Downtown Pedestrianization at Urban Planning Committee on February 6, 2024

Below are our speaking notes for this committee meeting regarding Downtown Pedestrianization.

Our Downtown Pedestrianization Report is a key example of the work our organization hopes to achieve in improving quality of life downtown for residents, visitors, and business owners- we want to be able to work alongside a number of stakeholders, all with different interests, to come together and ensure our Downtown is healthy, vibrant, and a prosperous space for individuals to visit and spend time in. Paths for People’s focus is broad and covers all forms of active transportation – we have a specific focus on the pedestrian experience, and want to ensure that people who are walking and rolling can easily and comfortably move around their city. We specifically want to shift perspectives on how we move around our city, as Edmonton changes to align with the goals of the City Plan, where Edmontonians aren’t locked into car dependency. Instead, we can unlock the freedom of being able to choose how you travel through your community. 

The 9 actions outlined in our Downtown Pedestrianization Report provides the City of Edmonton with data-based community strategies on the importance of downtown development that supports a bright, vibrant place to be, one that attracts people of all ages and backgrounds to the core.

Paths for People will continue to expand on this work in the years to come. We plan to demonstrate the importance of collaborative relationships, downtown vibrancy, and promote a city that’s built for the people who live in it rather than the cars that drive through. City building is an ongoing process, and as the city prepares to welcome a million more residents, Paths for People knows we need to prioritize building a transportation system that provides sustainable, safe, and community-supported transportation options. That work starts in the core, since it is the part of the City whose fabric most supports walkability, based on its density, mixing of uses, and community activation. We are committed to pushing forward this vision in a thoughtful and collaborative way for years to come.

Personally, I’ve seen how downtown has shifted for my community over the last 5 years. Downtown has transformed and grown into a destination for festivals, local restaurants, live entertainment, and other community-supporting opportunities. As the community continues to change and grow, we believe the area should continue developing in a manner that encourages Edmontonians to visit and reside in the neighbourhood, while also making it easy for people to move around in the sustainable and safe manner of their choosing. In order to continue building our downtown into a resilient core that fosters a sense of community, we need to ensure that the neighbourhood is resilient, adaptable, and supportive of the city’s overarching policy and planning goals. 

Over Paths for People’s history, we have consistently advocated for a better downtown to walk, roll, or bike in through; advocating for minimum bike grid in 2017 and running various iterations of Open Streets programming in the past few years. 

Another idea of ours that did not achieve success… is part of the reason we are all here today. Though pedestrianization of 102 Avenue is not something that we are able to push forward in the short term, Paths for People knew that we could turn the conflict into something more productive. No matter what side of that issue you were on, we all agreed that Edmontonians deserved a more walkable downtown.

Our Downtown Pedestrianization Plan demonstrates that the community is on board to implement this vision for a friendlier downtown to get around actively within. Many days of our spring, summer, and fall this past year were filled with direct engagement with community members, developers, and administration, creating the foundation for the actions we’ve outlined in our plan. 

The Plan acknowledges that there are some areas of diverging opinions regarding our downtown. Additionally, members of our Paths for People community of advocates have reached out and shared that they are hesitant to see us working with organizations that we disagreed with in the past.

These tensions should not divide us though, especially when there is so much that we can agree on and push forward. In a world that is increasingly polarized, we should make an effort to collaborate on the ideas we can agree on. And, everyone walks or rolls a little bit within downtown, whether they drive, transit, or bike. The concept of walkability is fertile ground to plant ideas for the future of our downtown.

We’re excited to see some of the smaller, more tactical ideas regarding pedestrianization take effect in the core in the coming years. We need to ensure that these kinds of ideas are enthusiastically pushed forward across different departments within administration.