In December, the Public Utilities Board again turned up the pressure on MPI to improve the effectiveness of its road safety programs.
Bike Winnipeg participated in the annual hearing of MPI’s programs and rates, arguing that:
- Road safety should focus on reducing accidents that cause injuries and deaths, and
- MPI should develop road safety programs that effectively tell drivers how to steer around cyclists.
MPI presented the framework for its road safety program. Once again, the cycling safety program is inadequate. Our cross-examination showed that MPI’s road safety program is based on a flawed cost-based business plan;
— MPI’s costs for repairing and replacing vehicles are far greater than payouts for injuries and fatalities.
— MPI pays out an average $68,000 for claims to families of cyclists killed in road accidents (and similar amounts for others killed on the roads). This low payout means that an expensive program to reduce road fatalities would not generate “favourable returns” in a business case.
BW demonstrated that most other jurisdictions focus their road safety programs on reducing fatalities and injuries, not on reducing repair costs. In those jurisdictions, safety of pedestrians and cyclists is a greater priority. In other regulatory environments, the “social cost”, or “economic value” of a human life is $7 million, 100x more than MPI pays out. For the approximately 90 lives lost on Manitoba roads in an average year, that represents a social cost of $2.7 Billion, about five times more than MPI spends on repair and replacement.
In its decision, the PUB again asked MPI to invest in initiatives that can reduce the social and financial costs of collisions. This is a nudge in the right direction, the result of ongoing input from Bike Winnipeg, the Consumers’ Association and CAA. They also made some recommendations which will help BW build our case at next year’s hearing. This is a multi-year process.
If you run into Jason Carter riding around town, be sure to thank him for all the work he put into pulling together the research for Bike Winnipeg for this hearing.