Last time I was in Edmonton, there wasn't much positive to say about the street network. Fast forward a few years and theres a grid of protected bike lanes, LRT lines under construction, and interesting streets intended to blur the lines between streets for vehicles and streets for pedestrians.
The Edmonton bike grid may have been spurred by competition with local rival Calgary who implemented something similar a few years prior. This one seems to be having the same effect with an increase in those cycling. The bike network is a pilot at this point and designed to be able to flexibly respond to changing needs.
The protected bike lanes are created with low cost precast concrete barriers. These are quick and easy to install and can be added to the existing road network by removing a lane previously utilized by vehicles, either moving or parked. Controversial to some, more equitable to others.
On those precast concrete pieces, there are many many signs to warn drivers about crossing the paths of cyclists, warning them of the concrete object they might hit, turn restrictions or pedestrian crossings ahead. Green paint is also applied at every driveway crossing or intersection.
At intersections, because we have bi-directional bike lanes, things are a bit different from typical uni-directional bike lane operations. In the example below, rather than left turns being problematic, it's the right turn that requires a two stage turn movement. However, If the bi-directional facility had been on the opposite side of the road, the left turn would have required the two-stage turn movement. The side of the road the facility lies on effects how easily cyclists can make certain turn movements. The stop line for the direction away from the camera is set back, presumably to keep cyclists out of the turning path of right turning vehicles from the cross street.
The traffic signals have an interesting arrangement. I only noticed this when looking closer at these photos. The feature a double red to indicate turns are not permitted which coincides with the green bike signal. I wished I had noticed this and watched how it works a little closer. If left turns are not permitted on a double red, does that mean they are permitted on a single red or this is just for extra emphasis? Hmmm...
My journey continued to the east as I wanted to check out the Quarters. Specifically, I wanted to see the Armature. "The Armature is the first City-led “green street” pilot project and the heart of The Quarters Downtown. This pedestrian-oriented corridor runs along 96 Street from Jasper Avenue to 103 A Avenue, connecting the four unique districts that make up The Quarters Downtown. Upon full build-out, it will contain all-season parks, urban plazas, shopping, eating, and entertainment areas, and will serve as a hub for all commercial and social activities in the area." Before we get to the pictures of it today, lets look at what the street looked like before, courtesy of Google Streetview...
The protected bike lane on 102A Avenue NW terminates at 96 Street, where the Armature begins. Sign overload? What can I do and what can't I do?
Some of my ISL colleagues worked on this so I was interested to see it first hand. Essentially, it includes a number of less conventional streetscape features to create a more interesting street. For example, consistent and less conventional block paving across the entire street blurs the line between space for pedestrians and vehicles. By adding some visual friction or even confusion you might call it, it seems to work well in reducing vehicle speeds. I'll need to ask how those blocks hold up to freezing conditions. Mountable (or rollover) curbs further blurs that line between the vehicles space and pedestrian space. Landscaping, albeit somewhat lacking in leaves and greenery as we enter winter, helps soften the street and provide drainage, and presumably once the trees grow a little, some shelter from the heat in the summer. Interesting furniture, bike racks, and crosswalks help provide function and interest. From my experience, vehicles rolled slowly along the street, and cyclists rode down the centre, mission accomplished in terms of functionality based on my brief observations. The street is there, it just needs some adjacent investment and development to bring it to life.
I finished my quick walkabout, with a stop at the Edmonton Funicular. Essentially a 45 degree elevator. I thought it was closed at first, expecting an operator and lineup. Then I figured I could drive it myself! A neat little tourist attraction for sure and helping the less able bodied get up and down the steep grade between downtown and the river a little easier. The climb back up is a little bit of a calf burner also .
All the photos from my walkabout have been added to my Edmonton album on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/roysymons/albums/72157673869745476