Catching up with 2018 in Pedestrian Infrastructure.

Quick updates on how pedestrian infrastructure fared in 2018 in Saskatoon:

  1. Additional Funding for Active Transportation Plan Implementation Denied but at least not Cut Entirely.

Lobbying the city to fund the implementation of the recommendations from the Active Transportation Plan is one of groups’s highest priorities.  As you can read in our last entry, city council didn’t agree with us and voted against increasing funding to the ATP but at least motions to defund the ATP implementation entirely as well as ending all funding to the Meewasin Valley Authority(!) were defeated. We’ll be back on this item next year and we’ve heard the city might have some ideas as well. The vote to defund ATP implementation and the MVA was completely shocking and won’t be forgotten election time.

2. Sid Buckwold Bridge gets some Upgrades to its Walkway

A major link in the city’s AT network, the Sid Buckwold Bridge is hugely substandard for what its role should be and having the city widen its existing pathway and adding a pathway to the west side was a big focus for Walking Saskatoon. Given the nearby Traffic Bridge/Victoria Avenue upgrades and a large bill for upgrades, council decided not to do any additional improvements to the pathway beyond what was planned as part of an already-existing bridge maintenance plan but the existing pathway is getting an additional 30cm in width and expanded walk barriers as part of already planned work.

It’s not nothing but it is disappointing that in 2018 the active transportation aspects of major roadways are still mostly an afterthought in Saskatoon, although in contrast…

3. The Traffic Bridge/Victoria Avenue Upgrades were Completely Fantastic

The new Traffic Bridge, with 3M-wide walkways on both sides of the bridge, good connections to the Meewasin Trail and the Complete Streets upgrade of Victoria Avenue from the new bridge to Broadway Avenue is the best transportation project the City has ever done. Kudos all around.



4. Vision Zero is kind of a Thing, maybe, sort of..

Several years after the city first examined Vision Zero, the urban planning principle to get traffic fatalities to zero that’s had great success around the world, Councillor Bev Dubois led an internal effort to examine the idea more. What will come of this newest push is largely uncertain, but we covered the city’s uneven efforts towards applying Vision Zero ideals and provided a comprehensive look at what Vision Zero brings to a community.

5. As Speed Limit Reduction became a Hot Topic.

One of the core concepts around Vision Zero is the reduction of speed limits (with adequate enforcement). City council took some steps toward reducing speeds on non-arterials to 40 km/h, which would be a good start towards saving lives.

Why do speed limit reductions save lives? It’s simple, the slower a car is going the more awareness a driver has and the less force an impact hits a pedestrian with.

Speed of impact vs. pedestrian survival


6. Infill Sidewalks in 2018 and why we might not see New Infill Sidewalks for a Long Time:

Every November sees the announcement of the streets that will receive sidewalks in the coming year. For 2018 the lucky winners are:

North side of Brudell Avenue from Taylor Street to Boychuk Avenue in Lakeridge/Wildwood:

35th St. between Ave. I and Ave. F in Mayfair:

Both of these projects (along with 60 accessibility sidewalk curb ramps) were funded out of the 1.1M Active Transportation Plan implementation budget. In the past few years new infill sidewalk construction has been funded out of the traffic safety reserve. However, this year both the province and the city raided the traffic safety reserve for money on a permanent basis. The province, for general revenue and the city, for Neighbourhood Traffic Plan implementation and ‘controversial project handling’ (see: the 9th Street road closure and the Avalon traffic calming plan). This is disappointing news for the already underfunded infill sidewalk construction program.

7. WCMUC is a Pleasant Surprise but Delayed.

The sprightly-named West-Central Multi-use Corridor is a multi-use pathway that the City is planning to build along the rail lines west of Idylwyld and north of 11th Street, paid for with a rail safety grant from the federal government. We covered it a few months ago.

The most recent news is that construction (scheduled to start Fall 2018) has been delayed while the city does more planning and tries to raise more money to do the complete walkway. The federal grant that is to pay for the bulk of the project has a time limit by which any work done with the grant has to be completed so we’re not sure how the city is going to square this. We hope to report more about this great project next year.

Active Transportation and the 2019 Saskatoon City Budget

Click to see the text of our budget request

Active transportation (AT) is a great way to make connections in your community, as well as to improve your health. Research shows that investments in active transportation infrastructure and supports provides a suite of benefits, including reduced injuries, improved health, and reductions in carbon dioxide and other combustion-based pollutants. Through savings in health care, and with an appropriate cost on carbon, these investments provide a high benefit-cost ratios; this means that by encouraging and facilitating active transportation, the City can improve the lives of its citizens, reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions, and also save money in the long-run.

Parks and natural areas can be a vital part of an active lifestyle. For example, the Meewasin Trail System offers a beautiful and well-maintained year-round trail for active transportation. The province recently rejigged funding for the Meewasin Valley Authority, leaving it at-risk for chronic under-funding. As providers of cultural, environmental, and transportation connections to the city and its riverine neighbourhoods, we recognize the importance of a well-funded MVA in supporting our connection to the river valley, and in maintaining our pathways.

In November, City Council was set to task to allocate funds and set priorities through the budget process. As advocates for pedestrians and active transportation, Walking Saskatoon submitted a call for Council to increase funding for the Active Transportation Reserve, used for the implementation of the Active Transportation Plan (ATP), as well as to fund a full time manager position out of the Operations budget (you can find the link at the top of this post).

Currently, the manager is paid out of the implementation budget from the AT reserve fund, leaving little for actual implementation. At current funding levels, implementation is constrained to low-hanging fruit, and will never achieve meaningful gains and progress towards implementing and seeing in full the benefits of an active transportation city.

At the vote, motions were introduced to reduce ATP phase-in funding down to $0, and also to reduce MVA funding to $0 (see item 6.14.2, motions 13+14 at this link to see how Councillors voted). Our thanks to Councillors who voted against these motions, which were defeated, at least preserving current funding levels and providing some security to the MVA moving forward. We continue to advocate for a more equitable distribution of city resources and funding towards pedestrian-related infrastructure, safety, and monitoring.