People walk along the seawall in False Creek in Vancouver, Monday, April 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

People walk along the seawall in False Creek in Vancouver, Monday, April 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadian cities grapple over whether to give more room to pedestrians to spread out

Vancouver said it was looking at options to reduce crowding

Battles are brewing in some cities over use of increasingly limited public space, as local governments struggle with whether to give more room for pedestrians to spread out.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says on its website that taking a walk outside a low-risk activity for healthy people — no more dangerous than online shopping or cooking at home.

But that’s only the case as long as people who venture out keep a two-metre distance from one another, which is not always possible.

Slim sidewalks, especially in urban centres, makes it difficult for pedestrians to keep out of the so-called sneeze radius.

It’s particularly challenging given most cities have closed parks and other outdoor spaces and encouraged people to stay in their own neighbourhoods.

Some cities have closed traffic lanes to give pedestrians more room to manoeuvre.

Calgary blocked lanes off with pylons more than a week ago so people can use the space to spread out. The city has also warned drivers to look out for pedestrians who may step onto the road.

The City of London, Ont., also brought in several new measures to make sure pedestrians are given the room they need to pass each other when out and about, including closing roads.

But some other cities worry giving pedestrians more room may draw more people out and have instead urged residents to stay inside or use less popular routes.

The disagreement has come to a head in Ottawa, where city staff denied a petition by several local councillors to close a busy downtown pedestrian route to traffic.

“We should not make it easier or more convenient for people to come outside unless for grocery trips; pharmacy; essential work and humanitarian reasons,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson wrote on social media over the weekend.

READ MORE: Recovery rate tops 60% but B.C. records death of man in his 40s due to COVID-19

The city’s emergency services manager Anthony Di Monte said closing a road requires “intense work,” including analysis and installing barriers, which the city would rather devote to supporting the public health response

If people start crowding together on the sidewalks near vital services like pharmacies, the city will consider other options, Watson said.

That has raised the ire of some of his urban colleagues on council.

“I am receiving hundreds of emails from people asking for space to walk,” said one urban councillor, Catherine McKenney.

People are constantly stepping out onto the road to pass other pedestrians, which isn’t safe, said McKenney.

And many of those people aren’t out for recreation, they’re trying to access essential services the only way they can — on foot.

“In order to give people the room to physically distance, to keep them safe, it only makes sense that you would remove a lane,” McKenney said.

Another downtown councillor, Shawn Menard, who stands almost exactly two meters tall, lay down on the sidewalk to show just how difficult it is for people to stay away from each other. He took up the entire sidewalk, head to foot.

Similar discussions are playing out in cities across the country.

In Vancouver, the city has received lots of complaints about crowding in places where it’s not possible to spread out and is looking into its options, according to a statement.

But those trapped between a fellow pedestrian and oncoming traffic need not panic, according to Ottawa’s officer of health Dr. Vera Etches.

Passing someone briskly on the sidewalk doesn’t count as close contact, and won’t significantly increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19, she said.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
RCMP investigating suspicious trailer found abandoned in Cache Creek

Hazardous materials believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs were found

The trustees of the Spences Bridge Improvement District argue that one reason the EV charging station (l) should be moved is because it could compromise emergency response from the nearby fire hall. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Time is running out for Spences Bridge EV charging station

Lease for the site runs out at the end of January and no new agreement has been reached

Areas in blue show properties in Cache Creek zoned C1, which the village’s Cannabis Regulatory Framework proposes as properties where retail cannabis stores could be sited. The area outlined with a dotted orange line shows a 200 metre buffer zone around Cache Creek Elementary School, within which no retail cannabis establishments could operate. (Photo credit: Village of Cache Creek)
Cache Creek council gets more input on cannabis regulations

Council considers options to regulate retail cannabis sales and production within the village

(from l) Gordon and Lee Berdan in front of the framed ensign from HMCS Sudbury which they recently presented to the Ashcroft Legion. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Ashcroft Legion continues helping community in tough times

Branch now also displays a recently donated artifact from WW II corvette HMCS Sudbury

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

Most Read