22nd Street in Saskatoon bisects some of the poorest neighbouroods in the city, those that are the least likely to own cars and the most likely to walk or use transit. As discussed in Part 1 of our series 22nd is also among the most dangerous streets in the province, with double-digit pedestrian-car collisions resulting in injury or death in 2017 alone.
Knowing the vulnerable population that relies on this street for access to education, services, groceries, jobs and health care, what care does the city take to ensure safe and accessible conditions along this corridor? Let’s take a look.
The only grocery store in the area is on 22nd and Avenue W. To get there involves traversing streets that look like this:
It’s probably best to think of it like a video game when you are pushing a shopping cart full of groceries or a stroller down these streets. Make it fun for youself while you try to avoid slipping on the ice and snow into the street.
The city and media don’t like to acknowledge dangerous conditions for walkers on 22nd, perferring to repeatedly blame pedestrians for jaywalking even though the large majority of pedestrian-involved crashes on 22nd are the fault of the car driver.
However, even when a pedestrian crosses against the right of way can they really be blamed? Not only are the streets on 22nd by and large inaccessible due to snow, ice, dirt, dust, narrowness and lack of curb cuts but even an alternative route through parallel streets is full of dangers:
Saskatoon owes a basic right to its citizens of safe and accessible transportation. This is not happening right now where its needed most, and it’s a shameful and continuing failure of the whole city. 22nd street is dangerous by design and needs to be made safer immediately.
Continue on to our next post where we present immediate and desperately needed fixes to make 22nd Street safer for walkers.
While the city has embarked on a stakeholder engagement process to “Imagine Idylwyld” not much has been done to improve 22nd.
So what can we do to improve the notorious corridor? The city has been considering making changes to the stretch of road since prior to 2015. They have installed a couple of pedestrian activated traffic lights and have mused about several other interventions; some easy and inexpensive like desynchronizing lights or narrowing drive lanes and some more difficult/expensive/disruptive like installing fences or pedestrian overpasses.
Vision Zero suggest some fast fixes to improve places where drivers and people meet. Among them, there are several that stand out for 22nd Street. Here are are our Vision Zero-inspired recommendations for starting to make 22nd Street safe and accesible for all road users:
Painting crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections and adding rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) is an easy and cheap way to indicate to drivers to watch for pedestrians while providing more points to cross. Existing crosswalks also need to be properly maintained.
Bring sidewalks up to code and make them passable in all seasons.
The city has a legal and moral responsibility to build sidewalks to code and maintain them in a passable state in all seasons. This means increasing the size of sidewalks to conform with ADA code, shoveling and de-icing in winter and removing water and dust in summer. Even better would be added treed medians to shield walkers from traffic.
Enforce speed limits and traffic infractions with automated cameras that would be used as dedicated funding for streetscape improvements. Reducing speed limits would help but be tremendously unpopular and likely unsuccessful based on the road design.
Enforcing current traffic rules on speed, pedestrian right-of-way and red lights would make the street much safer and the fine money raised would be used to fund streetscape and safety improvements.
Saskatoon has had Vision Zero on its radar since its strategic Traffic Safety Action Plan (TSAP) in 2013. It’s been almost five years without any significant commitments to follow through. It’s encouraging to note that two city councillors and Mayor Charlie Clark have confirmed via Twitter in early January that they “are seriously looking into Vision Zero”. Here’s hoping they put their words into action soon.
Thank you. We are seriously looking into Vision Zero for #yxe.
With the city currently engaged in planning for the future bus rapid transit along this corridor, along with the Transit Village near the Confederation Drive intersection and on the heels of the city’s “Imagine Idylwyld” stakeholder engagement and design, Saskatoon has a historic opportunity to re-imagine 22nd Street as a place for people – or at the very least a place where people can cross the street without fear.
22nd Street is a major roadway in Saskatoon in need of a fundamental rethinking, but first we need to stop the bleeding. The wide street used to function as a thoroughfare for highway and truck traffic making its way through the city, but with the opening of Circle Drive South, 22nd Street’s core function changed. Now it is an ultra-wide arterial street connecting the city’s westernmost neighbourhoods to the core while bisecting some very walkable neighbourhoods.
The city is also planning a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and has identified 22nd Street as a key corridor making it exist currently in a state of flux. We are at an interesting moment for 22nd Street providing us with an opportunity to re-imagine the corridor into a great street. This is an excellent idea that will take time to bring the vision to fruition. In the meantime there are some serious concerns that the street is not safe for pedestrians.
The 25 blocks of 22nd Street between Idylwyld Drive and Whitney Avenue is about as bad as it gets for vulnerable user design. There are some critical issues with the design of 22nd street. It is a major west-central arterial roadway that has some similarities to the major north-central arterial road, Idylwyld drive. Both streets are anchored by car centric businesses in their commercial zones but they also bisect residential neighbourhoods for long sections.
