Vision Zero 2016: Creating Safer School Neighbourhoods

When our City Council approved Vision Zero, with the long-term goal of having zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries, we knew it would require a multidimensional approach from the City and Edmontonians and I am happy to report we are making progress, particularly when it comes to school safety.

2016 results

Keeping students and their families safe as they travel to and from school is so important and in 2016 the City undertook a number of improvements at Edmonton schools:

  • Traffic safety assessments were conducted at 13 elementary schools to observe road user behavior and new countermeasures were installed in September 2016. Countermeasures included new zebra crosswalks, new stop signs with retro-reflective poles, reflective strips on pedestrian signs, and upgrading from yield signs to stop signs.
  • Starting in 2016, a pickup/drop-off zone will be implemented at one school every year. In 2016, St. Justin School received a pickup/drop-off zone.
  • Prohibiting left turns from school parking lots was implemented at two schools.
  • In October, City Council approved the expansion of 30 km/hr school zones to include Edmonton’s 43 junior high schools. This new speed limit will be in place for all junior high schools by September 2017, when students return to class.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of school zones

In 2014, 30 km/hr school zones were implemented for Edmonton’s elementary schools. Our evaluation of these 30 km/hr school zones showed significant safety improvements, including:

  • 43 percent reduction in injury collisions
  • 71 percent reduction in injury collisions involving vulnerable road users
  • 12 km/hr reduction in vehicle speeds

Many great improvements have been made and we will continue this work throughout 2017 to make Edmonton’s streets safe for all road users, especially close to schools. For more information on Vision Zero, visit edmonton.ca/visionzero and follow @VisionZeroYEG on Twitter.

LRT, Road Construction & Fires!

It has been an interesting week in Edmonton! This week City Council determined the next phase of LRT Construction adding the new Valley Line from downtown to Lewis Farms and extending the Metro Line from NAIT to Blatchford including potential upgrades near Kingsway Mall. We also prioritized areas for LRT design including the Metro Line, North Blatchford to Campbell Road for preliminary engineering. I was very pleased we were able to come together and ensure that work is going forward in all quadrants of our city. I hope that funding will allow us to build the Metro Line completely sooner than later.

ARGH! I have been hearing and seeing many frustrated motorists along 127 Street. In the north part between 167 Avenue and 137 Avenue, the installation of a new Atco gas line has seen traffic reduced to one lane each way and limited access for turning left into neighborhoods and services. In the south, the reconstruction of 127 St between Yellowhead and 118 Avenue has seen the total closure of southbound lanes and only one lane north. This too has limited access into and out of neighborhoods. Like many of you, it has extended my commute and daily activities and has frustrated me. I don’t like sitting in traffic.

Then I heard the shocking news about the evacuations in Fort McMurray. In one instant the lives of 80 000 people were changed. The are calling this the largest evacuation in the history of Alberta and with an estimated $9 Billion in damage this is shaping up to be the single largest insurance event in the history of Canada. But it wasn’t the facts or the numbers that got me. It was the story of family after family fleeing their homes, heading in any direction that was safe. It was the video of cars fighting bottlenecked traffic as ash and ember flew through the smoke-stained skies. Some reported travelling for as many as 10 or 11 hours just to get to Edmonton…

So now when I sit in my car in traffic for an extra 5 or 10 minutes in just doesn’t seem so bad… not much as changed… only my perspective. I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of Edmontonians, Albertans, and Canadians. It is in these moments that we truly pull together as a community, whether it’s a pancake breakfast, donation drive, or the volunteers tirelessly working at the Edmonton Evacuation Centre at Northlands caring for these families, it’s these moments that remind what makes Edmonton great…

Community Leaders Meeting

What do Community Leaders do on a Saturday morning?   They gathered under the shiny exterior of the Castledowns Pavilion last Saturday as faith, cultural and Community League leaders in Ward 2 met to discuss issues that impacted Ward 2, and other emerging city wide issues.   The conversation included everything from construction to infill and firehall’s to libraries.   We also chatted about something that is near and dear to my heart, gender based violence prevention and how we each play a role in changing the community conversation and actions to prevent more violence in our communities.   It can affect all of us regardless of social economic status, culture, faith and location.   We, as a City, have one of the highest rates in the country and we must say it is enough!   Education, awareness and community discussion are essential to change behavior and get those victimized the support and help they need.

I came away from the meeting encouraged that as leaders we can work together.   One participant commented after that it was great to hear what else was going on in the ward because it is easy to just focus on their own challenges.   Another wanted to find ways that we can advocate for change together in the City’s public engagement initiative. Others approached me and wanted to know what they needed to do to help prevent gender based violence.   All agreed that the meeting was valuable and would be happy to meet again!

It really reminded me of the quote by Margaret Mead that says “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Together we can make a difference!

