“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” — Jane Jacobs, Community Urbanist and Activist
What makes Edmonton unique as we grow past the million mark? Will it be our ability to focus on one another and to remain connected?
Our growth strategy relies on people being multi-modal; not only driving, but walking, biking, and taking public transit. In order to do that, they need to feel safe in their communities.
Further, our draft City Plan relies on people spending more time in their neighbourhoods. One of my key election promises was to contribute to making an Edmonton where you can spend time in your own area of the city (#inmybackyard). If people are to spend more time in their own communities, and will find amenities there, they also need to feel like it is a safe and pleasant place to be. We are also significantly investing in infill, and this is a key strategy for how we accommodate our growth to two million people.
I firmly believe that you can’t make policy based on individual experiences — policy has to be supported by data.
Yet, over the past year I have sat across the table time and time again from parents who were grief-struck by the injury or death that has come to their child, parent or other friends and family members. And many others who live in real fear that their children are not safe in their own community. Seeing and hearing that level of pain and fear is the most difficult part of this job.
What this decision before Council ultimately comes down to is fundamentally a question of values. We can requisition data from four corners of the earth to support the premise of either lowering speed limits or maintaining them, but the answer will not be found in the data. Council needs to decide our policy based on our values.
Regarding the proposed changes to Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue, I do not support either being reduced to 30 or 40 km/hr. There is construction on both major thoroughfares ahead and we’ve heard loud and clear from the business community that they want more surety and collaboration. I want to see the major construction settled and more input from those stakeholders before a major change would be considered.
I do support going down to 40 km/hr city-wide unless otherwise posted. My challenge with a 30/40 split — otherwise known as the inclusion of the Core Zone — is that it privileges some areas of the city over others and everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. I also continue to worry about compliance if there are two default speed limits. A change to 40 km/hr allows the city to systemically address issues that confront every neighbourhood in the city, such as speeding, shortcutting, and other traffic safety concerns.
A speed reduction alone is not a solution to these issues; systemic change means we need a systemic approach. This is one regulatory lever we can address today, but over the coming months and years I know we will also address neighbourhood design, traffic calming, crosswalks, sidewalks, signage, etc. We need to embrace the culture change of neighbourhoods being things we drive through to things we drive, walk, run, or ride in. At the heart of it, Council can go any way on this issue, but if we are committed to an outcome of connectedness, of having a healthy, safe city with vibrant urban places, we need to address one of the most pressing obstacles to that goal in our city.