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Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.

A few steps we can take to make Edmonton more walkable

Those who move from their indoor garage to the indoor parking lot at work need to rethink the effect of their choices.

We’ve got walking on the mind. We track it with our FitBits and phones and, whenever it feels like an option, many of us are choosing to walk to get to and fro in the city.

But our car-oriented city blends walking paths that work mainly for recreation with unsafe sidewalks and crosswalks where people actually want and need them. For many people who’ve had a close call on foot, the city is effectively a no-walking zone.

So what makes a city walkable? I mean, there are sidewalks all over the place, even if come summer they are increasingly barricaded with orange construction fences.

For many, walkability refers to your perceived safety as a pedestrian. Using your feet as a mode of transportation is more appealing when the streets feel safe, when you don’t fear you’ll be struck down by a motorist.
Unfortunately, news of such tragedies is common and our perceptions are affected. Just this past week, an Edmonton court heard the sad tale of Claudia Trindade, a pedestrian struck and killed by the driver of a city snowplow. Then, on Friday, a pedestrian was struck and killed by the driver of a cement truck.

“I do think (pedestrian safety) is at the forefront of people’s minds,” says Coun. Andrew Knack, speaking about   Vision Zero.

Edmonton is the first Canadian city to adopt the strategy,  a global project that focuses on reducing the number of vehicle collisions, including those with pedestrians. The plan can be easily summarized: No loss of life is acceptable.
Knack says a report due to city council next month is focused on prioritizing safety measures for the more than 225 crosswalks in the city.

To the south, Calgary now has its Pedestrian Strategy Project, due for city council in February. That project dedicates funding for immediate safety enhancements, including $15 million for infrastructure changes and $850,000 for rapid rectangular flashing beacons.

The top concerns listed by survey respondents to the city of Calgary survey were street crossings and intersections as well as pathway and sidewalk connections.

Knack says it’s difficult to compare the two cities’ plans, but has hope projects like Vision Zero will help pedestrians feel more safe on their walk.

Of course, walkability is more than the ability to stay alive. It’s also about how many people choose to walk, and whether you are able to get where you need to go.

Cities became unwalkable when planners let cars take priority over pedestrians. Walkability means rebuilding transit systems, keeping parking in check, building safe and accessible paths and welcoming streetscapes.

But it also means those who move from their indoor garage at home to the indoor parking lot at work need to rethink the effect of their choices. And even just get out on their feet once in a while.

Danielle Paradis (@daniparadis) loves Edmonton, politics and flowcharts. 

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