A small “no left turn” sign recently installed on 102 Avenue at 125 Street has caused frustration to boil over for High Street-area business owners, who have endured years of construction-related road closures and difficulties.
Barbara DiCurzio, owner of Head Shoulders Knees & Toes Children’s Shoe Store, is speaking out again about the latest development near her store.
DiCurzio is one of a number of owners in the High Street area, near 102 Avenue and 124 Street, who have been left frustrated and fed up with city projects: first, the 102 Avenue Bridge and then, bike lane construction.
Last month she spoke out about the bike lane work, which had restricted access to the shopping complex housing her small business. The city said at the time the work was almost complete – which it was.
But then a traffic sign was installed, causing a new set of concerns. The “no left turn” sign on 102 Avenue restricts eastbound traffic from turning north onto 125 Street, where new bike lanes run adjacent to the avenue.
The sign allows bikes to turn, but not vehicle traffic – making it much more difficult for customers to access businesses.
“Why? We’ve had this road accessed through a left-hand lane for, well, when we opened our store and prior to that. I wish I understood the sense behind that no-left-hand lane,” DiCurzio said.
Prior to the 102 Avenue bridge construction and installation of the bike lanes, traffic could turn left – leaving many business owners to ask the question: Why the change now?
“We’ve had a few very frustrated people walking in to the store and they were commenting, ‘Well, how do we get into the parking lot now?'”
DiCurzio said she has reached out to her city councillor — Ward 6’s Scott McKeen — and City of Edmonton administration for an answer on why the sign has been put in place, but has not received any explanation.
“The city has to know: enough, we’re done. Don’t do this unless you want to see more doors close -because this is yet another obstacle that we are not responsible for,” she said.
Some business owners in the area have struggled with lower foot traffic, which they say is due to ongoing construction project making it difficult to access their stores.
Work to replace the nearby bridge over Groat Road began in July 2014 and was set to last until September 2015. However, three girders buckled in March 2015, pushing back the opening of the $32-million project until July of 2016.
During the extended closure, several businesses on the east side of the bridge claim the lack of traffic in the area meant anywhere from 10 to 50 per cent less business.
A second project to install bike lanes earlier this year caused another round of exasperation. Last month, McKeen said he understood the frustration.
In a statement sent to Global News on Friday, a city spokesperson said they recognize the turn restriction is posing challenges for businesses in the area.
“We’re exploring alternative options to better manage vehicle and bike movement at this location. We hope to have this review completed in the next three weeks.
The city said the rationale behind the turn restriction was:
“Left-turn movements are a high safety risk on two-way bike lanes, and based on best practices for safety and engineering, the City of Edmonton restricted left turns across two-way bike lanes.”
The city said measures of separating a left turn include signal phasing for bike lanes, dedicated signal phasing for left-turn movements, split phasing for all directional movements, or turn restrictions.
“At 102 Ave and 125 Street, there are more than 2,000 vehicles each hour going in an east-west direction during peak hours. This volume of traffic — combined with the nature of the lane configuration and intersection — meant that having a dedicated left turn or signals was not feasible.”
The city said, according to engineering best practices, left turns across two lanes of opposing traffic are not recommended when there is an adjacent two-way bike lane because of the amount of work for drivers to safely cross high volumes of opposing traffic, and watch for cyclists over their back shoulder (in their blind spot) as they attempt to cross between gaps in opposing vehicle traffic.
“Based on these guidelines and engineering best practices, as well as the City of Edmonton’s commitment to eliminating serious injuries and fatalities from motor vehicle collisions, a decision was made to not allow left turns at this location.”