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.

Child Friendly Edmonton

Often I am asked what making a child friendly City means, and why it’s important. Children and adults learn in completely different ways, and children often learn best through play. Unfortunately for many years play has been getting pushed further back in City building priorities. We are changing that! Child Friendly Edmonton has a clear vision: to create a vibrant, connected, safe, sustainable and welcoming city. When planning on how to build a vibrant downtown, City, or community, often children are the last individuals who are thought about because they don’t have a voice among City planners, developers  and decision makers. A child-friendly city welcomes and involves children and youth and promotes their well-being and safety.

Edmonton Public Libraries are great examples of planners taking a child’s need to play into perspective when designing. A library is a place where families can all spend time in different areas and learn in many different ways. As the new Stanley Milner library is planned and built, Child Friendly principles have been used to help create spaces that ensure that children’s needs and desires are taken into account. The new library will have some exciting play elements for children and great resources for parents.

Last year the City launched a CHILD FRIENDLY BUSINESS RECOGNITION PROGRAM that aims to give parents ideas of restaurants and business’ that they will be able to bring their children to where they will be welcomed and feel comfortable. Each business will have amenities for families, and activities for children. Staff at these recognized business’ should be patient, friendly and understanding taking the time to greet and welcome their younger customers. Visit edmonton.ca/childfriendly to find one of the 144 business’ already recognized or nominate a Child Friendly business today!

We are also hard at work developing a guide to encourage “Play Streets” which has the goal of reactivating streets to be used for all people. Communities are encouraged to host a “play street” where the street is closed for a day allowing children and families to enjoy the space without having to worry about traffic.  

As a City we are constantly looking for new ways to hear from Children and create spaces where they can learn, have fun and feel safe. A child friendly City doesn’t just benefit children, it allows families to feel at home no matter where they are in the City. Building strong and healthy children, families and individuals will make our City stronger in every area.


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?

Slowing down around playgrounds

The importance of playground zones for the safety of children

Councillor Bev Esslinger

May 15, 2018

There has been a lot of conversation lately about playground zones and the guidelines and rules around implementing playground zones. I wanted to take this opportunity to revisit why I have always supported playground zones and their importance for the safety of children.

 

The lower speed limit in playground zones (30km/h):

  • Increases livability of neighbourhoods;
  • Moves us towards Vision Zero, the City’s goal of zero traffic related fatalities and serious injuries; and
  • Protect vulnerable road users: children.

 

Since the implementation of playground zones has only recently been completed here in Edmonton, we can look to the City of Calgary for the impacts of implementing playground zones and changing school zones to playground zones. In 2017, the City of Calgary worked with the University of Calgary to conduct a before-and-after study to determine the impacts of combining school and playground zone signs and the times they are in effect. The results of the study indicate:

  • The average speed decreased from 36 km/h to 30 km/h.
  • The number of collisions involving pedestrians within school and playground zones decreased by 33 percent, with a 70 percent decrease between 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • More than 80 percent of the respondents found it easier to remember the zone times with a single zone type that is consistent throughout the year.

 

To recap, playground zones lowered speeds, and lowered collisions, especially outside of regular school zone hours. This increased safety is the goal of playground zones and something I fully support.

 

So when you see the signs reminding you to slow to 30 km/hr from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year, please remember why it’s important to slow down.