Walkability optimists meet critical podcasters

Walkability optimists meet critical podcasters

· The Pulse

Two advocates pushing council to better pedestrianize Edmonton's downtown offered optimism on "mushy middle" achievements, despite pessimism from the hosts of Episode 250 of Speaking Municipally.

The episode and appearance by Stephen Raitz of Paths for People and Jason Syvixay of Urban Development Institute — Edmonton Metro follows an urban planning committee meeting in early February, which received and addressed an administration report on the Downtown Pedestrianization Plan. The committee passed a motion that calls for a second report, all based on the plan Raitz, Syvixay and other advocates submitted in 2023.

Hosts Mack Male and Troy Pavlek thought the committee's passed motion was a nothingburger. But they also acknowledged Raitz and Syvixay's work is a step on pedestrianization, nonetheless.

Still, Raitz consistently argued small changes will lead to big ones.

"It's not some loss if there's still access for a vehicle at some points in the day," Raitz said, about street closures downtown. "That's not some huge L we're taking. We need to recognize that we need to pass the baton to future advocates who can then use the circumstances and situations that we've created to get that big W."

Raitz and Syvixay work together on walkability even though they don't agree on everything. They said the direction the urban planning committee approved creates incremental change that will make Edmonton's downtown easier to walk and stimulate positive change over time.

Both mentioned the failure to permanently close 102 Avenue and the promise of Rice Howard Way. They believe better literacy on pedestrianization and novel ideas will create a more walkable city.

"Rice Howard Way and 104 Street continue to emerge as the two areas that can really have a path to success and serve as a proof product," Syvixay said. "There's actually a lot of conversation already happening with Rice Howard (Way), sort of behind the scenes, with the City of Edmonton administration … It's something tangible that they could see success on."

Raitz said there's more work underway than what's in the motion. "Council, often, can't be so fine-grained in how staff are deployed and how resources are deployed. So the nuance in the context that was missing from the motion, but was actually discussed during the conversation with administration, was the necessity to move forward on the short-term implementation and on actions."

Next up is a report from admin by the fourth quarter of the year. Meanwhile, Paths for People is engaged in the $100 million bike plan and the Winter Cycling Congress. UDI has lots of public events coming up.

Photo: Jasper Avenue, as depicted in this 2019 photo, was opened to pedestrians for an event and closed to drivers, leading to a different look and feel to the street than is usual for pedestrians. (Mack Male/Flickr

Correction: This file has been updated to correct the name of Jason Syvixay.