Safety worries spur call for traffic light in Ritchie

The Ritchie Market, south of Whyte Avenue, may be a victim of its own "crazy" success, says Coun. Mike Nickel.

Weekends 'crazy busy,' says Poul Mark owner of Transcend Coffee

Pedestrian and vehicle traffic have increased since the Ritchie Market at 96th Street and 76th Avenue opened in March. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

The Ritchie Market, south of Whyte Avenue, may be a victim of its own "crazy" success, says Coun. Mike Nickel.

"Obviously we're going to have to manage that corner with some sort of pedestrian management plan," he said.

Transcend Coffee, Acme Meat Market and Creekside Cyclery, three of the four businesses operating out of the new development, officially opened in the new space on the corner of 96th Street and 76th Avenue in March.

"It's two-to-two-and-a-half times busier than expected," said Poul Mark owner of Transcend Coffee.

Weekends are "crazy busy," while week days are beginning to mellow out, he said.

A fourth space in the market, home to Blind Enthusiasm brewery and Biera restaurant, is slated to open at the end of May.
Blind Enthusiasm brewery and a restaurant called Biera are slated to open in the Ritchie Market at the end of May. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Since the market opened, the four-way stop at that corner has become more congested, said area resident Claire Theaker-Brown, the mother of a toddler.

"We are starting to notice more cars coming down where we live on 75th Avenue," she said. "Often it's people who'd rather be whipping down 76th and can't because they're impeded now by a long wait at the four-way stop and they're whipping down 75th instead."

The building's owner Greg Zeschuk said he spoke to city officials about the possibility of having that four-way stop replaced with a light.

Pedestrian safety

"Safety is a concern," he said. "I've been walking across that intersection for a good year and a half in all types of traffic and you really have to watch yourself.

"I'd worry not only about traffic backup but also pedestrian safety."

The process to get a light installed at the corner would begin once a complaint is made, said Michael Vaudan, senior engineer with parks and road services.

"We would assess it based on a number of criteria to see if it meets those criteria, at that point we would consider upgrading," said Vaudan.

Planners would examine whether a light would create shortcuts through the neighbourhood, how a light there might coordinate with existing traffic signals nearby, and a crash history for that location, Vaudan said.

Installing a signal light would cost $300,000 and take up to six months, he added.

Nickel said he already put a request in and was told the brewery and pub have to be in full operation before an assessment can be done in order to get a true picture of what's happening with traffic at that intersection.

Parking also an issue

Parking in the area is also becoming an issue.

There are nine public parking stalls behind the building, including one handicapped spot, said Zeschuk.

He also owns the vacant lot diagonally across from the Ritchie Market, and said once construction equipment is removed from the site, plans are to create 15 to 20 parking spots in that space.
A vacant lot across from the market is being used as a makeshift parking lot, but will eventually be developed down the road, says owner Greg Zeschuk. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

"In the short, short term, it's going to be all parking. Mid-term, it'll be some kind of green space along with some parking and then long term who knows," Zeschuk said.

Any long-term development is at least a decade away, simply because the site, as a former gas station, is polluted and will require reclamation work, he said.

"The intention in the interim is to have a nice spot that people in the neighbourhood can use and we can use," he said.

The park portion won't be developed until next year he added.

This Four Corners Project has been a great success, this is a "good news story", now it's just managing "the echo effects of it," Nickel said.