*(from 8 80 Cities newsletter)*
Embracing Winter As An Asset
Winter placemaking is a means to reinvent and re-envision the ways that
public spaces are created and used in order to meet the evolving needs of
communities amid the challenges of the winter season. Winter Placemaking
can be a means to build community trust and invest in the co-creation of
public spaces that represent community needs all year round.
Check out our Winter Placemaking Guide
with examples from communities across North America that have embraced a
warmer and more inclusive winter for all.
For more on winter visit our Winter Cities Toolkit
Amber-light times and speed-limit signs that failed to meet Canadian
standards deliver clear evidence Winnipeg’s photo-enforcement system was
set up for profit rather than protection, critics charge
Better sorry than safe?
RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT NO OVERSIGHT
A Free Press investigation into the city's transportation division
IF a car is going faster than a car going slower, does the car going faster
need more time to stop than the car going slower?
For years, that was the question independent researcher Christian Sweryda
would ask the class when he was invited to guest lecture at universities in
Winnipeg on traffic issues.
Then he would tell everyone who thought the faster car needed more time to
stop to raise their hand.
“The whole class would put their hands up, thinking: ‘What’s the catch?’”
“And I’d say: ‘You guys are now more qualified to do traffic engineering
than the City of Winnipeg’s own engineers, because this is what we’re
fighting over.’” The city’s long standing policy was to have uniform yellow
light times — four seconds long— at every intersection, regardless of speed
limit. Sweryda waged a battle against the city for more than a decade in an
effort to get it changed.
His research into traffic-related issues, which has uncovered evidence of
financial mismanagement in the public works department and triggered an
audit, is the subject of the Free Press investigative series Red Light,
Green Light, No Oversight.
On Oct. 16, 2015, when James Aisaican-Chase was on his way to a
chemotherapy appointment, he approached the intersection of Bishop Grandin
Boulevard and River Road and the green light turned to yellow.
Instead of slamming on his brakes in a panic stop, Aisaican-Chase
maintained a steady speed and sailed through the intersection, clearing it
in 4.3 seconds— roughly one-third of a second longer than the four seconds
The speed limit on Bishop Grandin is 80 kilometres per hour. When
Aisaican-Chase received a red-light camera ticket in the mail, he decided
to fight it, believing his decision to clear the intersection was the
safest thing to do in the moment.
The decision to fight the ticket led to a complicated and protracted court
battle, which was bankrolled by Todd Dube, founder of Wise Up Winnipeg.
Over the years, Dube spent more than $100,000 of his own money fighting the
city’s yellow-light policy.
When the case went to court, Grant Lindgren, a Winnipeg Police Service
crash reconstructionist, was called to testify as an expert witness for the
On the stand, Lindgren conceded the city wasn’t following Institute of
Traffic Engineering standards and said he wasn’t aware of any other
jurisdiction that runs its yellow lights the way Winnipeg does.
“Maybe they could reconsider their timing,” Lindgren said.
Dube hired Darryl Schnarr, a forensic engineer and accident reconstruction
expert from Ontario, to write a report on the case.
“In order to evaluate the reasonableness of Mr. Aisaican-Chase’s decision
to proceed through the intersection, the appropriateness of the current
yellow traffic signal duration must be evaluated,” Schnarr wrote.
His report was scathing. Schnarr noted that Winnipeg’s harsh winters
negatively impact road conditions and make stopping more difficult, which
means the city should be erring on the side of caution when it comes to
The yellow-light timing at Bishop Grandin Boulevard-River Road intersection
was shorter than the ITE standard by 1.2 seconds.
Using photo-radar enforcement data, Schnarr calculated that if the city did
follow the ITE standard, 93 per cent of the tickets at the intersection in
2015 would not have been issued. In 2016, 88 per cent would not have been
“It is clear that a 4.0 second yellow traffic signal duration is
appropriate for some roadways and not appropriate for others,” Schnarr
He said that four-second yellows were fine for streets with 50 km/h speed
limits, but for anything beyond, the yellow-light timing should be extended.
But the city’s policy wasn’t just increasing violations at intersections,
it was also impacting safety. Schnarr noted that short yellows on
high-speed roads increase the risk of broadside— also referred to as
T-bones, the most dangerous kind of crash— and rear end collisions.
“(It is) clear that the 4.0 second yellow traffic signal duration does not
comply with competent traffic engineering practices,” Schnarr wrote.
“Continuing to employ a 4.0 second traffic signal duration will contribute
to traffic fatalities in the future, and may have contributed to traffic
fatalities in the past.”
His report proved prophetic a year later.
On Sept. 4, 2018, a 61-year-old man was killed while riding his bike at the
T-shaped intersection at Bishop Grandin and Lagimodiere boulevards. He was
hit by a truck that failed to stop at a red light.
Eventually, Sweryda was able to convince Coun. Matt Allard, the chair of
the public works committee, that the city’s yellow-light times were wrong.
Allard (St. Boniface) moved a motion on Sept. 16, 2020 to fix it.
“It’s another one that was talked about for years.… Basically, Chris
convinced me the yellow light timing was off for high-speed roads,” Allard
The city increased the yellow-light timing to 4.3 seconds on roads with a
70 km/h speed limit, and 4.7 seconds where it’s 80 km/h.
All told, 110 intersections were affected by the change— although the
yellow-light durations are still below ITE standards.
