Red brick crosswalks being removed from Edmonton’s 124 Street

WATCH: The City of Edmonton is ending a pilot project on 124 Street just over a year after it began. As Julia Wong reports, red brick crosswalks meant to draw attention to pedestrians could actually be making the roads a bit more dangerous.

Work is underway to remove the red brick crosswalks from nearly a dozen locations along Edmonton’s 124 Street.

Eight of the colourful crosswalks were installed at intersections along 124 Street in June 2018. The brighter design was meant to be easier to see, in hopes it would increase safety for drivers and pedestrians.

READ MORE: Pink pavement on Edmonton’s 124 Street aimed at protecting pedestrians, prettying neighbourhood

However, the city said the crosswalks did not significantly change driving behaviour, so the design will not be expanded into other communities.

Additionally, the thermoplastic material used for the crosswalks deteriorated earlier than expected and must be removed for public safety, the city said. The thermoplastic material has a rough texture and was meant to prevent slipping when the surface was wet. It was expected to last up to five years, according to the city.

The city’s director of traffic operations said the grit in the liquid plastic was not adhering and it flaked off. There were no recorded incidents but motorists and pedestrians said the crosswalks were slippery, Olga Messinis said.

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Messinis said the city first heard about the issue last winter and did traction testing throughout the year. The decision was made before last winter to remove the crosswalks, Messinis said.

The city said the material has a two-year warranty, but added that even the vendor was unaware of what the issue was with the grit flaking off.

Messinis said the city uses the same material on the bike lanes, which is green in colour, and they aren’t experiencing any issues with that product. Administration said it plans to use a different product when it comes to these types of decorative sidewalks.

Councillor Scott McKeen said he wasn’t aware the crosswalks were being torn out, but admitted his appreciation for the city trying something new to improve safety.

“The key here with traffic safety, I think, is somehow trying to get us all — and I’m a driver — get us all to be fully conscious drivers all the time,” he said, “to try to snap drivers back into consciousness — to have them awake and aware of potential risks to them and to pedestrians.

“We’re trying these things. Will they all work? No.

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“I hope the lesson isn’t, ‘Oh my God, council’s going to be ticked off at us. We better just go back to same old, same old.’ I think that would be a shame. But maybe they learn a lesson that A) that this product isn’t going to work and B) there was no evidence to support the idea that it was an alert to drivers of a crosswalk.”

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Work to remove the crosswalks started at 8 a.m. Monday at the intersection of 124 Street and 110 Avenue. It’s expected to take crews about a week to remove all eight crosswalks, which are located between 110 and 102 avenues.

The initial budget for the project was $105,000 when the city announced it back in 2018.

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