My Thoughts on the Recent Blatchford Discussions

I am dizzy from spinning and spinning! Discussions about Blatchford are like sitting on a merry go round.   At first it’s fun, but the repetitious circling creates nausea.   Council has been committed to the Master Plan Principles to make Blatchford a carbon neutral community.   Over the last two days we were supposed to be debating a District Energy Sharing System and determine where to go with this aspect of Blatchford.   To date, we have been on time and under budget. The runways are gone and recycled, buildings have been taken down and removed and even sold when possible. Remediation is complete.

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We are ready to go on a District Energy system and were set to look at two options brought to council.   Meanwhile both the Provincial and Federal governments are interested in supporting such initiatives.   We unanimously agreed as a Council to reach out and advocate to the different levels of governments to see if indeed funding might be available to help us with this work.   To me, that is being a responsible steward of the project and not compromising our principles.

 

We also heard for the first time from EPCOR who are interested in working with us on this project. We agreed that it was in our best interest to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a renewable energy utility model for Blatchford.   They presented Council with very high level options of wind and solar to us and we are going to need more than a high level look at these options before we can responsibly make any decision.

 

Unfortunately, these decisions do mean a delay of up to one year for development on Blatchford.   District Energy is proven technology but it must be complemented with other energy sources to meet our vision for Blatchford.

 

Throughout the process we have engaged experts at various points to ensure we had good understanding of what is needed.   We have a Business Advisory Group, which includes developers and environmental specialists.   We also have a Community Stakeholder group, consisting of representatives from the surrounding communities and businesses.

 

Some have used the opportunity to discuss District Energy as the opportunity to question whether we as a City should be pursing the development of Blatchford at all.

 

I remain true to the vision, but feel we need to be responsible stewards of the development.   I also believe we must continue to work towards this and trust we can be nimble and develop the site according to the principles as funds are available.

Community Safety Conversation

I recently hosted a ‘Community Safety Conversation’; a partnership between City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Police Service and the Tri-Community Council (which includes the Sherbrooke, Inglewood and Prince Charles Community Leagues and the Inglewood Business Association).

This was an opportunity to review the previous year and reflect on community assets and areas for improvement. Our goal for the evening was to conclude with a community vision for 2016 and a concrete plan on how we, by working together, could achieve it.

Even in the face of freezing rain well over 100 people attended. I know that the residents of Sherbrooke, Inglewood and Prince Charles take their safety seriously, so this came as no surprise.

After some brief remarks from myself and the other partners, attendees went to work with a focus on what’s working, what can be improved, and how the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Police Service can lend a hand.

What emerged from our time together was a clearly articulated set of priorities – a plan.

Community Safety Conversations can sometimes turn into ‘roasts’ – venues where the city and police are accused of not doing enough and where the public is told that they need to take more responsibility.

In this instance, nothing could be further from the truth.

There was a feeling of shared responsibility in the room and a commitment to do what it takes to achieve the future that was clearly articulated during our time together.

So… what’s next?

City staff pulled together the feedback we received and reviewed it with the team that was tasked with organizing the Community Safety Conversation.

Over the next short while members of the team will be tapping various residents and partners from the Sherbrooke, Inglewood and Prince Charles neighbourhoods on the shoulder for their thoughts and support in working together toward a safer community.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the Community Safety Conversation. Your feedback is a true gift and I look forward to working with our partners to put it in motion.

Proud!

I feel very proud about the campaigns that several smart and strong women ran in the Ward 12 by-election. First of all, they put their names forward and ran for public office.That takes courage and the willingness to put themselves out there. I remember the first time I saw my name on campaign signs and it felt funny. I got over it and I am sure these women did too. They raised money for their campaigns and research will tell you that is harder for women to do. Good for them! It seems to be easier for many women to ask for money for other people or causes and not themselves. Then there are the countless people you interact with to try to make them understand what you stand for by door knocking, meetings and forums. And add in the various social media platforms that you try to engage others in to get your message out. You also need a great support system from campaign volunteers and family and friends that help you with the little things (and not so little), like grocery shopping and childcare.

I remember well the first time I ran for School Trustee and lost.  A good friend of mine gave me a care package… chocolate, bubble bath and a magazine.   I’ll never forget that as I enjoyed it thoroughly after my defeat. I, like many others, didn’t win the first – or even the second time – I ran for public office but that doesn’t mean you give up.   I like to remind folks if you don’t successfully pass your driver’s test the first time, that you don’t give up and tell yourself that it wasn’t mean to be.  Rather you try again and again, if necessary, until you are successful.

So welcome to the ranks of those who aspire to public service as an elected official and know that it is a noble thing. You probably met some great people, learned a lot about yourself and how to run and hopefully, next time you will be successful.
We can’t ensure more woman are elected but we can, and must, encourage more women to run for office. Thank you to all who put their name forward and ran in the by-election.

Although I am not joined by another woman on council, I respect the democratic process. I sincerely wish to congratulate Moe Banga on his win and I look forward to working with him on council.