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Edmonton adjusts roads, pedestrian call buttons to promote physical distancing

Edmonton adjusts roads, pedestrian call buttons to promote physical distancing
The City of Edmonton is changing pedestrian crossings and converting some roads into shared use between pedestrians and vehicles, in hopes of spreading people out to promote better physical distancing. Sarah Komadina explains.

The City of Edmonton is adjusting push buttons at pedestrian crossings and allocating some roadways for shared use between pedestrians and vehicles in hopes of spreading people out to promote better physical distancing.

Effective Thursday, pedestrian signals will be automatic at 56 high-pedestrian intersections in the city, as well as those around hospitals. This will eliminate the need for people to push buttons at these crossings, in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Signage will be posted at the affected intersections. The city said the audible signal for those who are visually impaired will continue to be activated by pushing the button.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Albertans who are blind, visually impaired adjust to limited touch restrictions

Two roads in Edmonton will also be adjusted to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists. The city hopes the move will allow Edmontonians to follow the two-metre physical distancing requirements while outdoors.

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“We know it’s important for Edmontonians to get outside during this time and these adjustments will help them do that while maintaining safe physical distance,” said Darryl Mullen, acting director of traffic operations with the City of Edmonton.

READ MORE: One quarter of Canadians still not fully social distancing, poll suggests

The changes are coming to the following roads:

Victoria Promenade

Along 100 Avenue from 116 Street to 121 Street, the bike lane will be expanded and converted to a shared-use space for people walking and biking.

Saskatchewan Drive

Along Saskatchewan Drive from 105 Street to 109 Street, traffic will be reduced to a single lane with the north lane converted to a shared-use space for people walking and biking.

“We all have an important role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19. By working together to stay apart, whether we’re shopping for essential items or getting exercise outdoors, we can all help to protect our community’s health and safety,” Mullen said.

Pilots along Saskatchewan Drive in Edmonton Thursday, April 9, 2020 to promote physical distancing.
Pilots along Saskatchewan Drive in Edmonton Thursday, April 9, 2020 to promote physical distancing. Julien Fornier, Global News

READ MORE: Edmonton installs signs on Royal Glenora stairs discouraging use for exercise due to COVID-19

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In a media release Wednesday morning, the city reminded people to be aware of others while spending time outside.

“This might mean choosing alternate times or routes for walks, passing others in single file and stepping aside to allow others to pass,” the city said.

Coronavirus outbreak: How will Canadians maintain social distancing once summer arrives?
Coronavirus outbreak: How will Canadians maintain social distancing once summer arrives?

Similar measures have been put in place in other Canadian cities to promote physical distancing.

READ MORE: Road closures planned for Calgary to give more room for pedestrians and cyclists

The City of Edmonton said crews will clear the roads of snow and ice before they open for pedestrians and cyclists on Thursday.

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Changes to promote physical distance on Edmonton buses

On Tuesday, the City of Edmonton also announced further measures to promote physical distancing on city buses.

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New signs are being installed on some seats, closing them off to riders.

“These new signs are an additional safety measure we’re using to promote physical distancing between passengers,” said Rowan Anderson, a communications advisor with the city.

“Only members of the same household, or a required caregiver, may sit beside each other.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Man who coughed on Edmonton bus driver, transit officers charged with assault

As of Tuesday afternoon, Anderson said about 10 to 15 per cent of the in-service fleet had been equipped with the signs, with the goal to finish the entire fleet later this week.

Seats closed on an ETS bus to follow physical distancing measures in Edmonton Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Seats closed on an ETS bus to follow physical distancing measures in Edmonton Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Supplied to Global News
Seats closed on an ETS bus to follow physical distancing measures in Edmonton Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Seats closed on an ETS bus to follow physical distancing measures in Edmonton Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Supplied to Global News

Anderson said the signs will not be installed on LRT trains, but the city asks riders to practise the same physical distancing etiquette and sit in a staggered manner.

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“We would also like to remind Edmontonians to only use transit for essential travel and to stay home if possible.”