News / Edmonton

Pedestrian advocates irked after city reopens part of Imagine Jasper project to drivers

Though councillor says pilot project was meant to change based on feedback

Edmond Chui says the city is not taking pedestrian safety into consideration by re-installing right lane.

Tim Potter / For Metro

Edmond Chui says the city is not taking pedestrian safety into consideration by re-installing right lane.

The re-installation of a right hand turning lane for drivers in the middle of a much-hyped walkability project on Jasper Avenue has sparked debate over the city's commitment to pedestrians.

The eastbound right turn lane from Jasper Avenue onto 109 Street southbound had originally been blocked off to expand the space available to pedestrians, but administration decided to reopen it to cars Wednesday.

“There are more people walking than there are driving and even if the number is smaller, the safety should still in principle, trump convenience,” said downtown resident Edmond Chui.

“People have observed that before the pilot project drivers have been trying to get ahead of the people walking at the onset of green light."

Chui said pedestrian safety needs to be a bigger priority downtown, since even people who commute by car have to walk around the core once they park.

“All amenities, restaurants and banks are all nearby and walking distance so it’s not surprising that more people are walking than driving,” he said.

The city installed the Imagine Jasper Avenue project this summer as a temporary pilot to try and make the street pedestrian-friendly and more like a traditional main street.

Pilot project still subject to change

But Coun. Scott McKeen said the pilot project, which is scheduled to last until October, was always meant to be tweaked in response to feedback.

“The intent of the installation was to put something and test it out,” McKeen said, adding that the intersection in question had caused traffic issues.

“They were actually seeing long queuing...,even outside of the rush hour in that right line eastbound on Jasper turning on 109 so they decided to remove that or open up the right turn bay.”

McKeen said the decision to reinstall it could itself be temporary, as the city will collect data on the effect on delays and then decide accordingly.

Safety top priority

McKeen said there was a lot of miscommunication regarding the pilot project.

“I don't think I explained it well enough to people that this was an opportunity to trial a design and from the data we got and the comments and feedback we got we could either change the design or recognize there are mitigation measure that had to be included,” he said.

He said pedestrian safety was top priority and that the city will look into different ideas to make it happen.

“Maybe in the final design, you send the pedestrians first, no right turn allowed while the pedestrians and they get 15 seconds.”

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