Edmonton is Sacrificing Accessibility and Inclusion . . . For What?

On September 26, 2018 the City of Edmonton will be hosting yet another “Engagement Session” about “Neighbourhood Renewal” in Strathcona, where I live. With the ongoing construction of the 83 Avenue Bike Lane, my little bit of the neighbourhood has had an advanced taste of what “Neighbourhood Renewal” means. Below I’ve composed a little of what I’d like to say at that “Engagement Session” next Wednesday. I don’t suppose I’ll be given the opportunity.

I live on 83 Avenue. The new painted bike lane runs right in front of my house. I like the idea of bike lanes. But everyone agrees the little roundabouts on 83 Avenue west of 99th Street are confusing at best and probably dangerous. I remember Becky from the City who also agrees that the roundabouts are useless – telling me at one of these “engagement sessions” that the roundabouts will NOT be reconsidered or removed.

I don’t like some of the execution of this particular bike lane, but, we make sacrifices when we live in a community.

Homeowners on the north side of 83 Avenue are not allowed to have those little walkways across the boulevard from the sidewalk to the street. We’re supposed to only cross at the corner. Jay walking is now very specifically no longer allowed. But everybody still does it. Everybody that walks without trouble or rides a bike.

Not really a sacrifice.

My friend Marion, a marvellous hero in her 60s living with MS, now has a little more difficulty on her regular visits to stay with us. She needs to come to town every few months to shop for things she can’t get in the small town where she lives. Because the avenue is now one-way, we can’t drop her off on our side of the avenue. She has to struggle a little further with her walker. If we lived two blocks to the west, where the protected bike lane is, Marion would have to struggle even more.

Heroes make sacrifices.

My 93 year-old father, who volunteered for both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II now has similar difficulties to Marion when he comes to visit me. If we lived two blocks further west, where the protected bike lane is, he probably wouldn’t visit us anymore.

Veterans make sacrifices.

My daughter, with her many special needs, doesn’t have major mobility issues just yet, but she’s only 23. Still, getting around isn’t always a cake walk.

People with disabilities make sacrifices.

I am privileged.

I don’t have a disability, I don’t have a degenerative disease, I’m not old. Yet.

I haven’t had to go to war, I haven’t lived in poverty. I can go for walks for pleasure. I even have a bike.

My voice is the voice of privilege. The 83 Avenue bike lane hasn’t forced me to make much in the way of sacrifices.

Yes, the roundabouts are dangerous when I go for a walk.

Yes, the sidewalks are dangerously dark when I walk in the evening.

Yes, I’ve been sworn at by cyclists using the sidewalk when the bike lane has been closed for construction and “detour” seems to mean “usurp that pedestrian space”.

Yes, there’s still no north-south sidewalk on 97th street – the only route to Tubby Park – and all the traffic from 98th is about to be diverted there, but I’m not a little kid anymore and neither is my daughter, so we just won’t go to the park as much as we used to.

I can handle those unimportant sacrifices. I’m privileged with health and time and relative youth and yet a grown up voice with which to vent.

Marion? My father? My daughter? The neighbourhood kids?

Much less so.

Maybe I can try to use my privileged voice for them:

Please, when constructing this new neighbourhood, take more than a moment to consider those not privileged with easy mobility, time to go to public engagement sessions, and a voice.

Take a moment to consider:

How will Strathcona look for people who will never have the privilege of mobility you might enjoy?

How will Marion or my father, with their walkers or canes, get across that street from the car they’ve travelled in to the home they need to get to?

How will the DATS user negotiate the protected bike lanes?

How will a single mother – or anyone – get home at night on a pitch-black sidewalk?

How will those children get to Tubby Park safely, when all the traffic has been diverted from 98th to 97th – where there is STILL no north-south sidewalk – how’s that Vision Zero thing working out?

Edmonton has come so far in its efforts toward inclusion.

Don’t move backward.

Don’t make our neighbourhood less accessible, as you have on 83 Avenue.

Don’t move to further exclude people with mobility issues, as you have on 83 Avenue.

Please make Strathcona, and Edmonton, more accessible, not less.

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9 comments on “Edmonton is Sacrificing Accessibility and Inclusion . . . For What?

  1. Kathleen (Kathy) Hunter says:

    Thank you John. I now better understand the impact on mobility/accessibility tied to these changes. I’m not surprised to hear about the incivility that you’ve experienced. I am in complete agreement with you about the how traffic will move toward 97th Street, thereby elevating the risk. I am looking forward to meeting you next week to talk more about the intended and unintended consequences of neighbourhood renewal. Very best, Kathy Hunter

    • As I mentioned today to a gentleman who was trying to ablesplain things to me: I know we make sacrifices in a community. I just wish there was some recognition that the sacrifices being made are asymmetric and those privileged with full mobility aren’t really sacrificing much of anything. But it was all “Couldn’t you do this? Couldn’t you do that?” trying to find ways for the less privileged to accommodate the demands of the more privileged.

      Very frustrating.

