New community-led traffic safety program garners more than 80 applications as Edmonton works toward zero traffic fatalities by 2032

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More colourful crosswalks, curb extensions and shared streets will soon be popping up across Edmonton as part of a $700,000 community-led initiative to improve traffic safety.

Street Labs, a new city program, has already received more than 80 applications from interested community groups this spring to trial temporary traffic calming solutions to address neighbourhood safety concerns. The two-year program is part of Edmonton’s quest to Vision Zero, the goal of no traffic-related fatalities or serious injuries by 2032. Funding for the program is coming from the traffic safety automated enforcement reserve.

Through the program, residents in a neighbourhood are encouraged to come together to decide what safety improvements they would like to see on their streets and work with the city to implement measures that meet their needs. This could range from painting crosswalks so they are bright and more visible to converting a block into a shared street by lowering the speed limit and making it accessible to all road users, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

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Once installed, these new measures would be temporary but give communities a sense of what they would like to see permanently through neighbourhood renewal when the time comes. The minimum trial duration is recommended at two months and the maximum duration for a project requiring a speed limit reduction is six months.

Director of traffic safety Jessica Lamarre said she is pleased, but not surprised, by the response to the program. None of the 80 proposals have been implemented yet, but Lamarre said teams are now working with community groups to find the best fit.

“It gives people the opportunity to activate neighbourhoods and create more visible spaces, all of that contributes to Vision Zero,” Lamarre said in an interview with Postmedia. “I know Edmonton cares about this, I see it every day in the work that we do, how much we hear from folks about their passion for road safety and so given that I think we’re totally on track (for Vision Zero) and really confident in the direction we have.”

Paths for People chairman Stephen Raitz said the overwhelming reaction to the program so far illustrates the need for traffic safety improvements in residential neighbourhoods across the city to improve mobility for all road users.

“It’s pretty clear that Edmontonians want safer, more livable streets within their neighbourhoods and in the places that they visit as well as across the city so we’re super excited to hear about the great uptake,” he said.

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Raitz said this program will be a key driver in meeting the city’s 2032 Vision Zero goals, which is already well underway. According to the city’s annual Vision Zero report released Tuesday, traffic-related fatalities in Edmonton have dropped by 63 per cent since 2015. There were 12 traffic-related deaths in 2020, the lowest in more than 20 years and a significant decrease from 32 in 2015, the year before the Vision Zero strategy was adopted. Serious injury collisions dropped to 231, a 40 per cent decrease from 2015.

Speeding violations issued on Edmonton streets also went down in 2020 with 145,835 photo radar tickets issued, a 62 per cent decline from 2019.

Another component of Vision Zero is the city’s move to a default speed limit of 40 km/h on residential streets which is planned for early August, Lamarre said. Signs are currently being changed over and the launch date will be announced about one month before to give residents enough notice. When the new speed limit does take effect, Lamarre said there will be an automated enforcement grace period where warnings will be issued instead of fines on roads where the speed has dropped.

The Street Labs program remains open and more details on applying can be found on the city’s website. 

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3

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