It’ll be several years before substantial changes are made to the High Level Bridge, but some modest tweaks are planned for the two shared use paths to make life easier for cyclists and pedestrians.
Council’s Urban Planning Committee was told that’s all that can be done in the short term after a summer of tight squeezes as suicide barriers were erected to solve another chronic problem.
At least two suicides have been prevented Coun. Scott McKeen anecdotally told the meeting on word he’s gotten second hand from EMS paramedics.
Since the two paths were reopened this summer things have returned to some sort of normalcy said Chris Chan of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society. “It’s been okay,” Chan told reporters.
“Things aren’t that bad which is why we aren’t advocating for that one-way operation. Because we haven’t been hearing a lot of problems. Certainly not problems that were different than from before the barriers were installed.”
A safety audit recommended one-way traffic in each side of the bridge, however that was rejected by transportation engineers as being unworkable because of the configuration of 109 street at each end of the bridge.
Chan said life is a lot easier for the time being, after his group heard of 60 incidents over the summer. “There were pedestrians that were being hit by bikes,” he said. “There were bikes that were running into the barriers or into the other parts of the bridge. There were at least a couple of times where EMS had to respond and take some one away in an ambulance, as well as there were several bikes that were destroyed. Some of them were pretty serious incidents.”
However none of those 60 incidents were reported to 311 so they could be tracked, Chan said.
Over the short term, city staff will look at lighting, the rails that hold the barriers in place, while erecting signs reminding every one to slow down, clear some space, and remember they’re not alone on the bridge.
“To alert pedestrians and cyclists around the shared element of the facility,” said Adam Laughlin, the city’s GM of infrastructure. “We’re also, as part of previous work, undertaking an education campaign to raise awareness around the fact we have a corridor here that is shared and comes with challenges in terms of space.”
That need to remind every one of the importance of etiquette is needed said McKeen. “We walked across the bridge and it was funny. There were two NDP MLAs along with us on this walk and they couldn’t stay in the right lane, they kept drifting to the left for some reason strangely.”
Laughlin said the long term solution will be found in the 2020’s when the High Level Bridge is due for its next major upgrade. “Timing wise for bridge rehab is a bit up in the air in that from a downtown perspective our next priority is the Groat Bridge. That’s being tentatively scheduled for the end of this capital budget cycle or early next budget cycle, so 2018 or 2019, so it would be after that.”
The city does not have any cost estimates of what is needed to upgrade the two shared use paths to accommodate more pedestrians and cyclists, or to reconfigure 109 street at either end of the bridge.