During the next two months, photo-radar violations at Bishop Grandin and
River dropped from 357 to 50 when compared to the same time period in 2019.
At Lagimodiere and Grassie boulevards, the number fell to 44 from 280 the
“Winnipeg’s amber light times used to be a uniform 4.0 seconds, but we have
been able to more precisely calibrate individual intersections’ timing
based on national and international best practices, engineering knowledge
and awareness of local context,” a city spokesman said in a statement.
“This is reflected in the Traffic Signal Timing Guidelines we use to
determine duration of lights on all city streets. For further context, the
Traffic Signals Branch has evolved considerably since previous full review
of the timing guidelines (in 2014).”
The short yellow-light duration wasn’t the only city traffic policy Sweryda
believed was negatively impacting safety but benefiting photo-radar revenue.
On April 8, 2014, he filed a complaint to the Association of Professional
Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba, targeting three city traffic
Sweryda argued the city did not post speed-reduction signs on both sides of
divided roads and one-way streets, a practice “not consistent with Canadian
That amounted to a “serious engineering deficiency” and “malpractice,”
because motorists may “fail to see the speed reduction signs, particularly
when there is a large semi-trailer truck between the motorist and speed
A three-person committee was tasked with reviewing the complaint. They
eventually determined that only one of the three engineers— Luis Escobar— was
responsible for the policy. During the investigation, Escobar admitted he
had conducted no engineering analysis to depart from the speed-reduction
signage standards detailed in theManual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices
Ultimately, the panel cleared him of malpractice.
“The purpose of this investigation is not to determine whether or not the
policy is correct,” their decision read.
But there was one dissenting opinion from engineer Ian McKay.
“Evidence on speeding ticket reductions when dual signs are posted… clearly
demonstrates that there are circumstances in Winnipeg where drivers are
failing to see the primary sign,” McKay wrote.
“In my view, Mr. Escobar’s actions of not completing any analysis or
documenting any justification to vary from an advisory issued by Canadian
Traffic Engineers constitutes professional misconduct.”
That was also the position of Ted Clarke, a retired former City of Winnipeg
director of streets and transportation, who wrote to the investigating
panel in support of Sweryda’s complaint.
“For what it’s worth, I think Chris Sweryda is quite correct in his
complaints about speed signing,” Clarke wrote.
“When every other major Canadian city and the Province of Manitoba are all
following a particular practice, and Winnipeg is not, and the result is
tickets issued to law-abiding, well-intentioned drivers, something is
Clarke, who retired in 1995, called the city’s policy “predatory” and a
“blatant revenue grab” aimed at “tripping up responsible drivers on minor
But Michael Jack, the city’s current chief administrative officer, defended
Escobar in the matter in a series of letters sent to APEGM obtained by the Free
In response to Sweryda’s claim the city did not follow national engineering
standards and established practices on dual signage, Jack wrote there was
nothing in the law requiring it.
Last week, however, the city told the Free Press in a written statement its
engineers “adhere to national and local practice guides.”
On March 10, 2017, the Law Society of Manitoba issued two “reminders” to
Jack of his professional obligations due to his role in the case.
Jack had changed his practising status to “inactive” on June 30, 2015,
which meant he shouldn’t have been working as a lawyer. The law society —
which regulates the profession in Manitoba— charged that by defending city
employees while a member of the administration, he was in a conflict of
“You continued to represent to APEGM that you were acting on behalf of the
three engineers and you continued to be involved in their legal matter on
their behalf,” reads the letter.
“It is the belief of the Law Society that you ought not to have been
representing the three engineers at all. You certainly ought not to have
continued to act for them after changing your status to ‘inactive.’” In a
written statement, the city noted the Manitoba Law Society handled this
matter on an “expressly confidential basis.”
“Michael Jack provided an explanation to the Manitoba Law Society and they
determined that the complaint was resolved with no further action required
by them,” a city spokesman wrote.
Around that time, Sweryda also launched a petition asking the city to
change its policy on dual speed-limit signage. It got more than 2,000
signatures. By August 2015, the petition made its way to Mayor Brian
Bowman’s desk. In a written statement, a city spokesman said the department
is now supportive of dual signage.
“The historical interpretation of the (Manual of Uniform Traffic Control
Devices for Canada) by the City had been that the dual provision of signage
was optional rather than mandatory, however the department is now
supportive, prepared to, and committed to making the change to add the dual
signage,” the statement said.
“We are still investigating the total number of locations where the
additional signage would need to be installed (we believe there are 52
where this is required), and have committed money… to fund the
installation. We anticipate it will be completed within the calendar year.”
Jeremy Patzer, an assistant professor in the department of criminology and
sociology at the University of Manitoba, says he believes Sweryda’s
research proves the city has been deliberately sacrificing road safety to
increase photo-radar revenue.
“There are actions and policies undertaken by the authorities that would
seem to want to lead us to break the Highway Traffic Act.… Safety is the
rationale that is always sold to us, but when it comes down to it, you can
see policies that actually sacrifice safety,” Patzer says.
“We actually see what seems to be the sacrifice of safety for revenue
A city spokesman shot back in a written statement: “The assertion that the
City of Winnipeg would deliberately sacrifice safety for revenue is
outrageous, unfounded, and categorically untrue.”
