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Rue Sainte-Claire has been a popular route for pedestrians moving between Québec City’s Upper and Lower Town since 1855. The recent project to have pedestrians and vehicles share the street has sought to keep pedestrians safe from the dense downtown traffic. The City of Québec and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood committee came up with the concept to share the street.
In the 19th century artisans and workers moved into the Saint-Jean district in droves. Many worked in Lower Town, first in the shipyards along Rivière Saint-Charles, then for the manufacturers that sprang up at the foot of the cape. The city built staircases to help them get around. The Escalier du Faubourg staircase linked Rue Sainte-Claire in Upper Town to Rue de la Couronne in Lower Town, making Sainte-Claire a popular route for pedestrians.
Even today many still prefer Rue Sainte-Claire to the neighbouring Deligny and Sainte-Geneviève when moving from Rue Saint-Jean to adjacent streets or when moving between Upper and Lower Town via the staircase or elevator. And that’s why the City of Québec and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood committee each proposed to make it a “shared” street.
Since the 1960s a number of cities in Europe and Japan have tried to keep pedestrians safe and improve the quality of life in densely populated urban areas where growing traffic was becoming a problem. A number of solutions were adopted, the common thread being to limit the numbers and speed of vehicles on these “shared” streets in order to hand the right-of-way back to pedestrians. Conditions, of course, also improved for cyclists.
In two reports tabled in 1998 and 2001 the City of Québec set out a number of measures to help pedestrians move around the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood more safely. The city made Sainte-Claire a priority, but the project took a while to become reality.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste is well known as a place of civic action, and local residents helped move things along. The local action committee began to promote the pilot project in 2005. The following year it consulted people living on Rue Sainte-Claire and noted their support, to go with support from the local neighbourhood council. It then promoted its project with activities outside on the street and by sending a petition to the borough council. The council then backed the project.
From 2008 to 2010 the City of Québec put the finishing touches to the project, consulting local residents as the local action committee continued to guide the project and ensure it came about as quickly as possible.
The shared street project was launched in 2012–2013. It bridged the gap between the expectations and diverging interests of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers of all ages and backgrounds who would be using the street in different ways. The street and sidewalks were repaved, while landscaping and traffic signs brought new life to the street, making its vocation clear to all and encouraging users to respect each other and share the road.
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