City to roll out new community-led street safety program this spring

· The Pulse

The City of Edmonton wants to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on city streets by 2032, and starting this spring, it will be asking community members to help make that happen.

The Street Labs program aims to introduce temporary measures in an attempt to make residential streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. It is the latest initiative under Vision Zero, the city's long-term traffic safety plan. Neighbourhood residents will come up with their own ideas, and city officials will provide materials, funds, and guidance.

In a meeting with city council’s urban planning committee on March 2, Jessica Lamarre, Edmonton's traffic safety director, said that officials will start soliciting ideas for Street Labs this spring.

"We'll be ready to go ... for the public to start telling us that they're interested in participating and for us to support some co-creation of plans in their areas, to get pieces on the street for the summer," she said.

No precise date was given for when the program will be introduced.

Lamarre gave examples of what the measures might be, including barriers for shared streets, curb extensions to slow car traffic, and paint or signs that draw more attention to crosswalks. However, she emphasized the point is for individual communities to come up with their own solutions, since they may have different needs when it comes to traffic safety.

Temporary curb extensions are already implemented in parts of Calgary, and help slow down car traffic around crosswalks. (City of Calgary) Temporary curb extensions are already implemented in parts of Calgary, and help slow down car traffic around crosswalks. (City of Calgary)

"Each area is unique and has its own ideas and challenges," she said. "We want to leave them lots of room to be creative."

Street Labs was first announced in November 2020. Coun. Andrew Knack endorsed the project in a blog post, calling it "an exciting opportunity for communities to give feedback to better shape the community around traffic safety."

While this year's Street Labs projects will be entirely city-funded, the committee also discussed ideas for future extensions of the program that could involve alternative funding models, such as community fundraising.

"All of the standard materials will be provided, but we are investigating opportunities for if the community did want to enhance some of those to make them more unique to their space," Lamarre said.

The project is intended to be low-cost and temporary, but it may also provide insight into high-priority areas and traffic safety issues, which the city can then choose to target with permanent infrastructure.

"On the path to permanence, we want to better understand what (the infrastructure) could look like, based on the kind of measures in place in each street lab," Lamarre said.

"They'll be so unique, it's hard to have a set template."