  2. Brent says:

    I fear I’m about to be labeled as an ablesplainer of privilege, but I just don’t give much credence to the lack of access for residents due to the bike path changes. The on-street parking options were certainly reduced along 83rd avenue but access to the homes still remain. Changed yes, gone, no. Virtually, every single family residence has a garage for parking and rear alleys for access, the same goes for the walk-ups (with parking stalls) further west. This feature is probably true for close to 100% of the homes/walk-ups in the community? I know this is a personal blog, editorial content rights etc. but still, it’s not quite accurate. It does paint a compelling image though so kudos.

    No sidewalks along roadways is terrible, 100% agree on that, especially in a neighbourhood that does have so much non-car activity. It’s probably a holdover from horse and cart times or something fun given the age of the community, still terribly out of date and a great thing to remedy during neighbourhood renewal.

    As to the country lane part, yes it certainly may see more traffic, but it may not as well. It doesn’t strike me as a viable option for residents who must make up the bulk of the vehicle count here when driving out the avenue is much easier and shorter, but I could be wrong. Also hello 30km/hr residential speed limits! am I right?

    Thanks for sharing the sentiments around the on-going project in your community.

    • I agree with everything you say. To be clear, accessibility has been reduced a little, not eliminated. I understamd now a sidewalk is promised along 97th. Good. And, yes, traffic on 97th may or may not increase. It’s a simple yhing to test with a few automated traffic coubters and a xouole of temporary barricades (or the ongoing closures on 98th due to water main work. Evidence would help evidence based decision making.

      And I love the 30 km speed limit idea! Not sure it needs a lot of construction to implement.

      Thanks for commenting!👍

    • Kari Heise says:

      Hi Brent. Thanks for your comments. I do feel the need to respond to your comments on parking and that information in this blog is not quite accurate. Actually it is very accurate. As someone who lives on the portion of 83 Ave. where parking has been removed, I can tell you exactly what it is like to lose front access to one’s house. I explain more in an additional comment in this blog. To be clear, there is NOT adequate parking for the walk-ups in the area. City council has relaxed parking requirements for many of these buildings in the past and therefore not all residents have a parking spot if needed. Consequently, they end up parking on the street. One suite may have two vehicles, but only one parking spot. Many of the “single family residences” have rental suites in them, sometimes up to three suites per house, but only two parking spots. Also, no handicapped parking and no visitor parking in most cases. To have my all my guests rely on parking behind my house is not practical, we have one extra spot. My frustration is that I have had many people comment about my situation in a way that completely minimizes the actual effects of what has happened and will continue to happen as infrastructure is installed in these ways. All of these people who comment to me do not live in my situation, but feel they are more knowledgeable on how we should be able to reside under these circumstances.

  3. Kari Heise says:

    As someone who lives on the west side of 99St. on 83Ave. where parking has been removed, I can certainly concur with everything you mention in your blog. To those who are mentioning that access isn’t completely cut off to houses and apartments, I can agree that there is still access. However, what people don’t seem to understand is that just because one can access their house from the back or have a few parking spaces in the back, it is not addressing the need for access with people with mobility issues. Our house has very poor back access for people with mobility issues. It also does not address the need for access to homes for regular maintenance issues such as furnace cleaning, carpet cleaning, appliance delivery, contractor access, arborist access, delivery of furnaces/hot water tanks, etc., etc. All of these services require close access to one’s property and back alley access is not always appropriate. Also, for those who think all the walk ups have parking, yes, they have parking, but often times not enough parking for all the suites and certainly very seldom to they have handicapped parking or visitor parking. The seniors apartment on our block has 60 suites and 10 parking stalls. Is that considered “adequate”? It is very difficult to constantly be explaining why we don’t have parking anymore, or hear the comments of, “I hate coming to your house, it’s so difficult to get around your area and find parking”. I find people who are not living in this situation often feel it’s ok to say, “can’t you just…” when they themselves do not face any of these challenges.

    • Exactly! And pointing out that th challenges have been increased is not an attack on cycling.

      • Kari Heise says:

        Indeed. I am in support of bike lanes and feel everyone has the right to safe movement within our community. However, it is frustrating to see the lack of acknowledgement in how this has really affected people with mobility issues. I do not agree with using concrete as the medium for a barrier. I would prefer to see bendy posts that are far more reflective and visible to drivers and they do not cut off access from the road. I also do not agree with putting two way bike lanes on one way streets and then removing parking to allow for this space. I would prefer to see one way bike lanes on one way streets and maintain the parking (which ultimately slows people down more. Isn’t that what we are trying to achieve), but ultimately allowing for more bike lanes as it doesn’t limit it to just two or three locations. I feel the way the city is approaching these lanes is causing animosity between cyclists, drivers and pedestrians and also pitting communities against each other. I feel this is very counterproductive and ends up producing a poor result for how people feel about bike lanes.

      • I’ve heard curiosity expressed with the fact that the bikelane proposal in Highlands have begun from a position of inexpensive painted lanes and “sharrows” whereas in Strathcona the immovable starting point seemed to be expensive curbed two way lanes. Some have suggested that it’s because there’s little lobbying for an elimination of automobiles from Highlands, unlike the strenuous lobbying of an organized few in Strathcona.

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