Vehicle traffic in Edmonton down by 50% during pandemic

Apr 24 2020, 12:14 pm

The City of Edmonton is continuing to adapt its transportation strategy as fewer drivers use the roads during the pandemic but more pedestrians and cyclists try to get outside for exercise.

Only half the usual number of cars are on Edmonton’s roads, according to the city’s measuring systems, said Olga Messinis, director of traffic operations with the city.

The reduction in vehicle traffic means the city has been able to repair more potholes than usual (6% more compared to this time last year), but it also means more walkers, joggers, and cyclists are out because gyms, yoga studios, and other ways to exercise are off-limits for now.

The city is closing more streets to vehicle traffic to allow people walking and cycling more space to get outside while still physically distancing. Starting Friday, lanes in certain sections of Saskatchewan Drive will be blocked to vehicles.

“What we’re trying to do is establish a network of expanded sidewalks to serve … downtown, high density areas,” Messinis said at a press conference Friday. “These are the areas where we don’t have the privilege of a backyard.”

Other streets with some lanes closed to vehicles include Victoria Promenade and the 104 Street Service Road.

Asking drivers to slow down

Even though fewer cars are on the road, the city’s director of traffic safety, Jessica Lamarre, said staff are still seeing “serious driver behaviour concerns.” Troubling behaviour includes excessive speed and unnecessary noise.

“We need every Edmontonian to pitch in. If you must leave your home, drive the speed limit. And keep in mind, Edmonton streets are for everyone,” she said.

A side effect of closing certain lanes to traffic is that drivers tend to move more slowly in the remaining lanes that are open to cars. Staff hope this can help keep pedestrians safe.

Walkers, hikers, joggers, encouraged to follow coronavirus precautions

Staff ask people who use Edmonton’s streets and parks for exercise to remember to stay two metres apart from one another and to pass each other in single-file. They’re also encouraging people to turn to neighbourhood parks instead of congregating at busy trails.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really changed how we move,” Messinis said. “We understand the benefits of outdoor activities, and we want to keep everyone safe.”