What we heard about Shared Streets, Road Re-allocations, and Lane Expansions

Over the past month, we’ve been surveying our membership regarding the potential return of shared streets, re-allocated roadways, and lane expansions. Haven’t had the chance to fill it out yet? Here’s a link to do so.

First, some definitions!

Source: City of Edmonton

Shared streets are entire streets where vehicle traffic is slowed using signage and pylons. All modes of transportation (walking, rolling, biking, and driving) are able to use the street at the same time. During the spring, summer and fall of 2021,  shared streets wer implemented in quiet residential areas, in core neighbourhoods like Oliver, Garneau and Strathcona.

Source: Paths for People

Re-allocated lanes or lane expansions are portions of streets where the sidewalk has been expanded onto areas that are typically dedicated to vehicle traffic. In Edmonton last spring, summer, and fall, re-allocated lanes were implemented on busier collector and arterial roadways such as Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue. Sometimes, these are called lane closures. These are not true “closures” of a street because they open up the street to those walking and rolling.

We’ve heard hundreds of ideas about the location, design, and future of shared streets, re-allocated roadways, and lane expansions. Over 99% of all responses were positive or highly positive. Even those who identified as drivers viewed these lanes positively, indicating that it made streets safer and supported local business.

Here’s some of the key takeaways.

Edmontonians would like to see greater access to the shared streets, re-allocated roadways, and lane expansions program across the City. This map portrays where respondents wanted to see this program return as well as new streets that could utilize this program.

  • More Main Streets – Respondents wanted to see streets like 124 Street, 76 Avenue, and Norwood Boulevard/112 Avenue experience this program. This would support business and create more walkable streets.
  • Provide active transportation detours – Respondents knew it was important to provide different options in areas undergoing neighbourhood renewal work. Strathcona and Garneau will have construction on quiet residential streets this summer, limiting route options to 99 Street and 109 Street respectively.
  • Broader access – Respondents called for more opportunities across the city. You shouldn’t have to live in the core to experience these. Some highlighted locations that provided access to or views of the river valley such as 51 Avenue in Malmo Plains/Lendrum, Rio Terrace Drive, and Lessard Drive. Others indicated that more generally, streets in suburban areas such as Terwillegar and Mill Woods should also be considered.

Beyond location-based feedback, we also heard larger ideas about the potential for shared streets, re-allocated roadways, and lane expansions program in Edmonton.

Edmontonians want to see this program become permanent.

This program has use year-round beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, creating more vibrant public spaces and safer streets for all users.

We need to make sure these are accessible for all users.

Main Streets like Whyte Avenue were more pleasurable to visit. It is especially important in the short-medium term to find ways to support local businesses. Many businesses have closed, but Main Streets can be the epicenter of our COVID-19 comeback.

Roads with inadequate active transportation infrastructure, like Victoria Park Hill, were safer with the lane expansions. Narrowing the number lanes for vehicles on Saskatchewan Drive didn’t create much congestion and also made traffic move at a safer speed. Any shared street, road re-allocations, and lane expansions must have accessible features, like sloped curb ramps that are easy to maneuver on a mobility device.

Edmontonians wanted to be able to pilot shared streets in their own neighbourhood.

“Perhaps other neighbourhoods/community leagues could apply to have a sidewalk expansion for a short time (1-2 weeks) to give it a try and see what residents think!”

Paths for People Member (March 19, 2021)

This idea overlaps well with the potential behind the City’s new Vision Zero Street Labs. Our public spaces are not just indoors or in parks. The road network is the largest public space we have as a City. It can and should support transportation and community spaces.

With the province already slashing funding to municipalities, we’re concerned that active transportation will be on the chopping block. Active transportation must be a priority. Every trip starts with a walk or a roll, whether it’s to your front steps, across a parking lot, or to a bus stop. Supporting active transportation is a key way to support our city-building goals, like 15 Minute Communities.

Moving forwards, we need to become more creative in our approach, and a permanent program for shared streets, re-allocated roadways, and lane expansions program in Edmonton is a way to do this.

We look forward to working with the City of Edmonton to make this happen.