*On April 6, 2021, Allard moved a motion at the Riel community committee
seeking to change the way Winnipeg’s photo-radar system is operated*.
*He wanted the revenue generated from violations in school zones to be
earmarked for road-safety improvements instead of going to police
“The (photo-radar) program needs to be reformed. The program legislation is
to better safety. It doesn’t specifically say the dollars should go to
police. It says safety. I think for the program to continue to be viable,
it needs to look at the roads themselves,” Allard said at the time.
*The motion was shot down by councillors Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Markus
Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River).* Chambers, chair of the Winnipeg Police
Board, called it “premature.” Mayes went further.
“I think I have concerns as well. Perhaps slightly different concerns than
Coun. Chambers. We both sit on the police board. *This would be a pretty
big reallocation of budget from the police,” Mayes said*.
Sweryda believes the city’s behaviour is breathtakingly cynical.
“When I started this, people were saying, ‘Photo radar is about safety.’
Most people now accept that photo radar is a cash grab. But there’s still
this attitude of, ‘Well, if you don’t like the ticket, don’t break the law.
Don’t give them the chance to get you,’” he says.
“The next step that people need to understand is that it’s not just a cash
grab. It’s a cash grab and a trap, sure, but it’s not safety-neutral. It’s
actually a detriment to safety.”
ryan.thorpe(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @rk_thorpe
Visually impaired man consider human rights complaint against city
State of Winnipeg’s sidewalks challenged
A VISUALLY impaired St. Vital man is considering filing a human rights
complaint against the city over the state of its snow- and ice-packed
Raymond Slipetz, who lives alone, is legally blind and uses a cane to walk
in the winter, said the city’s refusal to clear sidewalks in a timely
manner has affected his quality of life. Getting his groceries delivered
and accessing a taxi are difficult because the plowed snow blocks his
“If you’re in a wheelchair or you’re in a situation where you need to use a
cane or a walker, you’re not going anywhere on the sidewalks,” the
69-year-old told the Free Press Thursday.
Slipetz said he’s considering making a complaint with the Manitoba Human
Rights Commission on behalf of Winnipeggers with disabilities. He said
they’ve been denied basic needs because the city doesn’t make sidewalk
clearing a priority.
“But the fact of the matter is that if you’re in a wheelchair, use a walker
or a cane, or are a legally blind person, you don’t have any rights at
all,” he said. “You rely on what other people are willing to hand you down.”
The city has three priority levels for snow clearing. Typically, the
priority level of a street and a nearby sidewalk are the same (for example,
some sidewalks near schools get a higher priority than nearby streets).
Priority is determined by several factors, including the amount and type of
traffic. First and second priority streets and sidewalks are plowed after
five centimetres of snow fall, while third priority streets and sidewalks
are plowed after eight centimetres.
While corresponding streets and sidewalks are supposed to be cleared at the
same time, that isn’t happening. On Thursday afternoon, Priority 2 streets
in the south end of Winnipeg were considered 100 per cent cleared, while
their sidewalks and pathways were listed as nine per cent complete.
“We start at the same time, but sidewalks take much longer than streets,”
said Michael Cantor, Winnipeg’s manager of street maintenance. “Usually,
you’ll see streets at 100 per cent after 24, 36 hours, while the sidewalk
stays much longer. Although the policy states 36 hours, this year, it was
very hard to meet those timelines.” City policy states that Priority 1 and
2 sidewalks should be fully cleared within 36 hours of a snowfall, while
Priority 3 sidewalks should be plowed within five days. Cantor acknowledged
that hasn’t happened this winter.
“What limits us, usually, is the amount of equipment to finish our
inventory within 36 hours,” he said. “And with this long winter and cold
temperatures, we have a lot of equipment that is down.”
He added the city is behind on clearing Priority 3 sidewalks because of
excessive snowfall this winter.
Cantor said his department is closely monitoring its sidewalk clearing this
winter, with a report on snow clearing to be presented to the city in July
to determine gaps in service.
However, Cantor defended the city’s response.
“In other cities, they don’t plow sidewalks of residential streets at all,”
he said. “Winnipeg has, I think, one of the best policies. We just
sometimes struggle to facilitate it if we don’t have the adequate resources
to do that. And we’re working on it. But otherwise, the policy itself is a
very good policy.”
But Slipetz, who said he’s reached out to the city with little to no
response, said the priority system isn’t working.
“To me, it’s ridiculous that they would be following this old policy and
not giving any consideration to those who are disabled,” he said.
Elmwood resident Adam Johnston agrees. Johnston, who was hit by a car in
October, said he finds it difficult to navigate the city’s snowy sidewalks
with his injuries. He said the need for accessible pathways is vital in
lower income neighbourhoods where more people walk and take public transit.
“We’re in an area that’s not of high income… and it feels like we have been
ignored this winter. It just seems like roads and higher income areas seem
to get priority,” he said.
Johnston said he gets anxious about scaling the piles of snow that line
“Often I’m jumping over snowbanks to walk on the street where it’s been
cleared, where the cars go, and obviously that’s not the greatest, but it’s
often the only alternative,” he said.
Winnipegger’s effort to replace hundreds of missing signs in school zones
thwarted by public works department
CAUTION: apathy zone
RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT NO OVERSIGHT
A Free Press investigation into the city's transportation division
IT was sometime in 2011 when Christian Sweryda, an independent researcher
and traffic-safety activist, started to notice locations where school-zone
signs were missing in Winnipeg.
