9.5 Reasons We Need A Bolder Vision for 95th Ave

95 Avenue from 163 Street to 189 Street will undergo renewal next summer. Learn more here on the City’s website. Currently, the City plans on renewing the streets and sidewalks, as well as adding a shared-use path on the south side of the street. This is a step in the right direction and achieves some of the high-level goals set out within the Bike Plan, which note the following about 95 Avenue:

“95 Avenue is identified as a district connector as part of the City of Edmonton’s Bike Plan, as well as a missing link in Edmonton’s cycling infrastructure.”

However, the proposal to simply add a shared use path on one side of the street is the path of least resistance. There is ample space within the road right-of-way, which includes over-generous service roads, to be more imaginative. We’re missing a low-cost and high-impact opportunity to create a more liveable and sustainable corridorfor West Central Edmonton. 

Transforming 95 Avenue into an urban boulevard, with all-ages-and-abilities cycling infrastructure as well as an enhanced urban tree canopy on both sides is a great way to create a community connector in West Central Edmonton.

It will help fully achieve our goals set out in the Bike Plan and works towards the City’s target to plant 2 million more trees over the coming decades. Safer intersection crossings and improved lighting will also support this vision.

What could 95 Avenue look like? Here’s some examples, contrasting with the current widest road right of way point!

Current maximum road right of way
Option 1 – Maintaining total number of lanes (excluding service roads)
Option 2 – Narrowing total number of lanes to one lane east bound, one lane west bound and a left turn bay

Before we underbuild 95 Avenue by just adding a shared-use path we want to present 9.5 reasons why we should have a bolder vision as described above:

1. West Edmonton Mall

With over 25,000 employees and 90,000-200,000 visitors each day, WEM is one of our busiest destinations and our second largest employment hub (Downtown has around 100k workers and UofA 20k).  Many rely on transit and active transportation to get to work.

Retail & service workers, along with visitors, are often forced to drive and park or take transit. The tens of thousands of people within a 15 minute bike ride to the Mall deserve more options; we could see serious ridership levels if safe routes & secure storage were built.

Circle showing approximately 15 minute bike ride radius centred on West Edmonton Mall

2. Schools

Approximately 10 schools with over 10,000 students are in the vicinity. Students deserve safe, healthy, and fun ways to move and parents deserve freedom from the morning school rush hour! And if anyone is worried about winter, there’s still 6 months of school where you can bike without snow, and those other 4 months aren’t bad with proper bike lane clearing.

3. Hospital and Faith Groups

The Misericordia hospital is just off this route. With hundreds of employees and daily visitors, this is a key hub to connect to a safe bike network. There are dozens of religious buildings throughout the neighbourhoods along 95th avenue with at least 5,000, but possibly closer to 10,000 weekly attendees of services and gatherings.

4. Community Leagues and Parks

There are 5 community leagues with parks, playgrounds, halls, courts, and splash pads along this route. Meant to be central meeting spaces, safe places for kids, and social gathering spots for friends and community, community leagues and parks need all ages and abilities infrastructure. Anyone that’s walked or biked with multiple kids knows what a safe street feels like and which causes anxiety.

5. Strip Malls and Shopping Centres

Dozens of them exist along this corridor, many directly connected to 95 Ave. When we talk about 15 minute communities, this is a perfect way to make that possible. Create safe walking and biking connections to local stores. One challenge with the current proposal is that it completely bypasses many of the destinations someone may want to visit by only offering a route on the southside and no intersection crossings. 

6. West Central Cycling/Rolling Infrastructure Desert

West Central Edmonton is currently a bike infrastructure desert. Aside from random MUPs in parks for recreation and a path along 100th Ave, there is essentially no bike infrastructure between 142 St. and 178 St. and 107th Ave and the Whitemud. This represents over half of the “Jasper Place” District identified in the City Plan, meaning that the current “15-Minute Community” identified within this part of the City has no all-ages-and-abilities rolling and bike infrastructure whatsover.

7. West Valley LRT

There’s a 3 billion dollar project on the West End right now that’s going to take 6 years, with the hope that thousands will switch from car use to transit as they access Downtown, Macewan, the Mis, WEM, and dozens of smaller destinations along the route. The only major challenge? Most of the West End is single family homes or small apartments. Yes, TODs will come in the future, but for the next decade, making it safer and easier to get to LRT stops on the West End will be key to the line’s ridership. 95th ave has one of these stops, but currently is surrounded by a few houses, a gas station, and a medical office. Adding a safe bike route will help thousands access this stop more quickly.

Unsafe intersection design that facilitates conflict between people driving/cycling/walking
Safe intersection that reduces conflict

8. Priorities and Parking

One of the main oppositions to the current MUP being proposed is that it will remove the service road and parking for 29 homes. We empathize with idea that change is difficult. But, this is a main artery for movement in the West End. The alley in the back shows that most of these homes already have significant space for parking.

Removing service roads, which have low usage and are incredibly expensive, enables us to reduce our overall asphalt. This is important as we consider the effect of the urban heat island effect during the summer and the cost of snow clearing in the winter. Creating more space for expanding our tree canopy and adding wider sidewalks and bike lanes is a worthwhile trade off for the wider community.

9. We’re already doing it

Future plans for 132 Ave

You might read all this and think, but does this avenue really need anything more than a MUP? What would you even want instead? Well, the good news is that the city just did it recently for 132nd Ave.

Why would we have this sort of boldness and vision there, and not also for 95th Ave? The potential for biking on the West End is large, but we need vision to build the all ages and abilities infrastructure that will make people want to use it. Safe, efficient, and enjoyable is the hallmark of successful bike grids.

9.5. The “half-sized” people

You might still not be convinced that 95 Ave needs more than a shared-use path, but here’s the challenge. If we want to design a city that’s inclusive and compassionate for all kinds of people, we need to design a city that’s safe for kids. The city’s Bike Plan calls for all ages and abilities bike infrastructure, yet a MUP crossing over multiple intersections with slip lanes, no bike signals, and no safe connections for the final blocks of their trip is anything but.

We have the potential to make 95 Avenue, the planned District Connector for West Central, a safe route to walk, roll, and cycle. It’s time for a bold vision.

This blog post was developed with the support of Josh Thompson, who is a Paths for People member residing in west-central Edmonton.