As part of the construction of the WCMUC (West-Central Multi-Use Trail) the city has come up with a design to fix the rail/road crossing at the confluence of the CP tracks, Avenue N and 19th Street. This unsafe crossing situation has led to complaints from both CP and area residents. This is the situation now:
The City of Saskatoon has been working towards a build-out of an All Ages and Abilities cycling route, as laid out in the 2016 Active Transportation Plan. In the plan, the southwest portion of Saskatoon was to be connected to the cycling network via infrastructure on 11th St W. After additional consideration, the City has decided to that Dudley St, with less regular and truck traffic, would be a more desirable and possibly safer route. The Dudley Street Bikeway project would connect an existing multi-use path west of Dawes Ave, the Gordie How recreation complex, and the Holiday Park and King George neighbourhoods to the Meewasin Valley Trail.
Pending detailed design (beginning 2021), the project was initially costed at $2.7M. In 2022, City councillors voted against funding the project.
In August, a few members of Walking Saskatoon met up with some other pedestrian-loving folks for a walk along Dudley Street. We wanted to find out what Dudley is like right now for active transporters, and to talk about how to make Dudley St. better for people who walk.
First, a little bit more about the project. As shown in Figure 1 below, the Dudley Street project includes a shared multi-use pathway on the south side of Dudley, from Dawes Ave east to Avenue P (#1 in the image). Then, continuing from Ave P east to Spadina Crescent, the road will become a bikeway (#2 in the image) with sidewalk infill ‘where feasible’ (“Neighbourhood Bikeways Project: Dudley Street Corridor – 2020“).
Currently, there are sidewalks only in a relatively small section of Dudley, and even then only a few blocks where both sides have sidewalks. There are also more than twice as many intersections without curb ramps than with, and some intersections with ramps only in some directions.
Figure 2 below shows the corridor in relation to other ATP infrastructure. Dudley is marked by yellow dashes, and extends from Spadina Crescent in the east to Dawes Ave in the west (Dudley then turns south and eventually terminates at Fletcher Rd).
For the rest of the post, follow along with us on our journey west towards Dawes Ave, sometimes on a sidewalk but more often sharing the road with vehicles. At each stop along the way, we took some photos, discussed the proposed infrastructure, identified potential issues and opportunities, and generally tried to imagine what it would be like to have a space dedicated for pedestrians and cyclists. We hope you enjoy the trip!
For all intersections along Dudley, north/south traffic control would change from yield to stop. This could be a sticky point for drivers, but it is much needed to ensure efficient flow for active transportation. This section will include sidewalk infill, getting us pedestrians up and off the roadway. But for new sidewalks, not only are there trees to contend with, but also the occasional parking spot.
We certainly appreciated respite from the heat in the shade of some large trees!
Curb extensions on the south east, south west, and north west corners of the intersection will give greater visibility to pedestrians and cyclists looking to cross the street. They also narrow the road, which typically means drivers will slow down. Because parking within 10 metres of an intersection is restricted in Bylaw 7200 (Schedule 1, #4), curb extensions should not affect parking. Again, loving the shade trees.
Here as well, the yields would be replaced with stop signs. Interestingly, there would be a raised crosswalk running north/south at Ave N, on the west side of the intersection, and also one north/south at Ave O, on the east side of the intersection (see the middle image in the top row, below). At this point in the project design, bike traffic will share the road with vehicles. Note also the lack of curb ramps; this will also be remedied.
Curb extensions are planned for the west side of the street. Bike and pedestrian traffic going west on Dudley will meet a stop sign here. A crossing light will be installed to stop north/south traffic. You can see additional design details below.
This was the last substantial shade we had for the rest of the trip. Our discussion turned to the idea of respite and we imagined how the corner of the block could be transformed into a functional rest stop: shaded seating, drinking water fountain, and a public toilet would provide relief for many needs. This last ‘amenity’ is something our members have been pursuing elsewhere: the lack of access to a public toilet can actually be something that becomes a barrier to use for many people.
