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September 21, 2017
September 11, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Monday, September 11, 2017

Too slow too fast

Written by Jeff Samsonow

The most feared speed in our city. photo: City of Edmonton

Edmonton’s struggle to put the safety of road users first is on full display this summer, with an extra special challenge coming up at this week’s final city council meeting of the term.

We got new bike lanes, which some people didn’t like. Separated bike lanes, however, are going to keep people cycling, driving and walking safer in the long term. (And downtown isn’t the only place to be getting them, as construction wraps this summer on 83 Avenue in Old Strathcona, 106 Street and 76 Avenues through Queen Alexandra and surrounding neighbourhoods, west from downtown on 102 Avenue, among other extended and pending projects.)

We’re testing out some better uses of Jasper Avenue’s western stretches, to encourage the thousands of people living in Oliver to get out and enjoy their neighbourhood and main street. Again, some real trouble with the communication there.

And, in what might be the most mind-boggling example, we have city councillors openly pushing back against 30 km/h speed limits at playgrounds. Where children play. One of the most obvious kinds of vulnerable road users. There really can’t be a more obvious change for people’s safety.

Yet, the Community and Public Services Committee saw a heated discussion about this very option. With councillors Moe Banga and Ed Gibbons saying this was too much too fast for improving road safety. Other councillors on the committee, thankfully, pushed this ahead to the full city council meeting this week so the change didn’t just die before the election. The playground zones would still include schools, and expand the hours for all of them to 7:30 to 9 p.m. every single day.

Edmonton recently brought back 30 km/h speed limits around elementary schools. And in one year it’s already reducing injury collisions by a wide margin. School zones were expanded to junior highs this September.

If you think playgrounds are a good place to have slower speed limits, get in touch with your councillor today. Even if you think they’ll support playground zones, let them know so they have support on this important vote.

This is going to continue to be an issue even if city council approves playground zones because a push for lower speed limits is happening in Edmonton, among many other cities. The debate is going to be about 30 km/h in all neighbourhoods soon enough (or 40 km/h).

Somewhat related, St. Albert’s schools are a little safer after that city made changes to school zones after a child was killed a few years ago (another child was killed riding his bike this year).


Around the city

While Edmonton waits to hear if it’s getting safe injection sites, the communities where the sites may go are still pushing back. The City is delaying an advisory committee which is supposed to monitor how the sites are working in the neighbourhoods east of downtown, but without much buy-in that plan is going to sit until the next council comes around after October.

Meanwhile, drug use continues to be an issue at city hall, with opioid overdoses killing plenty of people, a lot of them in the neighbourhoods we’re talking about safe injection sites. So, it’s obvious better options for people using drugs is needed in our city core.

Second-stage shelters need to be part of wider affordable and supportive housing strategies. This is where someone, and their children, in need of a place to go after first heading to a domestic violence shelter, has somewhere to live while they get themselves healthy and safe longer-term.

Let’s talk about art a little bit! We’ve got a few new murals around Edmonton, one of which popped up a bit on the fly, and another that joins other community and neighbourhood murals in an effort to limit vandalism. We’ve also seen one of the Rust Magic murals tagged (twice now, actually) and Vue Weekly spoke to a street artist about the “code” of respecting the work of others.

Downtown Edmonton has its first new park in a generation, with Alex Decoteau Park officially opening over the weekend. Named for the first Indigenous police officer in Canada, it’s a nice pocket of green space between office towers. And it’s doggo approved!

Last weekend all the Wongs came to Edmonton, and this weekend it was our own Mahs celebrating their history in the Edmonton area.

If you’ve been following these Headlines for a while you know I am fascinated by St. Albert’s struggles, fights and challenges related to building a new library. Since that City is looking to borrow money to build the new branch, it’s faced a lot of opposition, including a petition from thousands of residents. Now, plebiscite wording has been finalized for the October election ballot, which will ask St. Albertans about whether or not to build the new library, a new ice rink and a new aquatics facility. There’s also now a group fighting for the library. Like I said, there is a lot going on in his library story.


Public engagement

On Monday, the Audit Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. The meeting will stream live from the River Valley Room.

In the afternoon, the final City Council meeting of the term begins, at 1:30 p.m. That agenda is online. Monday’s meeting is planning and zoning decisions. The City Council meeting will continue Tuesday,and Wednesday if needed (agenda for that), with the big and bold kinds of items that have been in the news the last little while.

Agenda items include affordable housing and homelessness plans, the potential for a new provincial park in Edmonton’s southwest (and beyond), Northlands, working toward a regional transit service, DANDELIONS!!!, the bus to the airport, a whole bunch of private reports, and some historic designations. The meeting will stream live from Council Chambers.

Our city’s school boards wrap up the majority of their terms this week too, with the Edmonton Public School Board and Edmonton Catholic School District holding meetings on Tuesday.

The Public board meets at 2 p.m (agenda). The Catholic board meets at 3 p.m (agenda) and will stream live.

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