Two traffic safety conferences: bringing learnings from around the globe to Edmonton

Edmonton was privileged to host two international traffic safety conferences this past week. The International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS) Conference happens

once every three years and, in its 65-year history, this is only the fourth time it has been in Canada. More than 200 people attended from 33 countries to learn about the latest research on impairment and traffic safety. The second conference was the 11th Annual International Conference on Urban Traffic Safety. Sessions covered many areas of traffic safety from infrastructure to enforcement. 

These conferences brought together delegates from the areas of municipal government, traffic and transport psychology, public health, medicine, economics, law and law enforcement, public policy, education, pharmacology, toxicology, forensic science, human factors, and alcohol intervention and rehabilitation.

Traffic safety conferences are important because people with a passion for saving lives and preventing injuries get together to share research and successes. They develop networks of people they can reach out to when they are looking for ways to tackle the complex issue of traffic safety.

I am delighted that the success of Vision Zero in Edmonton at reducing fatalities and serious injuries has caught the attention of people around the world. Our own traffic-safety experts shared what Edmonton is doing and learned what is working in other places. No traffic fatality is acceptable, and we have a long way to go, but Edmontonians are on a path to zero fatalities and serious injuries. 

My thanks goes to the people who organized these traffic safety conferences and to the many people who work to make our roads safer for everyone.

My thoughts on Residential Speed Limits

There has been all kinds of discussion surrounding what to do with residential speed limits, its coming back to Council on May 14th.  Making our City safe is a priority, but I recognize and have heard from many that whatever we do it needs to be simple, consistent, cost effective and that we need to …

Vision Zero

A few years ago we realized as a City that we needed to take action to ensure that no matter which way that individuals and families use the road, or interact with it, they know that they will be safe. We unanimously decided as a Council to implement Vision Zero. The Vision Zero program involves many areas working together to achieve the goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2032.

In 2018, the City installed pedestrian scrambles at busy intersections on Jasper Avenue, on Whyte Avenue, and around Ice District. We added 65 feedback signs informing drivers to stay within the speed limit, which now totals 215 across Edmonton. We invested in rapid flashing beacons, zebra crosswalks, reflective pole wraps, and no-left-turn signs for 27 schools areas. We improved signals at 19 pedestrians crossings and made existing traffic signals easier to see at 12 other intersections.

And it’s working.

By The Numbers

Collision data over a three-year period, from 2015 before Vision Zero was launched to 2018, showed a 41% decline in traffic fatalities and a 17% decline in serious injuries, even though the number of vehicles on the road has increased. As well, we saw collisions involving vulnerable road users including pedestrians decline by 21%, cyclists by 27%, and motorcycles by 31%.

But Vision Zero is more than just flashing amber lights and speed limit signs. It is an attitude and a value system that guides the way we live in Edmonton. It is the belief that life and health should never be exchanged for convenience, that we need to put safety first. It is the belief that everyone deserves to leave and come home safely every day. It is belief every single Edmontonian can adapt and contribute. When you slow down at a playground zone, stop at the pedestrian crossing, encourage your peers to drive to conditions, ensure the road is safe before crossing, you contribute to Vision Zero.

Let’s continue succeeding together.

Safety on Public Transit, taxis and ride sharing

Since I have been elected to Council one of my main areas of focus has been safety for everyone including the vulnerable, children and women. As part of the UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls we completed a scoping study that identified public transportation as an area that women felt the most vulnerable. Public transit, taxis and ride-sharing services are a site for risk of sexual violence.

Over the past few years we have been working on increasing security at public transit by utilizing good urban design principles, and earlier this year we began 24/7 security at many transit stations. I am happy with some of the progress we have made with public transit but will continue to push for even more safety.

I heard from women during the Uber debate that safety is one of the concerns they had. They felt it was important that Criminal record checks were in place before someone could be licensed and the same standard applies to all drivers including taxi cabs.

