Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes are returning, we’re excited!

On the brisk morning of April 18, a bunch of socially distanced and masked Paths for People members met just outside the Granite Curling Club at 107 Street and 85 Avenue. We grabbed some brooms and took to the streets to sweep them.

Source – Jayden Beaudoin Photography

Why did a bunch of Edmontonians dedicate their Sunday morning to removing the gravel and grit from our streets? We wanted to exemplify how excited we are about shared streets and mobility lanes coming back!

The City announced that this program was returning quicker than anticipated on April 15, with implementation occurring over the following weeks.

Here’s a list of returning shared streets and mobility lanes as per the City of Edmonton website April 19, 2021.

Source: City of Edmonton (April 19, 2021)
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.

Source: Paths for People

Mobility Lanes are expanded active transportation spaces. Last year, the City called these “lane closures.” Paths for People has referred to these as “re-allocated roadways” or “lane expansions,” but we like the naming update!

Most roads in Edmonton are swept annually in the spring to remove the gravel and sand used during the winter months. The City of Edmonton needs to sweep streets before bringing back the shared streets and mobility lanes for safety and maintenance reasons. To hasten the street sweeping process, we opted to clear a few hundred metres of roadway ourselves.

Edmontonians volunteered their time for this because they are so excited to see greater space for active transportation return. These spaces assist with us following public health measures and limit the spread of the virus, according to research from the U of A

With Alberta returning to Phase 1 restrictions and case counts surpassing previous records, we know that we are still not out of this pandemic and won’t be for a while. Expanded spaces for active transportation ensure that folks can go outside and experience their city comfortably.

Source: Robson Fletcher CBC News (April 18, 2021)

As captured within a Global News Segment, City of Edmonton officials indicated that the initial list of shared streets and mobility lanes may grow. We look forward to working with the City to make this happen. There are still denser areas of our core that are not adequately serviced by shared streets and mobility lanes, such as Strathcona, Garneau, Boyle Street, and MacCauley. We hope that as street sweeping continues, the program can continue to expand.

Source: Paths for People

Additional food for thought: street sweeping takes forever because of Edmonton’s low-density built form and autocentric development patterns. According to a 2019 Global News Report, we have built over 11’500 km of roadways. That is close to the same distance as Edmonton is to the tip of South America, and is one of the lengthiest roadway networks in all of Canada. That takes a long time and a lot of money to clear. 

We need more shared streets and mobility lanes now. But, we also need to think about bigger goals that make this previous goal easier to achieve. Shifting our approach to growing up instead of continuing to grow out means we can have less roads to clear per taxpayer. Finding ways to integrate residential density, mixed land uses, and more transportation options (like transit, biking, rolling, scooting, and walking) within our existing city will help us move away from inefficient suburban sprawl. By finding ways to live closer together, we can more efficiently provide services to and maintain our city.