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Vancouver sets out its plan to create 50km of slow streets

The Canadian city also plans to expedite the permitting process for outdoor patios and restaurants to give people the room they need to resume some of their normal activities.

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Like many cities, Vancouver wants to prioritise routes for cycling and walking
Like many cities, Vancouver wants to prioritise routes for cycling and walking

The City of Vancouver is introducing 50km of "slow streets" as part of its plan to repurpose road space in response to Covid-19.

 

Slow streets prioritise walking and cycling to make it easier for people to exercise and access businesses in their local neighbourhood. Similar programmes have been put in place around the world in cities such as San Diego, Bogota, Sydney, London and Edinburgh.

 

Vancouver’s plans also include expediting the permitting process for outdoor patios and restaurants to give people the room they need to resume some of their normal activities.

 

The City of Vancouver’s goal is to provide businesses on 1 June with clear guidelines to expedite their licence applications.

 

Further repurposing

 

It is also considering a motion that would ask staff to accelerate the repurposing of road space in neighbourhoods across the city to give people room to move, carry out daily tasks, support business access, and connect with others while maintaining physical distancing.

 

"We know that physical distancing will be in place for some time," said Lon LaClaire, general manager of City of Vancouver’s engineering services. "As we move through the pandemic and into a phased recovery, more space will be needed to ensure people can safely do the things they need to do like exercising and travelling to work.

 

“We also want to help people return to some of the things they really enjoy doing, like eating at a favourite restaurant, picking up items from local businesses, or connecting with friends outdoors. We will work closely with businesses and community partners to address needs for space while also ensuring our streets and public spaces remain safe and accessible."

 

A number of programmes and tools have been put in place to advance the city’s goals and support the recovery process.

 

Room to move

  • Repurposing parking space and travel lanes on arterials to support physical distancing and important travel connections. This was successfully piloted on Beach Avenue in the West End to complement the closure of Stanley Park to vehicles
  • Turning select residential streets into "slow streets" by allowing local traffic only, which creates space for foot and bicycle traffic.

Room to queue

  • Widening sidewalks for queuing at businesses by repurposing kerb lanes. This provides space for people to line up while giving pedestrians room to pass by safely.

Room to load

  • Creating short-term loading/pick-up zones near businesses with high turnover and increased kerbside needs.

“We also want to help people return to some of the things they really enjoy doing, like eating at a favourite restaurant, picking up items from local businesses, or connecting with friends outdoors"

Staff will also work closely with businesses and residents to understand and respond to needs for additional public space. Vancouver said it has already piloted innovative public spaces like parklets, public plazas, and kerbside patios over the last several years. This initiative will build on those successful spaces to support the community to enable physical distancing during the pandemic recovery phase.

 

Vancouver piloted slow streets in Kits Point in April 2020. Initial slow street locations have been planned along residential streets based on several factors, including traffic volumes, signalised crossings at busier streets, equity and access to greenspace, nearby parks, and community amenities.

 

The city council said that in a few weeks it will ask for feedback on how to make these routes more comfortable for walking, cycling, and rolling.

 

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