Complete Streets Letter to Urban Planning Committee

Complete streets are streets where there are safe transportation options built within the public road right-of-way. By default, on a complete street there is a safe place to walk, roll, bike, transit, and drive.

The City is currently renewing their road standards, providing an important opportunity to make sure we build adequete sidewalks, shared-use paths, bike lanes and more.

On September 18, 2023, Urban Planning Committee received an information report from administration regarding public infrastructure standards for roadways. This report provided an overview of how the city building and renewing roads, and what gets included within the design. We wrote the following letter to articulate our vision for improved complete streets implementation across Edmonton.

September 18, 2023

Re: Standards for Public Realm Infrastructure Report at Urban Planning Committee

Members of Committee, 

My name is Stephen Raitz and I am writing to you on behalf of Paths for People, a non-profit organization working to make Edmonton a friendlier place to get around actively, be it walking, rolling, gliding, or cycling. Although we are unable to attend, we are thankful for the opportunity to submit comments via writing. 

As an organization, we have years of experience advocating for the implementation of Complete Streets across the City. This includes celebrating recent advancements like the 132 Avenue renewal in north Edmonton as well as the proposed Whyte Avenue redesign in central Edmonton. It also includes calls for improving renewals, like 105 Avenue in downtown and 95 Avenue in west Edmonton.

After reviewing the City’s report brought to Committee today, we call on the City to further standardize active transportation infrastructure throughout our street network. The short, excerpted list of projects listed above indicates that there is variation in how street renewal projects are approached. Though some infrastructure for walking and wheeling is almost always included, adequate infrastructure for walking, wheeling, and biking is not always on the table based on the current standards. To provide Edmontonians with valid transportation options and achieve transportation mode shift to more sustainable choices like active mobility and transit, we need to get more demanding with what infrastructure is implemented along our renewal.

Within this larger discussion, we also call on the City to get serious about right-sizing road right-of-way requirements for private automobiles. Our road right-of-ways often strive to provide enough space for vehicle movement during peak congestion time. They also try to provide space for larger and larger vehicles.  Expanding road right-of-ways to handle increased congestion and larger vehicles induces demand, creating more traffic in the long term. What we need to break this cycle is better transportation options along our streets, not wider and wider roads

Finally, we call on the City to do better targeted engagement with community stakeholders around this work. Many have pointed to Zoning Bylaw renewal as a process that has been controlled by developers to the detriment of public participation (which is not completely true, based on the thoroughness of the years-long public engagement that was done for that project). However, for this standards renewal, we have a process where industry has had the opportunity to shape both the policy framework and resultant standards. Community stakeholders, like Paths for People, can provide valuable insight on end user experience and help shape the standards to ensure that we achieve improved complete street design. We hope to have the opportunity to contribute in the future as we have not been involved with these discussions yet.

Thank you and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Paths for People at [email protected].

Stephen Raitz

Chair – Paths for People