Ep. 01 – Elevating Edmonton: The launch of a podcast about architecture in Edmonton by Tim Querengesser

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The first episode of Elevating Edmonton is here.

In our first round-table talk about architecture in our fair city, not-at-all experts Dan Rose, Dave Sutherland, Tim Schneider and me, Tim Querengesser, join actual architect Shafraaz Kaba to discuss Edmonton identity, proposals such as Manchester Square and The Grand, old hits like Peter Hemingway's pool and the CN Tower, and ongoing issues, like our constant identity crisis, our frontier thinking and our lack of an architecture school. Some coffee is sipped in the background; it may have contained Baileys.  

Credits:
 
Music: Komiku - Mall
From the Free Music Archive
Licence: CC

Photo: Flickr/eng1ne

Unsafe crosswalks have city talking about legal implications: FOIP by Tim Querengesser

The City of Edmonton is discussing potential legal implications connected to unsafe crosswalks, a recent Freedom of Information request I have received reveals. 

After filing the request in June and receiving it today, I am able to report that 59 pages of documents the public is not allowed to see – because they are classified as privileged information – exist within City of Edmonton administration.

These documents were found after I requested the following through Freedom of Information: "Records of discussions between Transportation Officials and Legal Counsel regarding potential legal liability to the City of Edmonton as a result of documented inadequacies, safety deficiencies and lacking safety designs in crosswalks."

For context, in April, City of Edmonton administration shared a report to city council that showed 659 dangerous crosswalks across the city. The report also detailed how fixes for these crosswalks would cost $58 million.

Many noted at the time that our current pace upgrading these crosswalks – we spend roughly $2 million annually on crosswalk upgrades – would mean Edmonton will take 29 years to make these crosswalks adequately safe. Some questioned whether this situation, where the city has admitted unsafe condition for pedestrian infrastructure, exposed the City of Edmonton to legal liability in the event of a pedestrian being hurt or killed in one of these crosswalks.

The conversation at the time was amplified by the death, earlier in April, of 16-year-old Chloe Wiwchar, who a driver hit and killed as she walked in a crosswalk with signaled safety features on Kingsway. 

The questions about legal liability are natural because other cities are facing them and even paying for them. Because evidence from multiple jurisdictions shows that drivers who hit and injure or kill pedestrians rarely face serious charges, many have turned to the civil courts. Recently, California courts ruled that pedestrians injured in crosswalks can sue cities in civil courts, based on cities having an obligation to having safe property. In other states, that's already happening. In Missouri, a couple injured while crossing a street in an area identified by Jefferson City officials as dangerous is suing for $2.25 million. In Hawaii, a man hit by a driver while in a crosswalk recently won a suit and received more than $11 million in damages.

The City of Edmonton claims all 59 pages generated with my information request are privileged information (essentially, discussions between lawyers and clients) and therefore I and anyone else can't see them. To be crystal clear, that means there is only evidence of documents, but no evidence that the city is concerned about this situation or facing any potential lawsuits or doing anything other than simply talking about it. 

 Flickr/Rob

Flickr/Rob

Greyhound leaving western Canada should be seen as a crisis not a news story by Tim Querengesser

Greyhound Canada is axing its bus service throughout western Canada. This is extremely unsettling news. Those who will suffer most from this are already marginalized. The announcement should very much be seen as a crisis of mobility and safety.

On Monday, the company whose name has been part of my own life and desire to move about North America – from riding the Greyhound bus to Toronto as a pre-teen to see family to riding it weekly during my undergraduate and graduate degrees, to a bizarre trip across Florida – announced it is ceasing service in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and all routes in British Columbia excluding a connection between Vancouver and Seattle run by U.S. Greyhound.

 Photo: Frank Deanrdo/Flickr

Photo: Frank Deanrdo/Flickr

The company had already announced that all routes to the Yukon are to be dropped as well. Ontario and Quebec will soon be the only areas of Canada where Greyhound service remains. The company notes ridership has dropped more than 40 per cent since 2010. 

We must not forget that significant discussion about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls focuses on realities on the ground, such as transportation options. In British Columbia, for example, the 'Trail of Tears' between Prince George and Prince Rupert has seen many Indigenous women disappear along it. At many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's meetings, transportation options – or the lack of them – between Indigenous communities in Canada's remote regions was raised as a large contributing factor to the lack of safety for people needing to move about their country. 

Canada is a large country and within it are hundreds upon hundreds of Indigenous communities, often in remote regions. Greyhound has functioned for these communities as an option to get around, to leave bad situations, to seek out new opportunities, to see loved ones. Without this service, people will revert to the only options they have – dangerous hitchhiking or even staying put when they don't want to.

This should really be viewed as a crisis, not a news story. If we are working to prevent tragedy we need to realize this change will affect those who are most vulnerable in Canada. A recent study found that hitchhikers in northern B.C. are more likely to be Indigenous and more likely to face sexual assault

In response to falling service and safety concerns, the B.C. government has launched a shuttle-bus service for the area and its residents. And here in Edmonton, Coun. Scott McKeen pushed a motion forward earlier this year to explore expanding bus service connections between Edmonton and the Enoch Cree First Nation.

We now need this ingenuity and response on a western-Canada scale. 

 

 

 

Edmonton prepares to embarrass itself internationally on pedestrian safety by Tim Querengesser

Starting on July 9, Edmonton will host a four-day International Conference on Traffic Safety at the Shaw Conference Centre. And to prepare, and to underline that words are mostly what we do here rather than actual action, less than a few blocks from the conference centre, Edmonton has allowed walking to become something people choose to do with traffic.

 Edmonton is a great place to get in some unplanned running – which this guy is doing in order to walk through the downtown. Clearly he's feeling the Vision Zero love. Photo: Tim Querengesser 

Edmonton is a great place to get in some unplanned running – which this guy is doing in order to walk through the downtown. Clearly he's feeling the Vision Zero love. Photo: Tim Querengesser 

The situation was bad enough over the past few months as the demolition crew that took down the Bank of Montreal building at 101 Street and 102 Avenue apparently managed to significantly damage the sidewalk in front of the land parcel, closing the sidewalk on the east side of 101 Street. Many have emailed people within the city and have shared with me the responses they have received, which show that there is not a high level of concern about the situation – all the correct permits to close the sidewalk are in place, apparently. No pedestrian detour has been created. Nothing to see here.

What has made this situation perverse, however, is that now, a half block north of the BMO site, the sidewalk outside our main commercial area, City Centre Mall, is closed on the west side of the street. What this means in theory is a person would have to cross 101 Street three times in order to walk to several destinations if they were walking southeast. Again, no pedestrian detour has been created.

The result in practice, as I observed last night while standing there for three minutes, is that people are now walking with traffic, literally in the vehicle lanes (which of course have not been largely affected) both in front of the BMO site and now to the north, on the other side of the road, in order to walk around these sidewalk closures. It's quite the feat for the first large city in Canada to adopt Vision Zero principles. Watching people navigate this space while huge city buses squeeze through it is frightening. Someone will get hurt.  

One can only hope the resulting embarrassment this will create when outsiders have a look and point this out will sting.

The International Conference on Traffic Safety will feature presentations from several experts from Sweden, which has led the way on Vision Zero, a talk by Jane Terry from the U.S. Safety Council, a talk called "Safe System in Urban Environments: Catering to Vulnerable Road Users" by Colin Brodie, from New Zealand, as well as a keynote by Anders Lie, a Swedish administrator with more than 20 years experience pushing for Vision Zero.  

I sincerely hope all of our esteemed guests go for a stroll in our downtown while they're here.