The 132 Avenue Collector Renewal broke ground this summer.We are thrilled to see that the City of Edmonton’s designs for the renewal spanning from Fort Road to 127 Street – connecting schools, community spaces, and residences across Edmonton’s north side – are a leading example of safe, lively streets.
This is a project to be proud of and we’re excited to see construction start. For other projects across the city to see the same kind of effective, people-oriented streets designs, the City of Edmonton needs to turn its Complete Streets guidelines into a real standard. These guidelines shaped 132 Avenue’s evolution and should be applied across both new and renewing neighbourhoods. All Edmontonians deserve transportation choices, from safe streets to walk to school to dedicated bike lanes for commuting. These kinds of safe streets and transportation choices improve the experience for all modes of transportation, including driving experiences.
Why We Love 132 Avenue
With abundant protected and raised intersections, dedicated bike paths, and clear mode separation, 132 Avenue’s new designs will be substantially safer for children and youth to walk or roll to elementary, junior high, and high schools. Its renewal includes adding boulevard trees and greenery and reducing the amount of asphalt – meaning a lower urban heat island effect and other benefits.
The renewal redesign is reprioritizing public space, “destroadifying” a quiet neighbourhood, and improving the walking, rolling, and driving experience.
Let’s take a closer look. As an example, consider this section by St. Cecilia Junior High School and the O’Leary Fitness and Leisure Centre. What is effectively seven lanes of road plus service road (the additional lane on the south side adjacent to the houses) is being transformed into four lanes for cars, a boulevard with trees, an expanded sidewalk, and bike lanes. This will double the number of boulevard trees make the school-side sidewalk safer, and facilitate biking and rolling on both sides of the street.
The crosswalk near 88 Street is being simplified and the crossing area for pedestrians will be shortened to just two lanes of road. In the crosswalk on 88 Street and in the access to the leisure centre parking lot, there is space for vehicles to yield to pedestrians safely while not blocking other vehicles.
What is the Complete Streets guideline?
The Complete Streets Design and Construction Standards document provides reference designs and specifications for City infrastructure that engineers can apply to all of Edmonton’s roads. They designate what the City wants to see in its transportation infrastructure, saving engineers from re-designing every road from scratch. The guideline ties into many other City regulations but, crucially, has declared that streets should be “safe, attractive, comfortable, and welcoming to all users in all seasons.”
However, despite its name, the Standards themselves do not provide a clear direction of what is standard. They maintain a wide range of design options that includes dangerous, painted lanes and slip lanes (referred to in the guidelines as “channelization”) By contrast, other Canadian cities Canmore and Ottawa both have substantially safer guidance.
To encourage the City to develop stronger regulations, we wrote about the Pedestrian Through Zones report that City Administration provided to Edmonton City Council last year. You can read about our thoughts there.
While discussing that report, Urban Planning Committee asked City to report back to the committee with:
“proposed changes and analysis on what could be updated to be explicit to improve active transportation safety/accessibility and operational effectiveness, including standardization of raised crosswalks/intersections, pedestrian through zones, active pathways, boulevards, etc.”
Since infrastructure projects last for decades before they are renewed, it is critical that renewal projects and new roads are built with everyone’s current and future mobility in mind. There are numerous examples across Canada, across Alberta, and now even our city of how to build paths for people.
We are looking forward to Administration’s upcoming report to the Urban Planning Committee as a route for Edmonton to progress on enabling projects like 132 Avenue’s renewal everywhere in the city.