Moving safely makes Downtown Edmonton a people place

Step by step, downtown Edmonton is taking shape as a more walkable place, which helps make it more safe and is good news for people no matter how they move through the core of the city. 

Here’s some of what’s afoot.

Outdoor patios have become very popular in downtown Edmonton.

Downtown, people

People come downtown for a lot of reasons in all seasons. To work, to go to school, to see a play, a symphony, a piece of art or a game. To look at the buildings. To connect. To enjoy the parks. To get a meal, to see a movie, to watch people. To visit the library. To shop, to walk, to explore. To make a living. To live. 

The economic downturn and the pandemic have been hard on downtown Edmonton, as they have on businesses across the city. Move by move, though, downtown Edmonton is upping its game as a place for people. 

Temporary outdoor patios are one of those moves. The Temporary Outdoor Patio Program helps restaurants and cafes across Edmonton set-up safe, temporary, outdoor dining.

This summer, 161 businesses applied for the program. As of October 18, 23 businesses had applied for winter outdoor patio or retail space.

Taking time to use the wayfinding signs and find points of interest in downtown Edmonton.

Wayfinding 

Wayfinding helps Edmontonians and visitors alike locate attractions, points of interest and encourages people to walk in and explore the city confidently.

The signs provide “heads-up” mapping, which means they correspond to the direction the user is facing. Average walking times are provided. The signs are placed along popular pedestrian routes and near transit hubs. A complementary update has been done to the signage in the downtown pedways.

Scramble crosswalk at 103 Avenue and 103 Street in action on Oct. 19, 2021. (McDavid, pictured above twice, got a goal and two assists. Oilers beat the Ducks 6-5.)

Pedestrian scrambles

Pedestrian scrambles came to Edmonton in 2013. There are now 10 scrambles in the city, including 6 downtown.

A pedestrian scramble is designed to ensure people walking and people driving are never in the same intersection at the same time. Drivers may only turn left or right on a green light, and must wait while pedestrians are crossing.

In high-pedestrian areas, scrambles move everyone in all modes, more safely, and less stressfully, setting the stage for a more vibrant sidewalk-scape in Edmonton.

The downtown scrambles are at: Jasper Avenue and 100A Street (Rice Howard Way); Jasper Avenue and 104th Street; 103 Avenue and 103 Street; 104 Avenue and 102 Street; 104 Avenue and 104 Street; and 105 Avenue and 105 Street near MacEwan University. 

Learn how to use pedestrian scrambles to help keep everyone safe.

New sidewalks, comfortable places to sit are among the improvements near Jasper Avenue and 111 Street.

Jasper Avenue

Downtown Edmonton’s main street—Jasper Avenue—is getting some TLC on both sides of 109 Street. 

The goal of Imagine Jasper Avenue and Jasper Avenue New Vision is to restore and elevate the avenue, giving it a consistent look and feel, highlighting the downtown core and providing a safe and enhanced experience for those who walk, bike, drive or use transit. 

This is all to help support businesses in the area and attract visitors.

The new look and comfortable feel of Jasper Avenue and 100 Street.

This project will re-establish Jasper Avenue, from 92 Street to 109 Street, as an Edmonton main street. There will be more updates on this project into 2022.

Construction downtown means temporary detours.

Construction 

Transforming downtown requires construction. Construction generally requires  detours. The On-Street Construction and Maintenance (OSCAM) permit system is a tool the City uses to require anyone working on a road or sidewalk to provide the appropriate level of temporary traffic control material—signage, pylons, fencing— and space to complete the work safely. Wayfinding signs are often required for construction sites in the downtown to guide people moving through downtown by car, foot, bike or mobility aid.

Designated walkways are one way the City helps pedestrians in areas of construction downtown.
Riding safely and making good use of the Downtown Bike Network.

Downtown Bike Network

Edmonton’s adaptable Downtown Bike Network offers more than 8 km of protected bike lanes, shared roadways and paths for Edmontonians of all ages. Learn how the downtown bike lanes have helped many Edmontonians stay on their bikes in the snow at edmonton.ca/WinterCycling.

Slower speed limit

As of August 6, 2021, 40 km/h became the new default speed limit on most residential and downtown streets, including areas of Jasper Avenue. 

Slowing down gives people more time to react to the unexpected. This helps prevent crashes and reduces the severity of collisions that do happen. 

No matter how you walk or roll, the 40 km/h default speed limit gets everyone where they’re going while still feeling safe.

Safe passing 

A new passing-cyclists bylaw spells out safety in Edmonton. Here is what everyone needs to know and live by. 

1 metre: the distance drivers must leave while passing a bicycle rider where the posted speed limit is 60 km/h or less.

1.5 metres: the passing distance where the limit is more than 60 km/h.

The Safe Passing distance keeps people biking and driving safe.

The Vision Zero logo in the photo above is a graphic reminder that the every-minute decisions Edmontonians make on the road should add up to zero. Vision Zero is Edmonton’s goal of zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2032. Get down to speed on the safe-distance-passing bylaw.

Here is a look at “A Taste of Open Streets” event, held on September 18, 2021.

Getting attention 

Paths for People is a partner organization committed to making Edmonton a friendlier place to move around.

Stephen Raitz, who is Paths for People chair, said the City has made positive steps for 

people walking, rolling, biking, driving and 

taking transit downtown.

Raitz said: “Improvements like the Downtown Bike Network, scramble intersection and speed limit reductions make our streets safer for all modes. As we look to welcome more and more people back to our downtown, we need to ensure we prioritize people in how we build our transportation network and public spaces to ensure that Downtown is a safe, attractive and fun place to be.”

Valley Line Southeast LRT trains made their first test runs over the Tawatinâ Bridge on Oct. 12, 2021.

LRT

More and more people will come downtown on the Valley Line Southeast LRT line. 

The 13-km line will connect Downtown to Mill Woods, and feature 11 street-level neighbourhood stops and a connection point at Churchill Square for passengers transferring to existing Metro Line and Capital Line trains. 

TransEd, the consortium building the new line, has said service is to begin in the first three months of 2022. 

The last word

A place for people is what Jimmy Shewchuk, downtown business owner, wants downtown Edmonton to be known as. 

 “People on the streets create safety and vibrancy for everyone,” said Shewchuk, who owns Say Uncle. “If you ask me, everything else is secondary.”

Shewchuk continued: “I enjoy being in the hub of the action and the unique community that is our downtown. We have amazing, intelligent, kind, talented people here and I find a lot of that collides downtown.” 

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows a scramble crosswalk in action at Jasper Avenue and 104 Street on April 24, 2019.