He began to count the places where they should have been installed. When
his list hit 30, he contacted the transportation division of the public
works department to flag the issue.
Sweryda said based on how many signs were missing just in his area, there
were likely hundreds more around the city. He suggested someone do an
Someone in the department told Sweryda it would not do a count, but would
replace missing signs on a case-by-case basis. They told him to stop
calling and instead contact 311.
Sweryda had a deep fascination with traffic-related issues inWinnipeg and
began looking into a range of safety concerns.
His research— which has uncovered evidence of financial mismanagement in
the public works department and triggered an audit — is the subject of the Free
Press investigative series Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight.
After the department rebuffed his efforts, Sweryda decided to take the
matter into his own hands. He compiled a list of all city schools, both
public and private, and used Google Street View to check every location for
He spent the next six months driving to the locations to verify his
findings. He compiled a 73-page list of every sign location in the city and
flagged each spot where one was missing.
He noted undersized signs, misplaced signs and school-zone signs on streets
with no schools. All told, there were 206missing school-zone signs.
Sweryda took the list to the department and asked for the problem to be
addressed. He was told it wouldn’t be.
“I was floored,” he said. “I hadn’t grown cynical yet.”
In November 2012, Sweryda got the National Post to do an article on the
topic. It profiled one location, near John Pritchard School onHenderson
Highway, where school-zone signs were missing.
Sweryda thought the media coverage would force the department to act.
Instead, the missing signs at John Pritchard were replaced, but the city
ignored hundreds of locations elsewhere.
A freedom-of-information request revealed the signs were replaced only
after the River East Transcona School Division complained to the city after
reading the National Post story.
In late November 2012, former city councillor Harvey Smith set up a meeting
with Sweryda and department staff. He again produced the list and, this
time, he was told they would “assess each location” on it.
At the time there were discussions about lowering the speed limit in school
zones to 30 kilometres per hour. Sweryda was told it made no sense for
department workers to replace all the missing signs if they were going to
have to repeat the work after a speed-limit reduction.
The argument, at least to him, was nonsensical: while refusing to replace
missing school-zone signs — a safety issue — they were saying they wanted
to reduce speed limits to improve safety.
In 2014, the speed limit in school zones was reduced, but only on
residential streets adjacent to elementary schools— where only a small
minority of the missing signs were located. Many more were on major roads,
or roads approaching schools or at high schools.
The only signs the department replaced were those affected by the lower
speed limit. In 2015, Sweryda repeated his inventory and found there were
173 signs missing; only 33 of the 206 he’d initially identified had been
replaced. Many were on major roads with high traffic volumes and increased
At that point, Sweryda gave up. He’d done what he could to get the
department to act.
But his concerns remained, and by 2018 he was back on it, and this time he
teamed up with Coun. Matt Allard, who chairs the public works committee.
That year, Allard (St. Boniface) moved a motion asking for a civic report
on missing school-zone signs.
In November 2018, the department was granted 180 days to report back on the
matter. In May 2019, the timeline was pushed to October. Then in November,
an extension was again granted, followed by yet another in February 2020.
The department requested additional funding to create a database and GPS
monitoring system for the signs. But the proposal for the additional
funding was not approved.
Once again, Sweryda couldn’t make sense of the department staff’s logic.
They didn’t want to replace the missing signs he’d catalogued until they’d
developed an internal GPS system that could keep track of missing-sign
locations in the future.
In the fall of 2021, Allard took the matter up with the department again.
This time, public works department director Jim Berezowsky said he would get
someone on it.
And once again, Sweryda’s list of missing school-zone signs was provided.
“I have been working for years asking the public service to address missing
school-zone and playground signage as researched by Chris Sweryda, through
council motions and communications. Unfortunately, many issues remain
outstanding,” Allard said.
On Thursday, the city said in a statement it is in the process of reviewing
Sweryda’s submitted information “in order to determine exact locations
where signs may need to be repaired or replaced. We would attend to any
locations where signage is in fact missing as quickly as possible.”
Sweryda shares an anecdote that sums up his frustrating battle.
The signs near John Pritchard School on Henderson Highway— which were
replaced after the 2012 National Post story— were ones Sweryda drove by
every day on his way to class at the University of Manitoba.
Month after month, he watched as the school-zone sign on northbound
HendersonHighway began to lean, seemingly a little more each time he passed
it. On Oct. 31, 2016, it fell to the ground.
It was left on the sidewalk until the following summer, and then it
It had not been replaced by December 2018, so Sweryda wrote an email to
David Patman, manager of transportation for the public works department.
If he couldn’t get public works to replace all of the missing signs, surely
he would be successful at one spot he passed all the time.
Or so he thought. “I have a staff member who can review and act on missing
signs; I will forward this to her. Note that we are in the process of
developing a plan to inventory and update all signage in Winnipeg,” Patman
wrote in response Dec. 23, 2018.
By April 3, 2021, nothing had been done.
Sweryda emailed Patman again. “Considering that it has been over 27 months
since that correspondence, I wanted to inquire as to whether there has been
any progress in putting this sign back up?” he wrote.
Patman responded three days later. “This appears to have fallen through the
cracks, but as of this morning, I have been advised that traffic services
is going to inspect the site promptly and will reinstall the sign if it is
missing,” he wrote.
