With summer and the start of the economic recovery period just around the corner, a Vancouver city councillor is urging the municipal government to develop plans that allow the public to better enjoy the outdoors while practicing physical distancing.
A motion by councillor Lisa Dominato asks city staff to expedite their process of identifying and implementing areas where road space can be temporarily reallocated for the safe use of pedestrians and cyclists. This includes high-use, on-road greenways, and road space adjacent to parks.
As well, if the motion is approved next week, City staff will inform the public and businesses on the measures that can be taken to reallocate road space to support physical activity and access to local businesses, loading, and curbside pick-up. Roads across the region have seen significantly lower traffic volumes due to physical distancing, self-isolation, and the closure of businesses, schools, and attractions.
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“The Provincial health officer has commented publicly in recent weeks that partial street closures and one way travel/routing can be an effective way to enable physical exercise and safe distancing during the pandemic,” reads her motion.
“Cities across Canada and around the world are undertaking measures to reallocate street space and roadways for pedestrians to safely exercise, access businesses and employment, while maintaining a safe distance due to the current pandemic.”
The City has already found some success with its temporary closures of Stanley Park’s looping roadways to cars, and one eastbound lane along Beach Avenue between Hornby Street and Stanley Park. Both closures, intended to reduce vehicle congestion, provide pedestrians and cyclists with more space.
Furthermore, Dominato also wants City staff to developer longer term plans for mobility and the public realm in the “post-COVID-19 recovery and new economy.”
In late April, Mayor Kennedy Stewart indicated City staff are already in the process of exploring more street closures, with a list being considered, particularly roads that currently see higher pedestrian traffic. For potential closures affecting retail districts, the closures will be performed in consultation with the local business improvement association.
City Council is also set to deliberate on a motion by councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung on simplifying and expediting the existing time-intensive and costly process for restaurants to receive the various permits required to operate a patio, which have been deemed as a tool that will allow restaurants to maximize their dining capacity while also enforcing physical distancing.