On August 9, 2022, Paths for People wrote to City Council regarding updates to the City’s report on “pedestrian through zones” (PTZs). This report is an exciting exploration of using design to make crossings safer for folks walking or rolling. PTZs include infrastructure like raised and continuous crossings. We applaud the report’s emphasis on safety in priority areas, including proactively upgrading areas where growth is anticipated. Overall, this is an important opportunity to update how we build new communities and update existing infrastructure.
There are many strong and exciting points in this report. PTZs make it safer, easier, and more comfortable for people to walk and roll through their neighbourhood. They are a great example of how to design a path for people by using hard infrastructure design, not just signs, to signal to drivers that they must respect the right-of-way of people walking or rolling.
Raised crosswalks highlight busy road crossings, increasing pedestrian visibility. They also help to keep water and snow away from people, unlike traditional gutters that gather those barriers, especially for those who experience more limited mobility. Continuous crossings make driving easier by clarifying right of way, and increasing sightlines for drivers from all sides.
Moving forwards, Paths for People strongly urges City Council to think bigger when it comes to PTZs.
1. Re-evaluate roadway designation
In this process, City Administration should re-evaluate how Edmonton’s roads are defined. Roads that make up our neighbourhoods and commercial corridors need to become “streets,” places that prioritize people walking, rolling, biking, and taking transit. We built infrastructure like the Henday and Whitemud purely for cars. We now need to ensure that our transportation investment occurring closer to our communities prioritizes people moving actively.
Many collectors can be re-designated as local streets, which would simplify driving through and reduce short-cutting through neighbourhoods. This is also a great way to make our communities feel more intimate and people-oriented. Additionally, smaller local roads and alleys can be built in the style of continuous crossings, like the Dutch “woonerf” or shared street concept. Raising these streets or adding textures will make the “shared street” concept actually safe for people.
2. Actually implement PTZs for everyone
While the report identifies a range of priority locations for PTZs, we are concerned that this may leave gaps, missing links, and dangerous crossings in our communities. If we want to achieve the goals of 15-minute communities in the long term, it’s time to start building far more neighbourhood and main street roads to this standard. We applauded 132 Ave’s draft design, but why don’t we see this design implemented on 124 St or 95 Ave too? We suggest that every intersection between arterial or collector and local road be designated with a continuous crossing.
Ultimately, we are very excited to see this conversation at Urban Planning Committee as encouraging more PTZs across Edmonton will have a positive impact on neighborhood safety, mobility, and character. As a City, we need to ensure we actually implement this infrastructure more comprehensively to achieve the goals we have set out in City Plan. We know this infrastructure can make our communities better for everyone.