That was 10 months ago. The sign is still missing, as are hundreds of
ryan.thorpe(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @rk_thorpe
City ignored pleas to install eye-level warning lights
Decade of deadly delay
RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT NO OVERSIGHT
A Free Press investigation into the city's transportation division
FOR the past 11 years, independent researcher and traffic safety activist
Christian Sweryda has been urging the City of Winnipeg to install eye-level
safety lights at pedestrian corridors.
It has been a long, drawn-out battle, featuring a forgotten report, a pilot
project bordering on the absurd, a spate of major crashes and dead children.
Despite the deaths and near-tragedies, the city has resisted the mass
rollout of a cheap and proven safety initiative. To this day, the vast
majority of pedestrian corridors inWinnipeg do not have eye-level safety
The financial cost of delays is minuscule, but the human cost has been
On April 4, 2011, a 22-year-old woman was killed at the pedestrian corridor
near HendersonHighway and Leighton Avenue as the overhead lights flashed.
At that time, Sweryda— who currently works for the Winnipeg School Division
and is a second-year law student— had been studying traffic-related issues
inWinnipeg for more than two years. His work had become an obsession, and
he’d been mulling over the woman’s death for a month.
One day he was stopped in his car at a rail crossing on Lagimodiere
Boulevard when a figurative light bulb went off in his head. The solution
was staring him right in the face: eye-level safety lights.
At the pedestrian corridor on Henderson Highway where the woman was killed,
the only lights were overhead, which were flashing when the driver entered
Sweryda concluded drivers whose vehicles were closer to the intersection
when the lights began flashing would have a more difficult time seeing
them. If lights were also installed at eye level, it would increase
It seemed like common sense — Sweryda contacted the transportation division
of the public works department and advocated for the installation of
eye-level lights at pedestrian corridors. His efforts were rebuffed.
In 2012 he contacted former city councillor Harvey Smith — the first
municipal politician receptive to Sweryda’s research. Smith got department
staff to sit down and hear Sweryda out on this and other traffic-safety
issues, but they made no commitments to install the lights.
By March 5, 2013, the same idea occurred to traffic-signals engineer
Michael Cantor. In an inter-department email obtained by the Free Press, Cantor
said the city should consider conducting a pilot project on eye-level
safety lights at pedestrian corridors.
“We can increase safety… with a cheap and effective solution,” Cantor
Email correspondence shows there was initial pushback within the
department, but the pilot project was eventually approved.
Google Street View images show lights were installed at the pedestrian
corridor at Notre Dame Avenue and McGee Street sometime between March 2013
and May 2014.
The lights remained inactive and hooded until September 2016, when they
were activated for a single eight hour period. That was the extent of the
While the sample size was small, the engineering report said the project
had been a success, with driver “yield compliance” improving, and it
recommended further study. The city did no further study at the time.
Instead of rolling out eye-level safety lights at pedestrian corridors
across the city, work crews went in and removed the pilot project lights at
Notre Dame and McGee about a year later.
A freedom-of-information request seeking an explanation for the decision to
uninstall the lights turned up no records and an admission the department
had co-ordinated the work through “word of mouth.”
Then came the deaths. On Feb. 13, 2018, at the pedestrian corridor on St.
Anne’s Road at Varennes Avenue, eight-year-old Surafiel Musse Tesfamariam
was killed while on his way to school. The driver remained at the scene. The
overhead lights were flashing.
Eleven days later, a 16-year-old boy was hit at the crosswalk on Roblin
Boulevard at Hunterspoint Road while chasing after his school bus. He was
taken to hospital in unstable condition. On Aug. 30, 2018, a woman was left
in critical condition and a man in unstable condition after being hit at a
newly built pedestrian corridor on Keewatin Street at Santa Fe Drive. The
65-year-old driver remained at the scene.
On March 18, 2019, four-year-old Galila Habtegerish was killed at the
pedestrian corridor on Isabel Street at Ross Avenue. Her mother was also
hit and taken to hospital in critical condition.
The driver remained at the scene. She was charged with six offences,
including two counts of disobeying a traffic-control device. The overhead
lights were flashing.
On July 31, 2019, a 23-year-old woman was killed at the crosswalk on
Sargent Avenue at Simcoe Street. An 89-year-old man was charged with
driving carelessly causing death and disobeying a traffic-control device. The
overhead lights were flashing.
On Sept. 10, 2019, a 37-year-old woman was killed while crossing the
pedestrian corridor on William Avenue near Health Sciences Centre. The
57-year-old driver remained at the scene and was charged with dangerous
driving causing death and disobeying a traffic-control device. The overhead
lights were flashing.
Nineteen months, six crashes, four deaths, two of them children.
Sweryda remembers the moment he heard the boy had been killed on St. Anne’s
Road. A friend broke the news to him.
“I cried,” Sweryda said. “It was extremely frustrating, depressing.
Whenever another person died I would just get so mad. Basically,
screaming-at-the-wall mad. Of all the social problems in the world, we’re
fighting over this? No wonder we can’t get anywhere.”
Charlene Sacher has lived in that area with her husband and three children
for 13 years. Her 11-year-old daughter was friends with Surafiel, the boy
killed in the corridor.