The stop sign here will swap to the north/south direction on Ave W South. This picture shows a very different view compared to the eastern part of Dudley. As an industrial area, there are few trees, and their absence was sorely missed in the heat. While we were able to cool down in the shade of some of the buildings, this section was mostly concrete, and very hot. Additional trees or other sun-shading on the south side of Dudley would make this section much more tolerable for pedestrians.
The project ends at Dawes Ave, where it connects with the multi-use pathway that ends up running south and then east, adjacent to Circle Drive (see the map and image below for the intersection detail). Unfortunately, as it was scorching hot, we did not make it all the way to Dawes Ave for a picture, instead returning to the river for refreshments and discussion.
Dudley St is ready for some infill and upgrades, and we are glad to see the City taking initial steps to plan and cost it out. There are supporters in the neighbourhood, especially one major destination: the Gordie Howe Sports Complex (read their submission to council here). The partner groups not only want to support active transportation, but also want to ensure that people who use it can do so safely.
Saskatoon Cycles is also in support of the project (their submission here), but with some changes from a bike-oriented perspective. Specifically, they are calling for a separated bike lane west of Ave P, and lower vehicle speed limits east of Ave P. Both of these would improve not only the cyclist experience, but also the pedestrians. Keeping bikes separated from pedestrians will reduce the risk of collision between pedestrians and cyclists, and reduced speed limits along the rest of the route will also reduce risk of vehicles striking pedestrians.
Saskatoon Cycles also identified the need for additional work to improve nearby sidewalk quality and connectivity, and a link across Circle Drive. Connectivity across Circle has been a concern for us as well, and we hope that the City is able to take these comments to the drawing board. If we’re going to build a corridor and want it to be used, we have to support people in getting there.
One final comment from Walking Saskatoon would be that these planned changes need to be implemented in a way that makes the corridor suitable for all seasons. Will there be an appropriate level of service from the City to support people walking and cycling through here? Having the infrastructure without adequate seasonal maintenance will certainly not induce or inspire its use.
Thanks for coming with us on this adventure. We encourage you to take the tour (in better weather, perhaps), and hope to see this project funded soon.
In Summary: The City of Saskatoon needs to prioritise developing the environmentally and fiscally sustainable University Sector neighbourhoods over disconnected greenfield developments. Additionally, the city should completely cancel the development of the University Heights #3 neighbourhood.
Walking Saskatoon spends a lot of time advocating for the retrofitting of pedestrian infrastructure into existing neighbourhoods. What if we didn’t have to?
The true walkability of a city is determined well before any concrete is poured or houses built. Where neighbourhoods are located and how they are designed are by far the biggest influences on transportation choices made by residents. The walkability and sustainability of a city follow inexorably from the area and neighbourhood master plans developed by city planners and housing developers years before construction.
The City of Saskatoon is currently at an important crossroads when it comes to choosing which new neighbourhoods to develop next. Saskatoon is in a unique position for a North American city, in that there are significant amounts of undeveloped land near the centre of the city’s geographic footprint. Critically, these lands are not brownfield or greyfield industrial plots in need of expensive remediation. In addition, the University of Saskatchewan has decided to relocate its research fields and endowment lands outside of the City. The lack of any serious manufacturing history in the city, combined with the University’s massive land holdings have given the City the chance to develop new, truly walkable neighbourhoods close to existing services.
City of Saskatoon University Sector Plan
To increase walkability in Saskatoon, developing the University Sector Plan (USP) neighbourhoods need to be the absolute first priority for the city. They are substantially served by existing road, pathway, sewer and water infrastructure, making them a lot cheaper for the city to develop than greenfield neighbourhoods. Not only is it cheaper for taxpayers, but the sector’s proximity to the University, the Meewasin Valley, North End Industrial and Downtown makes these neighbourhoods ideal for walking and biking. More active transportation means further savings for the City on transportation maintenance cost, while improving the quality of life and health of neighbourhood residents. The University explicitly mentions active transportation as a primary design goal of the University sector neighbourhoods, ensuring that their central location won’t be wasted with car-centric design.
