Essential funding for Edmonton sidewalks

The $10 million earmarked to fill missing sidewalk connections across Edmonton is at risk of being cut from the budget. The decision is expected on Thursday, December 5 as part of the City Council meeting for Non-Statutory Public Hearing and Budget Adjustment.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1) Send an email
Send a message to city councillors to share about the need for an accessible and safe city sidewalk network.

You can email the whole council at council@edmonton.ca or email individual councillors:

Ward Councillor Email
Ward 1 Andrew Knack andrew.knack@edmonton.ca
Ward 2 Bev Esslinger bev.esslinger@edmonton.ca
Ward 3 Jon Dziadyk jon.dziadyk@edmonton.ca
Ward 4 Aaron Paquette aaron.paquette@edmonton.ca
Ward 5 Sarah Hamilton sarah.hamilton@edmonton.ca
Ward 6 Scott McKeen scott.mckeen@edmonton.ca
Ward 7 Tony Caterina tony.caterina@edmonton.ca
Ward 8 Ben Henderson ben.henderson@edmonton.ca
Ward 9 Tim Cartmell tim.cartmell@edmonton.ca
Ward 10 Michael Walters michael.walters@edmonton.ca
Ward 11 Mike Nickel mike.nickel@edmonton.ca
Ward 12 Mohinder Banga mohinder.banga@edmonton.ca
Mayor Don Iveson don.iveson@edmonton.ca

 

Here’s a sample letter, if you’d like to use it.

 


Unsure who your councillor is?

Use this tool to find out who represents your ward


 

2) Use Social Media
Share your thoughts on why sidewalks (and funding them) is important to you in your daily life in Edmonton. 

Use the hashtag #missinglinksyeg and #yegcc

 

Not sure what to write?
Here are some samples (feel free to use them or riff on them):

 

  • Safe and maintained sidewalks allow me to support local businesses, meet my neighbours and stay healthy. I value sidewalks! #missinglinksyeg #yegcc

 

  • I experience missing sidewalks in my neighbourhood [name of neighbourhood]. I would love for #yegcc to fund these networks to help us actively get around our city. #missinglinksyeg #yegcc

 

  • Every missing connection beside a roadway sends the message that vehicles come first; pedestrians come second. #missinglinksyeg #yegcc

 

  • Sidewalks are one of the most essential pieces of low-carbon infrastructure a city needs and should invest in. #missinglinksyeg #yegcc

 

 

THE $$$ PROMISED

In June 2019, the Urban Planning Committee’s recommendation was to commit $10 million to fill in missing sidewalk connections. 

This came after Paths for People asked Edmontonians to identify and share places where they encountered missing links in active-transportation infrastructure, whether bike lanes, multi-use paths, sidewalks, and crosswalks. We received 200+ submissions from citizens, captured them on a map, and shared that map widely. More than 100 of the submissions we received were about sidewalks specifically. 

Also city admin provided a missing sidewalks report to the Urban Planning Committee further confirming our findings and the need to address them.

 

P4P PERSPECTIVE

In the upcoming budget adjustment discussions, we urge Edmonton City Council not to cut funding for active-transportation projects, and, in particular, to carry through with the Urban Planning Committee’s June 2019 recommendation to spend $10 million to fill in missing sidewalk connections.

We realize that budget cuts are necessary, but these tough decisions force us to consider what matters most in our city. Edmonton’s recent declaration of a climate emergency comes with an inherent responsibility to act on it, to cut carbon-producing activities and to invest in projects that will decrease our carbon output. Active transportation falls squarely in the latter category; the city must do all it can to encourage people to get around in ways that have minimal carbon output.

We submit that sidewalks are one of the most essential pieces of low-carbon infrastructure a city needs and should invest in. Sidewalks are the entry point to experiencing any city, and make up some portion of most urban trips. In fact, in an urban environment, we believe safe, accessible walking routes are a human right. 

But our city sidewalk networks, currently, are plagued by missing links–often small stretches that make continuous pedestrian routes challenging, inaccessible, and even unsafe. In 2019, Paths for People asked Edmontonians to identify and share places where they encountered missing links in active-transportation infrastructure, whether bike lanes, multi-use paths, sidewalks, and crosswalks. We received 200+ submissions from citizens, captured them on a map, and shared that map widely.

More than 100 of the submissions we received were about sidewalks specifically. A lot of them were missing links we had not been aware of, and some of these missing links were pretty startling. People told us stories of sidewalks along major streets or through well-travelled neighbourhoods that just, for no apparent reason, ended. 

You could see tracks in the snow or grass or gravel or dirt where pedestrians  ad lib their own impromptu pathways until they reach another sidewalk. These DIY “trails” are  better than nothing, but they aren’t maintained, they certainly aren’t accessible, and, in some cases, they aren’t particularly safe. 

Such missing links are incredibly frustrating for pedestrians. People travelling on foot are made to feel like they are second-class citizens. Every missing connection beside a roadway sends the message that vehicles come first; pedestrians come second. And that sidewalks are seen as concrete accessories–nice, where you can find them–rather than as essential connected networks for actively getting around our city. 

Given that walking is the most accessible, most democratic, not to mention the oldest, form of human transportation, you’d think we would prioritize walking infrastructure above all others. But too often we take walking and walking infrastructure for granted.   

We believe the $10 million commitment recommended in the committee report will make a significant impact on the problem of missing sidewalk connections. Filling in 20 km of the 105 km of missing sidewalks is a promising start. We’d like to see even more funding, of course, but this a beginning–and an encouraging sign that the city is getting serious about providing continuous, safe, accessible pathways for active transportation.

We know you need to cut things from the budget. But don’t cut this. The price tag for fixing these missing sidewalk connections is relatively small and the benefit is big, especially for some of Edmonton’s most vulnerable citizens, for whom walking is the only option for getting around. 

Our engagement campaign for our Missing Links project showed that Edmontonians saw great value and positive impact in these small fixes. They told us that better connections make the lives of Edmontonians a little better. 

On top of all this, improving missing links is a key action to meet the City of Edmonton’s higher level policy goals, such as those outlined in Breathe: the Green Network Strategy, Complete Streets Guidelines, and the Big Moves of the upcoming City Plan. Further, with the Bus Network Redesign increasing the distance residents need to walk to reach bus service, continuous and high-quality sidewalks are going to be more necessary than ever.

Fixing the missing sidewalk connections is a low-cost, high-benefit proposition that show Edmontonians that the city cares about local connections and is taking action to build a more sustainable, low-carbon city.  

Be bold. Fight hard to maintain active-transportation funding, especially for missing sidewalk connections. All Edmontonians deserve safe, walkable, fully connected communities.