In the years before the boy’s death, Sacher said neighbourhood residents
repeatedly took safety concerns about the corridor to the city. At first
they requested a speed-limit reduction, but the city said that was not
“Then we asked for the trees to be trimmed back, because coming up to that
crosswalk, sometimes it is very difficult to see the lights. We asked for
better signage. There were lots of comments about looking into it,” Sacher
“It took what everyone thought would be a worst-case scenario to actually
make changes happen.”
After the death on St. Anne’s Road, the transportation division of the
public works department did a safety review of the corridor, concluding
that eye-level safety lights were needed. An engineering report pegged the
installation cost at $500, later upgraded to $5,000 per corridor, or just
under $1 million for the 184 corridors throughout the city.
After the four-year-old girl died on Isabel Street in 2019 (shortly
after the lights were installed on St. Anne’s Road), the city did a safety
review of that corridor. As was the case with the St. Anne’s Road review
before it, the report recommended installing eye-level safety lights at the
There was no mention of Sweryda’s advocacy dating back to 2011, or to the
city’s 2016 pilot project, or to the St. Anne’s Road review.
In 2019, by which time eye-level lights had been installed at nine
corridors, the city hired a consulting firm to further investigate the
issue, which looked at driver yield compliance rates at three pedestrian
corridors in Winnipeg that had been equipped with the lights on St. Anne’s
Road, Corydon Avenue and Maryland Street.
The contract was awarded to a consulting firm owned by the wife of a
long-standing manager within the transportation division of the public
works department — although he was no longer employed by the city at the
In a written statement, a City of Winnipeg spokesman summarized a key
finding of the report as “the addition of the low-mounted beacons to the
pedestrian corridor treatment system… did not result in a statistically
significant change in driver yield compliance.”
But the report concluded that yield compliance rates on St. Anne’s Road and
Corydon Avenue had indeed increased, from 90 per cent to 93, and from 86
per cent to 89, respectively.
Meanwhile, driver yield compliance rates fell at Maryland Street, from 88
per cent to 85; the report does not speculate as to a possible explanation.
Nevertheless, the report noted benefits to the installation of eye-level
lights beyond the increase in driver yield compliance at two locations.
“As a vehicle moves closer and closer to a pedestrian corridor, it becomes
impossible for the driver to see the overhead flashers because they pass
out of a driver’s (line of sight),” the report reads.
“As such, the Public Service concluded that (eye-level safety lights) do
provide conspicuity to pedestrian corridors for drivers that are within the
stopping sight distance (ie: are close to the corridor when the lights are
actuated), and in dense urban settings for vehicles turning right onto a
In other words, as drivers get closer to the pedestrian corridor, they are
less likely to see the overhead flashing safety lights, so installing
eye-level lights improves visibility.
Eight years after Sweryda first brought the matter to the attention of the
department, the city had conducted two different studies — in one case
hiring an outside consulting firm — to arrive at the same conclusion he had.
The city spokesman said that moving forward, the department will install
eye-level safety lights at all pedestrian corridors impacted by capital
“There is no identified funding source to support a network-wide upgrade
for pedestrian crossings,” the spokesman said.
The Free Press explained the series of events to Brent Toderian, an
internationally recognized thought leader on cities and city-building with
more than 30 years of experience in advanced urbanism, city planning and
As he has not reviewed the reports, he did not want to comment specifically
about the effectiveness of the lights. But he was willing to make some
“One thing I’ve seen in city after city, whether or not you have the money
depends entirely on your priorities.… Too many cities are still keeping old
standards because of momentum and a disinterest in changing the status
quo,” he said.
But the saga, according to Toderian, points to deeper, structural problems
in Winnipeg, and it’s ultimately a debate over “doing the wrong thing
“Never forget that’s what you’re doing. You’re trying to retrofit failure.
And the failure is you didn’t design for pedestrian safety in the first
place,” he said.
Sacher has already seen tragedy up close and worries about more deaths.
“So many of these crosswalks are near schools…. There is a potential for a
tragedy to happen at all of these. Being proactive now could save the life
of someone’s child,” Sacher said.
In 2020, Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), the chair of the public works
committee, moved a motion asking the department to develop plans for a
city-wide rollout of eye-level safety lights at pedestrian corridors — nine
years after Sweryda’s advocacy began.
To date, the public works department says it has installed eye-level safety
lights at 25 pedestrian corridors in Winnipeg, with 159 locations to go.
According to Sweryda, the city’s numbers are wrong: it’s actually 28 of
184, roughly 15 per cent.
A department memo reviewed by the Free Press said plans are in the works
for 15 more.
They say they’ll get around to them later this year.
ryan.thorpe(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @rk_thorpe
*Austrians now have access to every form of public transit in the country
through a single affordable ticket. Is it enough to make a dent in carbon
For Romina Mayer, there was no question that she had to buy the KlimaTicket
(the “Climate Ticket”) when it launched. For just €1095 per year, it gives
her unlimited access to every form of public transportation in her country
of Austria: All buses, undergrounds, trams and local, regional and national
trains — private and public. “I bought it immediately,” said the
57-year-old musician and music teacher from Vienna.
She was even able to get in at the early bird rate of €949 (€1 is about
USD$1.14), amounting to a 30 percent drop from her transportation budget
the previous year. Since then, her mobility behavior has changed a lot. “I
think less about where I’m going and how much it costs, so I sometimes get
to places I’ve never been before,” she said. Hiking in Brand-Laaben, for
example, a community in the so-called Mostviertel region of Lower Austria.
