Edmonton

Road lanes closing to give walkers, cyclists more room to keep their distance

Two stretches of road atop Edmonton's river valley will block off lanes to vehicles to give more space for walkers, joggers and cyclists seeking fresh air.

Adjustments aimed to help Edmontonians safely enjoy the outdoors, city says

Benches along Victoria Promenade, which overlooks Edmonton's river valley. (Trevor Wilson/CBC News)

Lanes on two stretches of road atop Edmonton's river valley will be blocked to vehicles to allow more space for walkers, joggers and cyclists seeking fresh air.

"We know it's important for Edmontonians to get outside during this time and these adjustments will help them do that while maintaining safe physical distance," Darryl Mullen, the city's acting director of traffic operations, said in a news release on Wednesday.

On the north side of the North Saskatchewan River, the Victoria Promenade bike lane will be expanded into a shared-use space. The stretch is located along 100th Avenue, between 116th and 121st streets. There will still be a narrow lane for vehicles as well as the existing curb-side parking.

On the south side, traffic will be reduced to a single lane along Saskatchewan Drive, between 105th and 109th streets, leaving the other lane open for people who are walking and biking.

Coun. Ben Henderson said adjusting traffic lanes to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists has been successful in other cities.

"I think this is a really good start in an area where there are a lot of pedestrians just trying to go out and get fresh air and enjoy the outdoors — and do so in a safe way," Henderson said Wednesday.

"I don't think either of these cases, it's going to affect traffic flow at all."

At a meeting Thursday at city hall, Henderson plans to pitch a similar scenario to widen the sidewalks along Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona.

He said some drivers are now using the strip as a place to drag race.

"We're also having a lot of problems with idiots racing down Whyte Avenue and revving up their cars, which tends to suggest we have extra capacity there if they can do that to begin with," he said.

A City of Calgary sign encourages physical separation on one of the newly opened pedestrian roadways. (Christine Boyd/CBC)

Public health officials in Alberta have urged people to get out and exercise and enjoy the fresh air without breaking the physical distancing advice urging two metres of space between individuals. 

Similar measures have already been taken in Calgary.

The warm, sunny weekend of March 21 and 22, one of the first weekends in which physical distancing was being encouraged, raised concerns from city and provincial officials as people crowded into pathways, parks and picnic areas. 

The news release said the city will remove snow and sweep the lanes before opening them to public use. It also reminds people to maintain a safe distance from others, with suggestions such as passing in a single file or stepping aside to allow others to go by.

In a separate initiative, the city will also automate the pedestrian signals on the traffic controls at 56 intersections. 

The change means people waiting to cross will not have to push the button to activate the pedestrian walk light. The button will still activate the audible signal for visually impaired people.

Coun. Andrew Knack supports the adjustment, which gives more consistency for pedestrians. 

"This is just a very simple change that makes a lot of sense," Knack said in a video interview. "Frankly, with many of these locations, it would likely make sense never to bring them back."

Knack noted that automation wouldn't affect vehicular traffic flow. 

Council's emergency advisory committee meets Thursday to discuss how the city's COVID-19 related health orders are working and potential next steps. 

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