On Idylwyld there are generally a maximum of 5 lanes (4 driving + 1 left turn) to cross at any given time, 22nd St has an average of 7 (6 + 1 left turn) from Idylwyld through to Whitney Ave. There are only eight controlled points to cross the street between Idylwyld and Whitney. At these points of crossing, there is only a small median that limits the pedestrian clustering area mid road. The wide road width and few controlled intersections encourage faster speeds making collisions between drivers and vulnerable road users more dangerous.
Check back in a few days for our suggested fixes to make 22nd St. safer for all road users
After some struggles with the first year of the program due to conflicts with median trees, the City of Saskatoon has put in new infill sidewalks for the first time in many years. Courtesy of Nathalie Baudais at the City’s Transportation Department we have some pictures and a list of the work that’s been done so far:
Warrick Baijius and Cam McMillan of Walking Saskatoon presented the proposal for widening the pedestrian pathway on the Sid Buckwold bridge to the city’s Standing Policy Committee on Transportation meeting on June 12th. The presentation was well received by the councillors and met with many positive comments. The committee voted to send the proposal to administration for a formal report on the costs and engineering details of the project. Walking Saskatoon will continue to keep on advocating for the widening right up until the work starts.
The City Standing Policy Committee on Transportation meets on Monday at 2:00 in Council Chambers. Early on the agenda are Warrick Baijius and Cam McMillan from Walking Saskatoon giving a presentation on proposed upgrades to the Idylwyld Bridge walkway. Come down to the meeting to show your support or watch the livestream broadcast.
The following streets will get sidewalks this year where none existed before (as long as council agrees to spend already budgeted money):
Some very high-profile problem blocks will get much needed sidewalks:
Cumberland from 14th to Colony, a major thoroughfare for University commuters and home to a mud-and-snow-bound bus stop:
How about Clarence from Brand to Stonebridge Blvd? A new suburb designed to fix the mistakes of past neighbourhood efforts with regards to walkability but where they forgot to put sidewalks on many major roads?
This led to some changes for the criteria used to select streets to construct sidewalks on. Last year, there was a formula used that incorporated access to parks and schools. This year, access to bus stops was used as the primary criterion given the transit-focused funding source.
Next year, the fight for funding begins again. Walking Saskatoon will be heavily lobbying on the issue, as well as pushing for more transparency in the judging criteria and list of streets that are under consideration for sidewalk infill. However, this year is the most successful ever for infill sidewalk construction in city history and both council and administration are to be commended for their attention to this issue.
Many may have seen Streetsblog’s Sorriest Bus Stop in America contest. Given our city’s too-large collection of sidewalks that start and/or end nowhere in a similarly useless fashion to a bus stop on an Interstate, we are interested in your pictures of stranded sidewalks in Saskatoon. Use the hashtag #sidewhere and/or send it our way via Twitter or Facebook using the links at the left.
We’ve probably all encountered this scenario: you arrive at an intersection on foot and see a green light for the direction you want to cross but the ‘do not go’ hand is up. Do you cross? It seems fine, but in the back of your mind is the worry that you are encountering some esoteric traffic setup that is going to result in you being stranded in the middle of the road in the best case scenario. Of course, in the worst case scenario you are risking getting t-boned by a car. It’s also actually illegal to cross as a pedestrian when you don’t have the signal (or if you start crossing during the countdown timer!)
Why is there this signalling mismatch between pedestrians and cars? The reason is ‘beg buttons’, where pedestrians need to hit the button to not only get the walk signal but to extend the amount of time available to cross to street to a reasonable length.
Why are beg buttons terrible?
No one knows how they work! You can stand at any reasonably trafficked intersection and see how pedestrians treat these buttons. Some hit them, some don’t, and if you took an informal poll probably one of out ten people could tell you exactly what these buttons do. Additionally, most lights downtown don’t require using the button to get the walk signal but the majority of signals in the rest of city do, with no way to tell them apart.
They are explicitly anti-pedestrian. If you miss hitting the button by any amount of time before the crossing window, the walk light will not come on. This causes a double-cycle wait for anyone trying to cross the street on foot. Combine this with the lack of consideration for pedestrian wait times in traffic plans and you can easily have several-minute delays trying to cross (see College Drive for an example)
Add a lack of knowledge about how the buttons work, complicated traffic patterns and long delays in crossing time and you get very unsafe conditions. Five Corners on Broadway, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the city and one that is also adjacent to a K-8 school, resembles a game of Simon Says in terms of the complexity of crossing patterns.
Beg buttons probably have a place on streets with lower pedestrian traffic but for corridors with heavy pedestrian traffic (Broadway, Downtown, College Drive, etc..) they should be eliminated and pedestrians should be able to count on consistent crossing lights and times. Edmonton is already in the process of doing this, recommending in three separate reports for either the full elimination of beg lights or, at the least, their elimination on major shopping corridors.
Reducing the use of beg buttons is an easy and cheap fix to improve pedestrian safety and neighbourhood walkability that Saskatoon should look into doing in short order. Please contact your city councillor and let them know how you feel.