Why Name a Road?
In my last blog post, I talked about my proposal to rename 97 Street, north of the Yellowhead Trail, to ‘Canadian Forces Trail.’ To me, it makes sense. It honours our military; it is appropriate given that the road leads to the largest Army base in Western Canada; and it would help the local businesses by providing distinctive character to the area. I am not set on that idea, but I would like to start a community discussion on possible names. Should it be ‘Canada Street’, ‘Canadian Trail’, or something else?
In this post, I want to discuss the benefits to Edmonton for introducing more place names, recognizing distinct local character, and fixing confusion over addressing. Past Council decisions have caused damage.
Wayfinding is the term for finding your way around an area based on landmarks or other cues.
In Edmonton, we mostly use numbers to name roads, and this is fine from a wayfinding perspective, but we lose the opportunity to honour local areas with namesakes. I believe that many of our principal roads should have names, with the numbers being reserved for smaller roads. The named roads should still hold the place of streets and avenues, just as everyone knows that Whyte Avenue is also 82 Avenue. When you are on 81st and going north, you know that Whyte is next.
In my opinion, every major road in Edmonton should have a name: 97 Street, 137 Avenue, 153 Avenue, etc. Why not? But only if an appropriate name can be found.
The current major roads are not even round numbers. Instead of 97 Street, the road network should have been laid out to make this street 100 Street, for example. There is no significance to these numbers. What does ’97’ mean? Really? I view the numbers on major roads as placeholders, but the small local roads should keep the number system as the system is useful in zeroing-in on where you are going.
Wayne Gretzky was a significant force in Edmonton, and so we named a road after him. I think 99 Street should have been the one renamed in his honour, given the significance of that number, but we chose something else. I think that there would be a lot more meaning to have the name ‘Gretzky’ eternally entrenched with the number ‘99’, as he wore on his Edmonton hockey sweater. It is intuitive, but we seem to reject the obvious…
Many new subdivisions in Edmonton adopt an odd naming protocol in which every road in a small area has the same name, or nearly the same name, with the subtle differences being in the designation of ‘close,’ ‘place,’ or ‘mews’ instead of ‘street’ or ‘avenue.’ These developments are also curvilinear, which means they have abandoned the grid system. Everyone is confused. I am not advocating for repetition of this when I talk about naming our principal thoroughfares.
We are a proud city in a proud province. We have plenty of things to name roads after. In a manner of moments, I could produce a huge list of suggestions that we could cherry-pick from. I would start with a list of all cities in Alberta and generate suggestions from it (e.g. Westlock Avenue). From here I would consider the capital cities of other provinces (e.g. Regina Street), followed by provincial names (e.g. Newfoundland Landing), followed by other capitals (e.g. Paris Boulevard), and then American states (e.g. Montana Avenue). I would also run through a list of notable Albertans. I could generate a list of a thousand names in no time, but the only one that I would like to pursue at this time is Canadian Forces Trail.
The Past Proposal for 97 Street
The previous efforts to rename most of 97 Street to ‘Heroes Boulevard’ is different than my current modest proposal of ‘Canadian Forces Trail.’ 97 Street is large and includes Chinatown. Chinatown is great and unique. It doesn’t require a military name, which could help explain why this suggestion was previously rejected, among other reasons. My proposal is bite-sized, because it only applies to the area north of the Yellowhead. The road segment in question is the final stretch to CFB Edmonton, the area frequented by soldiers. For more on this, please click here.
Despite my preference for this idea, I am open to other suggestions.
In my blog post on the ‘Canadian Forces Trail’ proposal, I mention placemaking, and so I will keep it light here. In Edmonton there are many neighbourhoods (pretty much one for every quarter section). Many people only vaguely know neighbourhood names in areas of the City outside of their residence. How many of the 375 neighbourhoods in Edmonton do you know?
The principal road of each neighbourhood should be named after the neighbourhood. This would significantly help with name recognition and possibly even add to pride of place.
The Quadrant System
And why is all of Edmonton in the Northwest Quadrant? This is silly. Over the years, I have become used to this, until recently when I was selling something on Kijiji to a person from Calgary and my address threw them for a loop.
“I thought NW meant you live in the north west?”
“Nope, I live in the north east.”
“Then why does your address say ‘NW’?”
“I don’t know.”
Because approximately 90% of Edmonton is in the Northwest Quadrant, your average person (read: myself) gets confused when they are navigating to different addresses. One has to be extra observant to notice the ‘SW’, as it may apply the few times you are on the deep south side.
To be clear, it was relatively recently that Edmonton went through this addressing transition. I am not proposing a change, as I believe that some of our decisions need to remain for the sake of not agitating everyone. But why did City Council not have the foresight to do it right?
Utilizing natural geography as a suggestion, everything north of the river should be known as in the ‘North’ and everything south of the river should be known as ‘South.’ These denotations could be abbreviated with either a N. or S. after the address, respectively. Simple. Problem solved. We won’t run out of street numbers with a system like this. Why did we not do this originally? I have no idea. City Council had thought very abstractly, and without regard to a compass, to come up with a system that puts most of the city in the NW quadrant.
For future decisions, let’s be logical, utilize common sense, and name a few more roads after important namesakes to honour our history and build a sense of place.
Elect me and I will use common sense to honour our community.
“Jon D for Ward 3”
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See you Oct 16 and every day after that!