We need more Mobility Lanes and Shared Streets

Edmontonians are flocking back to Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes reintroduced by the City, while staying safe in accordance with COVID-19 Public Health Measures.

In mid-April, the City of Edmonton announced that this program would return and by the beginning of May an initial set of routes were rolled out. So far, this amounts to about 10 km covered by Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes. Last year over the spring, summer, and fall, we got to almost 30 km of these temporary installations.

Key parts of working together to “Stop the Spike” of COVID-19 are sticking closer to home and getting vaccinated, but we also require ways to safely be out and enjoy our community for our physical and mental health. Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes, explained below, are a great way to allow people to stay safe while being physically active .

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. Paths for People has referred to these in the past as “re-allocated roadways” or “lane expansions.”

We need more of these cheap, tactical changes for our transportation system. They improve adherence to public health measures and also make inadequate active transportation infrastructure adequate. A sidewalk with deeply eroded edges unsafe for many users suddenly becomes an all ages and abilities connection into the river valley. This is what has occurred on Victoria Park Hill Road, pictured below. Another good example is tthe sub-standard multi-use trail on Saskatchewan Drive, which becomes a much safer connection for bikes, trikes, other mobility devices, and those walking with the added mobility lane.

Source: @LegitDocBrown on Twitter

We must do more than 10 km. The impacts of the pandemic have never been worse. Now more than ever we need to provide spaces for Edmontonians to recreate and get around actively. We also want to avoid crowding on a smaller number of routes and on staircases. Increasing the total length reduces the strain. Another pressing issue is that Highlands is undergoing Neighbourhood Renewal and Ada Boulevard, a key shared street, may not be accessible to those getting around actively.

There are so many reasons to increase the number of Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes. Thankfully, we’ve identified a whole range of opportunities. Below is a map that shows routes that have returned so far and the routes that respondents to our survey earlier this year would like to see implemented.

Based on this map and further investigation, Paths for People recommends four main priority areas to help these measures become more effective:

Bring back successful cross-town routes from last year

  • Saskatchewan Drive north of the U of A (110 St to 116 St) – With the U of A shifting back to remote learning and education over the summer and limited access due to Garneau Neighbourhood renewal, bringing back this shared street seems really feasible. This strengthens a key connection from Strathcona to Hawrelak Park, Groat Bridge, and Oliver.
  • East End of Jasper Avenue (92 St to 82 St) – This is a key connection from the core to the east side of Edmonton where there is currently no existing connection for cycling infrastructure. Views from this stretch are also unparalleled. Traffic also moves much more safely and makes Jasper Avenue a safer street to cross.

Partner with current engagement projects

  • 132 Avenue and Neighbourhood Renewal Engagement – There is a great way to showcase to residents how their streets could look differently with neighbourhood renewal changes. This could occur in neighbourhoods throughout the city, such as; Boyle Street/MacCauley, Killarney, Pleasantview, Malmo Plains, Baturyn, Ottewell.
  • VIsion Zero Street Labs – If there are highly sought after Vision Zero Street Labs being called for this summer that the Vision Zero Street Labs team doesn’t have capacity to undertake a project, throwing up a mobility lane or shared street may be able to help neighbourhoods effect the changes they want to see.

Partner with current engagement projects

  • Neighbourhood Renewal Construction (Calder, Garneau, Strathcona, Malmo Plains) – Garneau and Strathcona have both lost neighbourhood Shared Streets from last summer. Implementing Mobility Lanes on main streets like 109 Street and 99 Street would drastically improve connectivity and safety for these neighbourhoods.
  • Fortway Road – construction just south of the Legsilature means this small road on leading into the river valley is very low traffic. This could take pressure off the popular Glenora Stairs and improve physical distancing. 

Support Main Streets

  • Whyte Avenue and 104 St – We need to partner with Business Associations and ensure that they are ready to welcome back more residents and guests if restrictions relax over the summer.
  • Support new streets in experimenting – Main Streets like 124 St and 118 Ave should be supported in trailing new approaches to street design like widened sidewalks, expaded patios, and curb extensions.

We have over 11,500 km of vehicular roadways in Edmonton. We’re sure that there is at least 0.07%-0.18% of that total length of roadway that would be suitable candidates for Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes. This would get us back to 30 km, which is what we had last year (ya’know when we had 100 new cases a day, not a thousand). Doing this would give Edmontonians more safe options to get around and enjoy their community. Who knows, maybe we could turn 0.5% or even a full 1% into Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes. We look forward to making this happen. 

And if the City needs help with clearing the streets prior to rolling out more Shared Streets and Mobility Lanes, we can definitely lend a hand.