“Only the bus goes there, and it’s usually very expensive.” She also uses
the KlimaTicket professionally, traveling to Graz and Salzburg for
rehearsals and performances. “It’s a great relief because these
performances are usually not well paid.”
The KlimaTicket was introduced in late October 2021. Selling 134,000
tickets in the first two months, it shattered the government’s first-year
target by over 30 percent before 2022 had even begun. Queues formed in
front of the ticket counters in the country of nine million. Even the
initiators were surprised. “The KlimaTicket is a revolution in public
transport,” says Leonor Gewässler, Green Federal Minister for Climate
Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. “This
has more than exceeded our expectations.”
There’s a question on everyone’s mind, though: will the KlimaTicket live up
to its name and actually make a dent in the country’s carbon footprint? It
turns out, this might be a trickier question than it seems.
The Austrian government’s mobility master plan lays out a goal to make
mobility in the country climate-neutral by 2040
To achieve this modeling shows that, in addition to their electrification
strategy, they need a reduction of almost 20 percent in the share of
private motorized transport and an increase in public transport usage by a
The KlimaTicket was launched with the intention of contributing to that
switch. Whether it will work remains a question.
The role that an inexpensive and simplified tariff system can play in
promoting public transport within cities has been proven in Austrian
already. In Salzburg, the number of transit users has multiplied since the
introduction of a low-cost annual travel pass. In 2012, Vienna introduced
an annual transit ticket for public transport in the entire city area at
the low cost of €412. Last year 800,000 users bought it — more than 40
percent of the capital’s population and more than the number of car owners
in the city. Romina Mayer was one of them. “Driving in Vienna is madness,”
Now the annual ticket for Vienna is included in the KlimaTicket, though
it’s still available separately for those who aren’t KlimaTicket holders.
Sebastian Kummer doubts that this evidence from urban transit will
translate into lower rates of car ownership and usership throughout the
country. “The difference between the cost of a car and the cost of using
public transport was already very large,” says the Head of the Institute of
Transport and Logistics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business
In very few cases are economic considerations the real reason for using a
car. Travel times and convenience are much more important. “In this
respect, the incentive to switch from car to public transport through the
KlimaTicket is minimal,” he says. While it does simplify access to public
transport and make it more affordable, it is mainly used by people who
already use transit anyway. In fact, the ticket encourages those users to
ride the systems even more often, he says, without contributing more money
to it. This, he argues, actually puts a strain on a system that is already
working at high capacity and lacks the money to expand its services.
In the case of the KlimaTicket, that extra money is coming from the state.
It is financed partially through its sale, and a subsidy of nearly €150
million per year from the federal government. The government is also
supporting the introduction of regional KlimaTickets within the states with
€100 million annually. The Ministry of the Environment refers to a “record
budget” of more than €18.2 billion over the next six years for the
expansion of rail infrastructure and another €1 billion for trains and
wagons. It has also commissioned an accompanying study on the KlimaTicket
to provide insight into user behavior and ecological impact.
While it is still too early for results in Austria, Switzerland provides
some insight. The neighboring alpine country has been offering their yearly
pass, the General Abonnement*,* since 1898. A good three decades ago, the
entire country’s public transport system was integrated into the ticket,
including the ferries. Today, for €3650 (a number reflective of the high
incomes and cost of living in Switzerland but that many still argue is
overly subsidized), users have access to a network of 23,500 kilometres
more than half the circumference of the earth, in a country half the size
of South Carolina.
In 2019 half a million Swiss bought the General Abonnement — a high number
in a country with a population of 8.6 million. The Swiss make 40 percent of
all journeys on public transport, compared to just 10 percent in Germany
and Austria. The key? In addition to the simple fare system, the country
offers a high frequency and very good accessibility by public transport. Trains
run between cities every hour, for example. In remote villages, one can
call a bus when they want to travel.
“This is a key prerequisite for the success of a transport transformation,”
says Andreas Knie, a traffic expert at the Technical University of Berlin
and the Berlin Social Science Center. The advantages of the private car are
enormous, simply because of the door-to-door transport.
Even free transit isn’t enough to convince many to leave their cars behind.
The tiny nation of Luxembourg, which is equipped with an excellent
introduced free transportation
It is too early to know the results in Luxembourg, but a simulated study by
the Technical University of Dortmund has shown that it will not
substantially curb car use or emissions
The upshot? In order to convince people to make a switch to public transit,
driving a car must become more difficult and more expensive, accompanied by
significant improvements in the offerings of public transit.
Nevertheless, Knie considers the Austrian KlimaTicket positive, and not
without potential impact: “Ten to fifteen percent of car drivers are
sensitive to a change, and you can give them a push in the right direction
with such an offer.” However, public transport is also facing new
challenges, he says. More and more people work at least temporarily in a
home office. They need a simple and flexible, pay-as-you-ride fare system
rather than an annual ticket.