Currently the bylaws in place keep new applicants with convictions from getting their vehicle for hire license. However, already licensed individuals (with convictions that have occurred since they were first granted their licence) are successfully appealing their licence rejection because of the lack of clarity in the bylaw. As an unintended consequence this action has eroded public trust and safety. The idea that anyone that has been convicted of crime is allowed to drive the public concerns me, and as a City we have a responsibility to only license those who we feel confident will keep our citizens safe.

On March 6th this item is coming to Community and Public Services Committee for debate. My priority is public safety and will work to have clarity of rules and expectations. Let me know your thoughts or come and speak to this issue at Committee. You can register to speak at committee or public hearing here.

Good neighbours

As the snow continues to fall, the days get shorter and the Christmas trees go up, it’s a reminder to me that winter is here, and it’s here to stay. For me the change of season brings with it a sense of excited anticipation; of spending time with family, having my grandchildren help me decorate and buying gifts for loved ones. It’s also the time of year that reminds me of all the changes that winter brings.

Edmonton is a winter City, the results of which affect many parts of our lives, one of the biggest being winter driving. As a Vision Zero City we have a goal of reducing traffic fatalities to zero, it’s important to remember that no matter how good of a job our road crews do clearing our streets, areas still remain slippery. Giving yourself a few extra minutes to drive to wherever your day leads can eliminate many traffic problems, and help protect our vulnerable road users such as children and the elderly.

Winter also brings with it the Holiday season. It’s a time of giving gifts and celebrating the warmth of family and friends. However not all Edmontonians have the same experience over Christmas, there are many individuals and families who can’t make ends meet and will not be able to afford gifts or a Christmas meal. The food bank is a wonderful organisation in our City that aims to provide anyone in need with essentials. This year their goal is to raise 350,000 kilograms of food and $1.8 million between now and January 11, 2019.

We have a lot to be thankful for and as we get into the season of giving lets do all that we can to lend our neighbours a helping hand. Many longtime Edmontonians in our neighbourhoods may need help shoveling and clearing ice, but very few will ask for help. The best way to help is by asking if they need a hand. There are also some resources for those looking for help at edmonton.ca/snowangels

This time of the year may be cold outside, but the way that so many Edmontonians give makes our City such a warm place to be in the winter.

UN Safe Cities

Last week I attended UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders Forum which included much discussion on reducing sexual harassment and assault in public places in cities. The City of Edmonton is a wonderful City made up of many caring individuals, however, we still face a growing concern with violence and sexual assault. The majority of gender based violence is committed against women and girls, which points to roots of the violence about gender equality.  It’s an important issue for everyone to be a part of as violence against women and girls has economic, social, emotional, and physical impacts that limit their ability to fully participate in civic and political life. This could limit their potential as an individual, and their potential within the greater community. Men and boys play a large part in reducing this problem by being strong allies and advocates against violence and sexual assault .

As a City we saw the need to step in to help with this issue. In April 2015 the City of Edmonton’s initiative on gender-based violence and sexual assault prevention was initiated by Council, its aim is to end gender-based and sexual violence in Edmonton. If we want to achieve gender equity and empowerment, it is critical our public spaces are safe for everyone. A city free of sexual violence in public spaces is a city that is safe for all.

Edmonton is increasing crime prevention through environmental design audits of green spaces, transit terminals or other public spaces, with the intention of making spaces safer and more inclusive for everyone. The aim is to help people better anticipate their surroundings, feel welcome and know that services are easily available.

In 2016, Edmonton became the second ‘safe’ city in Canada to join the United Nations Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative to make urban public spaces safe and empowering for women and girls.

As we have been working on this initiative we have learned that we need to clarify what gender based violence is – that it’s not just physical acts – but includes actions such as verbal and emotional harm. Understanding this helped us come up with and launch the “Its Time Yeg” campaign and itstimeyeg.ca to help people understand the effects of their actions. We know that working together is the only way we’ll end gender based violence.

There is a shared civic responsibility for stewarding these kinds of changes, and they must be done together. It’s important to acknowledge we all have a role to play in creating safe, inclusive spaces. Would you partner with me in standing against gender based violence?