A campaign aimed at slowing residential speed limits in Winnipeg turned a downtown street into a playground Thursday.
Ellen Street was blocked off between Bannatyne and McDermot avenues in front of the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba’s building from noon to 8 p.m. while kids and families played street hockey, hula-hooped and painted the road with chalk paint among workshops and other programming.
The organizers of the #Love30for30 campaign, environmental non-profit Green Action Centre are in favour of reducing the default speed limit to allow pedestrians and cyclists to better share roads with drivers in Winnipeg.
“We are asking for the default speed to be dropped from 50 kilometres per hour to 30 kilometres per hour — that does not mean that every street would be 30 km/h — it just means that we’re going to start at 30 km/h and raise speed limits above that where it’s safe,” said Denae Penner, the Green Action Centre’s sustainable transportation coordinator.
Penner pointed to the lower risk of serious injury — World Health Organization data show a 90 per cent survival rate when pedestrians are struck by vehicles travelling 30 km/h — as part of the campaign’s reasoning for reducing speeds.
“Pedestrian injury and cyclist injury is on the rise — safety concerns, in general, are growing, there is a lot of discussion right now happening at the city about making changes to policy and changes to street design to help fix that problem,” she said.
“We want to have streets that function for cars, but also for kids who want to run and play.”
The choice to close the specific street was intentional — IRCOM’s Ellen Street location is home to 65 immigrant families’ transitional apartments.
“Many of our families don’t have vehicles and so they are the cyclists, they are the pedestrians, they are going to be walking across the streets to navigate a brand new community, go to school, go grocery shopping and make new friends,” said Dorota Blumczynska, IRCOM’s executive director.
“The speed limits that are in place in this residential neighbourhood could compromise their safety, so we are doing our part in terms of educating our tenants and trying to help them understand how to be safe and street smart, but we need the city to meet us in the middle.”
City council approved a pilot project that will see five residential streets speed limits reduced to 30 km/h last week, but Ellen Sreet was not one of them.
The streets seeing reduced speed limits are:
- Roch Street from Poplar Avenue to Arby Bay
- Eugenie Avenue from St. Mary’s Road to Youville Street
- Warsaw Avenue and Fleet Avenue from Nassau Avenue to Lindsay Avenue
- Machray Avenue from Fife Street to Main Street
- Flora Avenue from Sinclair Street to King Street