If you’ve recently been behind the wheel in Alberta, you’ve likely spotted some changes: new crosswalks, more separated bike lanes, and signs announcing lowered speed limits. Such measures are part of an effort to make roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and, yes, motorists too.
Over the past half-decade, a number of municipalities have committed to Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. In Edmonton, education and enforcement campaigns led to a 56% reduction in traffic-related deaths (and a 40% decline in serious injuries) between 2015 and 2019. Late last year, the city adopted a five-year Safe Mobility Strategy, laying out further steps toward achieving Vision Zero by 2032.
Roads for people
“Our initial efforts focused on vehicular traffic,” says Jessica Lamarre, Edmonton’s director of Safe Mobility. “But our strategy is now more holistic. It’s about all modes of transportation and street equity—recognizing that the road isn’t just for cars; it’s for people.”
It’s also based on extensive consultation with residents, community groups and organizations including AMA. Other cities have taken a similar approach, combining public discussion and data analysis to ensure plans are targeted, equitable and flexible. The goal: Create solutions that are tailored to each community, and which can be modified based on community feedback.
Lethbridge, for example, has seen success building roundabouts, and is now looking at installing “smart” right turn channels that improve drivers’ ability to see crossing pedestrians. Edmonton hopes to engage artists to make crosswalks more visually impactful. Canmore is reconstructing its busiest intersections to better serve the town’s many cyclists, pedestrians and transit users.
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Sharing the road with RVs, motorcyles and bicycles
Mindful of mistakes
Though each municipality tailors tactics to its needs, they all have something in common: the recognition that 80% of all crashes are the result of driver error. “That means nearly all traffic-related injuries and deaths are preventable,” says Jeff Kasbrick, vice-president of advocacy and operations at AMA.
“For many of us, driving is critical to our quality of life and livelihoods. But it’s also the riskiest activity we do in a day—and we do it every day,” he adds.
As such, the latest thinking about road safety emphasizes design solutions that minimize chances for drivers to make mistakes—while building in safeguards to lessen the damage if a collision does occur. In Calgary, traffic-calming curbs narrow roadways to make speeding less likely. This, in turn, gives drivers more time to react to surprises and decreases the likelihood of death or serious injury in a crash.
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Taking steps toward safer roads in Alberta
Lamarre points out that such changes have important cascading effects: “When streets are safer, more people are comfortable navigating them by foot or bicycle,” she says. “That has incredible impacts for public health, climate resilience and even the local economy.”
Moving forward together
As more Albertans choose active modes of transportation (even in winter), improving road safety for all users is vital. Using a combination of education, enforcement and engineering, Alberta municipalities are working toward Vision Zero.
AMA supports these adaptable, community-led measures, and recognizes that local input will be vital to their success. As Kasbrick says, “If we all work together, we can create streets that are safe for everyone.”