Until then, the primary winners of the KlimaTicket will remain users like
Mayer, and people like Robert Püringer, a 39-year-old producer at a
scientific book publishing house. Püringer lives in Unterötzbach, in the
Austrian countryside near the Czech border. In non-pandemic times, the
father of two commutes to Vienna every weekday. The journey takes one hour
and 15 minutes each way. “I use the way there to sleep, and the way back to
read, chat or watch films,” he says with a laugh. So far he has travelled
with an annual ticket which, at €2032 was considerably more expensive than
Of course, Püringer also immediately bought the KlimaTicket, even though he
does not use the local transport in Vienna because he walks from the main
station to the publishing house. Among his friends and acquaintances in the
countryside, however, he is the only one. The current public transport
connections there are far too poor for most journeys to be made without a
car. “For me the KlimaTicket means, apart from the ecological advantages,
above all a relief of our family budget,” he says. As a reward for choosing
the ecological option, that might not be such a bad thing.
Liberals offer transit help for cities
OTTAWA— The federal government is offering cities a one time cash infusion
of $750 million to help make up for shortfalls in transit revenues linked
But the pledge comes with what FinanceMinister Chrystia Freeland calls two
Provinces must match the funding, and work with cities to more quickly
increase the supply of housing.
Freeland says municipalities need the financial help to manage the economic
repercussions of the pandemic and maintain transit systems.
Ridership dropped precipitously during the first wave of COVID-19 and has
remained low through rounds of restrictions, depriving municipal coffers of
the money needed to run and maintain buses, subways and light-rail systems.
The mayors of Canada’s biggest cities asked during last year’s federal
election for a multi-year funding commitment to help make up shortfalls
take beyond the pandemic to recoup.
Late last month, the Federation of CanadianMunicipalities raised the need
for urgent financial support as the Omicron wave of COVID-19 further
strained systems, projecting serious ridership and revenue problems.
The federation’s big city mayors’ caucus warned that too little funding
could lead to transit cuts, fare hikes or property tax increases that could
limit the economic recovery.
The Finance Department says funding for provinces and territories would be
based on a formula that considers ridership and population counts.
— The Canadian Press
SAVE THE DATE!
On Wednesday, April 13th Green Action Centre will welcome Strong Towns’
Charles Marohn to Winnipeg. Registration will begin soon for The
Confessions Tour: Transportation for a Strong Town. Tickets will be
available from greenactioncentre.ca.
Like many cities in Canada, Winnipeg has gone through a period of record
growth, and yet our financial position has never been worse. Winnipeg also
has the highest rate of injury and death of vulnerable road users in
Canada. What did we get wrong, and what can we do now, and into the future,
to ensure we have a successful transportation system that contributes to
the quality of life of all residents?
The lessons Charles shares will apply to those in Winnipeg as well as
municipalities across the province. Whether you are a planner, developer,
transportation engineer, municipal leader or community advocate, you will
want to attend this important event.
Following Charles’ keynote, attendees will be divided into groups to
participate in a series of breakout sessions to bring the high-level
concepts to the local reality around us. Be part of the transportation
transformation in your town!
ABOUT CHARLES MAROHN
Charles Marohn, known as “Chuck” to friends and colleagues, is the founder
and president of Strong Towns. He is a professional engineer and a land use
planner with decades of experience. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil
Engineering and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, both from the
University of Minnesota.
Marohn is the author of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild
American Prosperity (Wiley, 2019), And of Confessions of a Recovering
Engineer: Transportation for a Strong Town (Wiley, 2021). He hosts the Strong
Towns Podcast <https://www.strongtowns.org/podcast> and is a primary writer
for Strong Towns’ web content <https://www.strongtowns.org/>. He has
presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North
America. Planetizen named him one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of
Thank you to our sponsors for making The Confessions Tour: Transportation
for a Strong Town possible!
*Mel Marginet* | Workplace Commuter Options
<http://greenactioncentre.ca/>Green Action Centre
3rd floor, 303 Portage Ave | (204) 925-3777 x112 | Find us here
**Note: I work two days a week at Green Action Centre and it may take a
*days to respond to you. *
*We are located on Treaty 1 Territory and the homeland of the Métis
Nation. The water we drink comes from Shoal Lake First Nation. *
Green Action Centre is your green living hub
Support our work by becoming a member
<http://greenactioncentre.ca/support/become-a-member/>. Donate at
Active transportation infrastructure is one of the most important things a
community can build, but some so-called “bicycle amenities” barely deserve
Last week, the good people behind the must-watch YouTube channel Not Just
Bikes <https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0intLFzLaudFG-xAvUEO-A> took to
Twitter <https://twitter.com/notjustbikes/status/1491499943265284099> to
ask their followers a critical question: what’s the worst “bike-centered”
road project you’ve ever seen, and what, exactly, makes it so bad?
The avalanche of lame lanes, shitty sharrows and substandard shared-use
paths that followed is a testament to just how far communities around the
world have to go to make streets truly accessible to people who walk and
roll — especially considering that many of those monstrosities were built in
perfect compliance with legal standards
<https://twitter.com/MelbourneWay/status/1491509034213511172>, as a few
submitters pointed out.
“One of the things advocates for vehicular cycling
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicular_cycling> cite is that bicycle
infrastructure is often bad, and it’s safer to cycle on the road than in
bad bike infrastructure,” said Jason Slaughter, the creator of the channel.
“And to be fair, it probably is. But the solution is not to make everybody
learn to cycle like a car, because that is an ableist position that
excludes the majority of people from cycling. The solution is to build safe
cycling infrastructure that does not have these issues.”
Here are a few of the most common themes in the thread. And just for fun,
we’ll take a vote at the bottom to find out which is the worst of all;
think of it as a mini-edition of the Sorriest Bus Stops