom in bicycles, as sales of
new bikes increased and many Winnipeggers hauled out their dusty bikes and
tuned them up.
To paraphrase Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will ride.
Of course, the streets in question didn’t necessarily form a connected
network, so they weren’t a permanent solution to provide space for active
And many residents in the affected areas weren’t happy about the effects
the restricted streets had on traffic in the area — often, motorists trying
to get through the neighbourhood merely shifted to a nearby street, which
concentrated more vehicles on fewer routes.
Clearly, what is needed is a long-term approach. Blocking off certain
streets from motorized traffic, as has been done for many years on
Wellington Crescent and Wolseley Avenue — but only on weekends, for a
designated period of summer months — is a piecemeal approach that treats
active transportation as a diversion.
Instead, as the city upgrades road infrastructure, many streets and
neighbourhoods are getting an active transportation component. This is
often done in consultation with the affected residents, and the various
stages each project is in can be found on the city’s website.
If the city keeps building its active transportation network, will more
people use it? Maybe. It will largely depend on whether the network is a
reliable way for Winnipeggers to ditch their cars and power their way to
work, school, errands or entertainment.
But if they do, then motorists and area residents win as well, even if they
never use those protected lanes or bike paths. More people using bikes,
rollerblades, skateboards or scooters means fewer vehicles on the road,
making the traffic less clogged. And that also means residents tired of
blocks-long lines of cars and trucks will see fewer of those.
The city has been slowly improving the active transportation infrastructure
over the years and, despite the recent cash crunch owing to the COVID-19
pandemic, continued investment in such improvements should be part of every
street renewal project. It will pay dividends in people’s quality of life
and better health for decades.
There’s also the fact that merely increasing road capacity doesn’t solve
traffic jams, it merely results in more vehicles using the streets. What if
we apply the same logic to active transportation — increase capacity, and
see how many more people take advantage of it.
The temporary, improvised open streets transformed neighbourhoods by
showing Winnipggers what they can do with their streets when they’re not
behind the wheel. Long-term, continued active transportation investment
could transform the entire city. We’d all be better off for it.