Community Energy Transition Strategy

On November 9, 2020, Paths for People spoke to members of Edmonton City Council regarding the Community Energy Transition Strategy. This strategy is a risk management strategy designed to make Edmonton an energy sustainable city. Paths for People advocated for prioritizing the development of a robust active transportation network within this Strategy.

Good afternoon. Paths for People is an active-transportation advocacy group with more than 1000 members across Edmonton working to make our community a friendlier place to walk, wheel and cycle around. We’re excited by the City’s bold steps to reduce emissions and make Edmonton an energy sustainable city. To-date, these actions have positioned Edmonton as a national leader on climate change. Many other Canadians cities are moving forward with similar initiatives. To continue to lead in this area, we need to continue to take bold steps that reimagine how our city can work to foster a more resilient and sustainable community.

One of the main ways that Edmonton can seek to reduce emissions and facilitate an energy transition is through rethinking our transportation system. Transportation is the largest contributor to emissions within the Strategy we’re discussing here today. If we find ways to reduce emissions through redesigning our transportation network, we tackle one of the largest challenges we face in making Edmonton a truly sustainable city.

One such specific potential action is identified within today’s report to council, other speakers such as Mike Melross of Alberta Ecotrust and Godo Stoyke of Edmonton Climate Hub have already highlighted this as a low-cost, high-impact solution. We can further grow Edmonton’s bike lane infrastructure by expanding and improving existing active transportation routes and fixing missing links. This is a bold way to ensure that more Edmontonians have access to safe and comfortable routes, all while taking ambitious action with regards to our community energy transition.

A transportation system that offers realistic choices beyond private automobiles and promotes active travel will result in decreased emissions. Active transportation modes, such as human-powered walking and biking, do not produce greenhouse gas emissions and can also reduce infrastructure and maintenance costs.

We also know that Edmontonians are coming to terms with the fact that our transportation system can work differently than it currently does. The COVID-19 Pandemic gives us the opportunity to reimagine how our streets work. Recently, we surveyed members to see what they learned from these experiences

  • The Hildebrands in Glenora found it easier to support local businesses on expanded sidewalks along Whyte Avenue and could connect with friends across the City, because they had more safe routes on main streets in the north, east, south, and west.
  • Calvin in the neighbouhrood of Belmount in the Northeast and Brenton in neighbourhood of Lee Ridge in Millwoods made active trips downtown sometimes to use the reallocated streets, but wished they had options closer to home so they could safely get to places actively
  • A member in Central McDougall thought these were fantastic, using them to get around actively (especially via roller blading) and found that the reallocated roadways were often in better conditions than the sidewalks themselves.

Expanding the bike lane network would ensure that more Edmontonians have access to active transportation routes that work for all ages and all abilities. For most Edmontonians right now, cycling or getting around actively may not be feasible because they don’t have all ages and all abilities infrastructure nearby. If we expand this network, cycling and other forms of mobility that use these lanes can become a more viable option for more Edmontonains.

Some may be concerned about expending additional resources now, but now is a critical juncture to begin prioritizing sustainable infrastructure within the municipal budgets. Edmontonians are seeing their streets differently now and want more active options to get around their community. The overarching policy goals of the city encourage investment in these options, including the City Plan’s vision for 15 minute communities, the draft Bike Plan’s goals to ensure cycling is fun, functional, and equitable, and the Community Energy Transition Strategy’s bold goals to reduce transportation system emissions. 

Paths for People has also identified multiple projects recently that indicate that we are able to reduce costs elsewhere in our transportation system. Re-allocated roadways have shown us that we don’t need to spend so much on over-building our roadway capacity. We can rethink how municipal resources are spent and place priority on strategic investments like active transportation, which is comparably less expensive to build and maintain, foster more lively main streets, and move us closer to the goals laid out in the Community Energy Transition Strategy. 

Paths for People encourages the City of Edmonton to prioritize the potential action of further growing and improving Edmonton’s bike lane infrastructure, which already has a draft plan for implementation available within the Bike Plan.

We must act quickly and set clear timelines for implementation, to support the Community Energy Transition, ensure active transportation is accessible to all ages and abilities across Edmonton, and continue to be a leader in approaching the challenges presented by climate change.