Calls for Edmonton to prioritize pedestrian hot spots when it comes to spring cleaning

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WATCH ABOVE: It's a basic city service, but some are calling the city out for not prioritizing when it comes to spring cleaning. Vinesh Pratap explores the issue of street sweeping – May 1, 2017

Edmonton’s annual spring street cleaning is underway. In fact, as of May 1, it’s already about 30 per cent complete. But that might not be obvious even if you’re walking near Whyte or Jasper avenues.

After a long winter and late-arriving spring, city crews have a lot of work to do to bring our roads and sidewalks back to life.

However, some residents would like to see certain areas prioritized.

READ MORE: Questions raised over Jasper Ave streetscape quality 

“Nobody wants to visit or live in a city that’s dirty,” said Ian O’Donnell, president of the Downtown Business Association.

“We have a challenging environment. It’s going to take more effort on all our parts. It’s part of a partnership… We need to do our part, but we need to ensure the City of Edmonton is prioritizing areas like downtown, Whyte Avenue, 124 Street — where there’s a lot of pedestrian activity and where pedestrians are impacted by dirt and dust as cars and buses go by. It’s not a pleasant place to be.

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“If we want to create street traffic and we want to create main street activity, those have to be priority one.”

The criticism comes amid much talk and policy directives from City Hall about things like walkability and sidewalk improvements.

READ MORE: North side of Jasper Avenue streetscape project nearly complete 

Edmonton designer, Chris Buyze, made his thoughts known on Twitter on Saturday.

“We need to make sure we have a higher level of maintenance and operation for the city to make sure that our pedestrian areas and our main tourist areas, our main entrances, are clean year-round,” O’Donnell said.

“We also need business owners and residents to buy in and sweep their sidewalks and clean their front yards to make sure we’re all in this together and we all are making the city a more beautiful place.”

In a statement Tuesday, the city provided more clarification:

“The city sweeps business areas with high pedestrian traffic first, and continues to sweep regularly throughout the summer. Then arterial roads are done at the same time as residential roads. Residential roads are swept during the day and arterial roads are swept at night to minimize the impact to traffic.”

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“The city works in partnership with businesses and property owners to keep pedestrian areas clean, as per the street cleaning policy. We ask that business owners and residents pick up debris and sweep sand onto roads for sweepers to pick up.

“The principle behind the policy is to provide clean surfaces to all road users including pedestrians. Sweeping not only happens in the spring, but also throughout the summer. Primary business districts are cleaned five times per week from June to mid-October… the city also sweeps sidewalks in high pedestrian traffic areas.”

For more information about the service levels on various types of roads, click here.

Roads are the city’s responsibility; sidewalks fall to the property owners.

“It is a partnership,” Eduardo Sosa, the city’s director of roadway maintenance said. “We have seen a very good response from everybody in terms of sweeping the sidewalk.

“We do sweep business areas even during winter and throughout the summer,” Sosa said. “They have all been swept.”

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When Global News checked on Monday, Whyte Avenue was swept but, less than one block away, streets and sidewalks were still dirty.

Sand and gravel — along with remnants of winter — were also visible along Jasper Avenue, west of downtown.

READ MORE: New walkable street opens in downtown Edmonton 

To compare, Global News visited downtown St. Albert, where roads and sidewalks were quite clean and memories of winter long gone.

When it comes to larger cities, Calgary and Winnipeg also have big spring clean-up jobs after harsh prairie winters, but O’Donnell thinks Edmonton could step up.

“In chatting with friends and other folks in both of those cities, they seem to have a higher standard of care.”

“Calgary has been doing a great job in the winter,” he said, “to collect some of that dirt and dust. We have a challenging environment… but we need to have a higher standard of care and a higher standard of clean.”

READ MORE: Some businesses suffer from Stony Plain streetscape construction 


Edmonton’s spring sweeping budget is $16 million. Crews work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and usually focus on residential neighbourhoods during the day.

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The city expects street cleaning to be completed by June 1.

Dirty streets in downtown Edmonton on Monday, May 1, 2017. Global News
Dirty streets despite spring's arrival in Edmonton, May 1, 2017. Global News
Dirty streets in downtown Edmonton on Monday, May 1, 2017. Global News
Dirty streets in downtown Edmonton on Monday, May 1, 2017. Global News