We know our cash-strapped City wants to save some money, so we have an idea:
Construction is set to begin this summer and continue for the next three years.
Why hit pause?
The current design and project plan are deeply flawed, making the updated street far less safe for people walking, rolling, cycling and driving.
By putting off the project for a year or two, the City can delay spending money until we are out of the current crisis, and the project can still be completed by its proposed deadline with a streamlined construction schedule and improved design.
For years, there’s been talk of transforming the North Edge neighbourhood behind MacEwan and Oliver Square into an extension of the vibrant Oliver area to the south. A big part of that dream has been a complete renewal of the 105 Avenue streetscape. Currently, there are few sidewalks, a brutally rough road, and lots of shortcutting car traffic.
A promising beginning
The City’s initial plans for the new 105 Avenue, presented in 2014, were a gem of Complete Streets planning.
From 2014 105 Avenue Plan
It had sidewalks and protected bike lanes (the standard for cycling safety) on both sides of the avenue, and trees and other green features to make the space safer for everyone and encouraging foot traffic to local businesses.
The evolution of the original plan since then is a sorry lesson in the realities of municipal engagement processes, inevitable compromise, and the power of the business lobby.
The original plan called for no on-street parking, to make room for separated single direction bike lanes on both the north and south sides.
But during public engagement sessions in 2018, some area business owners complained that they needed on-street car parking for their customers– even though there is ample allocated car parking on the north-south streets.
This is a fact: parking is over-supplied throughout Edmonton. The city recently removed parking minimums to begin to address this issue. Our focus must now be on appropriately pricing this public resource and providing people with different transportation options (such as strong active transportation infrastructure) instead of continuing to oversupply public on-street parking.
Making the space even more unsafe
On-street car parking was put back into the plan causing two very dangerous situations:
- No physical barrier between the cyclists and car traffic
In some parts, cyclists in a painted bike lane will have to ride between parked cars on the right and moving cars on the left, with no physical barriers protecting them.
- Garbage trucks to cross the painted bike lane
They do this to access waste-loading areas, further reducing safety for all users.
From 2018 105 Avenue Plan
How did we end up with a design that’s going to make people less safe than they currently are? It would seem to come down to the old business-driven argument that the city is obliged to prioritize and provide car parking above all. This is despite no obligation for the City to provide street parking for specific businesses, and no requirement for businesses to support their demands with data.
Meanwhile, MacEwan is on record as being against on-street parking on 105 Avenue.
Astonishing as it sounds, after all these years of planning and consultation, and all we know about the benefits of Complete Streets design, one thing hasn’t changed. The outdated and unsubstantiated concerns of a handful of businesses can still outweigh the safety of hundreds of commuting people on foot and bike.
We believe it’s better to not build than build mediocre, unsafe infrastructure.
It may sound strange for an active transportation advocacy group to argue against a project that includes adding sidewalks and building new bike lanes, but that’s what we’re asking for.