Exploring a car-free avenue in Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Street in Edmonton could become city’s first car-free avenue'
Street in Edmonton could become city’s first car-free avenue
A street that has been closed to traffic for years could become Edmonton's first car-free avenue. Sarah Komadina has the details – Dec 6, 2021

For commuters driving in downtown Edmonton, the area around 102 Avenue from 99 to 103 streets hasn’t been an option to drive down for four years. It is closed for LRT construction.

Still, pedestrians have been able to use the area.

“We’ve seen that traffic flow has managed without that active space. The buildings have been able to continue operating,” Ward O-day’min Coun. Anne Stevenson said.

Not exactly this way.

There are fences so people can navigate the construction. The idea would be to create the space to be more pedestrian-friendly. That could include putting in a multi-use path for people to ride bikes or go for a walk.

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Stevenson brought the idea to council to hopefully explore options on what this could look like.

“It wouldn’t require any physical changes. All it would require is using the space differently in a more pedestrian-focused way,” Stevenson said.

“That vibrancy is necessary in downtown, particularly when we are looking at ways to revitalize downtown,” Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said.

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This was first put forward by community group Paths for People. One of the group’s members created renderings of what 102 Avenue could look like.

“If we shifted a car space that is going to be a really low utility for people driving and created a people space there, like a linear plaza, kind of a civic backbone to our core, Paths for People see that as really important going forward to instill a great sense of vibrancy (in) our core,” chair Stephen Raitz said.

Raitz said the group has heard about cities with these kinds of streets and thinks Edmontonians also deserve one.

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“This is something that would be a great destination to go through, a really great way to connect destinations within our core. Connecting 104 Street, which is a really fun place to be, to city hall, the Citadel Theatre and the library downtown,” Raitz said.

Downtown Business Association executive director Puneeta McBryan said she likes the idea, but it’s not as simple as saying this is a space for humans — not for cars.

“There’s a lot of complications,” McBryan said.

“The challenge with barring vehicles from that space and just wanting it for pedestrians or gatherings is that kind of space needs a lot of street-oriented businesses and facades on it for it to really make sense.”

McBryan said a lot of buildings on 102 Avenue haven’t been planned to be street-oriented.

“If those buildings were developed to be dramatically much more street-oriented and pedestrian-oriented, that could be huge,” McBryan said.

“There’s going to be a happy medium here where we can make sure we are maximizing the space and creating vibrancy and not just this big space that cars can’t go on and people don’t go on.”

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Currently, the city has no plans underway, but if it does go forward, options for consideration will go to the urban planning committee.

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