Another infill neighbourhood the city should prioritise for development is the North Downtown/Idylwyld corridor. The area’s location, bridging North Downtown with the Saskatchewan Polytech campus, makes it a prime candidate for student residences and other Sask Poly expansion. The North Downtown area master plan was developed by the city ten years ago, but it clearly has no momentum. This is an opportunity to replace the current plan with a more student-focused one. Replacing the thousands of daily car trips made by commuting students with a walkable route to campus would be a major benefit for both the students and the city.
North Downtown Industrial
While new infill neighbourhoods and infill in existing neighbourhoods should clearly be preferred for priority development, it still may not be enough to house a population of 1 million by 2050, if those projections come to pass. This means we will have to build greenfield neighbourhoods, but we must choose ones that integrate well with the city’s active transportation plan and are environmentally sustainable.
One planned neighbourhood that clearly fails that test is the upcoming University Heights #3 neighbourhood. This neighbourhood is part of the University Heights sector development, which is in the process of building out several neighbourhoods in an environmentally sensitive prairie wetland area. In addition,the Province is planning to build out a major highway through the area, further compounding environmental and financial damage. The last area to be developed(UH#3), is the worst environmental offender of all, planned right on top of the Northeast and Small Swales, two locally and regionally important environmental areas. This is the kind of damaging greenfield development that can be easily cancelled in place of further emphasising the fantastic infill opportunity Saskatoon possesses.
Thanks to Councillor Gough for alerting us to the proposed new rules for walking/biking detours during road construction. Everyone who walks in Saskatoon knows that this has been a huge issue for a long time and we are ecstatic that formal rules are being established.
Had a great discussion with Friend of Walking Saskatoon (it’s a title!) Ward 2 Councillor Hilary Gough about pedestrian issues in her ward, especially focusing on missing sidewalks, beg buttons and the contintued development of the West-Central Multi-Use Corridor rail trail throughout her ward. Check out our presentation below and also see walkability reports for each neighbourhood in Ward 2.
Had a great discussion with freind of Walking Saskatoon Mayor Clark about pedestrian issues in Saskatoon a couple of weeks ago. We heard two great pieces of news: first, that curb ramps on sidewalks will now be automatially installed when regular road maintenance is happening, second, that the Traffic Safety Reserve is still active and available for funding projects.
The latter is quite important, as it is one of the few dedicated sources of funding for sidewalk construction and pedestrian safety projects in the city. We thought it had been taken fully away from the city by the province a few years ago, but Mayor Clark gave us a great clarification that is was just speeding ticket revenue, not red light camera revenue, that was re-directed. That means there’s still (a small) pot of money available for consistent funding of pedestrian-focused capital projects in the city.
We also asked Mayor Clark to keep the bug buttons off city streets. They are explicitly anti-pedestrian and don’t even work correctly.
Had a great discussion with Ward 6 councillor and good friend of Walking Saskatoon Cynthia Block about pedestrian issues in the ward. She was a great help last term in taking the lead on directing federal funding towards pedestrian infrastructure and advocating for the new 20-year sidewalk replacement cycle, two of the biggest funding wins in years at the city.
Our discussion, as always in Ward 6, focused on the still large number of missing sidewalks (despite several blocks slated for construction this summer) and how and if fees from new infill developments can be directed to neighbourhood improvements where the developments are happening. With five new projects in the Ward this year this issue is top-of-mind.
Check out our presentation below and walkability evaluations for each neighbourhood in the ward.
Had a good chat with new Ward Councillor David Kirton about pedestrian issues in Ward 3. He told us a great story via Moe Neault about Fairhaven residents half-jokingly wanting to keep potholes unfixed to slow cars down on Fairhaven Drive. Ward 3 is full of long, straight, dangerous four-lane roads that encourage speeding and few places to safely cross for pedestrians (“airport runways” quipped Councillor Kirton). The lack of safe crossing and excessive speed on these streets have been brought repeatedly up in area traffic reviews and we discussed this with the Councillor.
While we are talking about Ward 3, check out the walkability evaluations for the neighbourhoods in the ward: