The number of lanes on a northwest community boulevard will be cut in half, with the hope that area drivers will lighten up on the gas.
Silver Springs Community Association (SSCA) and the City of Calgary teamed up to put temporary installations on the boulevard to calm traffic, before a final round of public engagement.
A 2018 traffic safety survey and a number of engagement nights with residents led the association to conclude the four lanes of boulevard traffic were a major concern.
“We heard a number of near misses, and even some, thankfully, non-lethal accidents,” the SSCA said in an emailed response.
“Frequently we heard from seniors, and families with young children who wished to move freely through the community, but felt they couldn’t do so safely. We also saw and heard from many adult cyclists using the sidewalk rather than the boulevard as they don’t feel safe sharing Silver Springs Boulevard with vehicles.”
The boulevard was originally designed for higher speed traffic, with wide turns, as a feeder road for the abandoned project of Sarcee bridge over the Bow River.
“This street is really overbuilt, so it’s not surprising that it would make a speeding condition where residents wouldn’t be feeling safe,” Jen Malzer, a transportation engineer with the City of Calgary, said.
The pilot project was designed to find a balance where everyone can move freely throughout the community without jeopardizing the feeling of being safe.
The outside lanes on the boulevard have been converted using temporary materials to create wheeling lanes, effectively narrowing the street and shortening pedestrian crosswalks.
The boulevard was built with the capacity for 25,000 cars.
“It currently only sees a quarter of that, so we had the opportunity to reduce the size of the boulevard and improve the comfort and safety for other modes of travel than cars,” SSCA said in the email.
“These changes to the Boulevard are significant, and will impact every person in our community.”
The reason for these temporary installations prior to the final round of engagement is to provide the community a try before you buy approach.
“The benefit is that people can experience a new sort of lived experience and see how it may not affect their day to day but see how maybe other residents in the neighbourhood benefit or experience challenges,” she said.
The public engagement is set to take place virtually on June 23, 2021.
While residents have expressed varying opinions on the temporary installations, both the community association and the City have seen an extensive amount of support.
“We’re always going to have mixed opinions … we try to understand what the challenges might be, but we’re really actually hearing a really positive response from a lot of families in the neighbourhood,” Malzer said.
St. Sylvester School, situated on a wide curve of the boulevard, has also been involved in the project to ensure the design out work with the bustle of pick-up and drop-off.
“We are hearing from families who can now send their kids to school with confidence that they will be safe,” SSCA said.
The temporary wheeling lanes in front of the elementary school were completed on Wednesday, but the installations along the rest of the boulevard will still take a few weeks and will require temporary road closures.
“We had many residents noting the welcome reduction of speeding on the boulevard and many have witnessed an increase of cyclist traffic on the boulevard. That being said, there are a number of people who are not fond of them,” the SSCA said.
“The City has noted that they will be continuing to make changes should additional challenges be found.”