Historian and author John Atkin posted this image he took last Fall of the new work on downtown Granville Street that involved installing a whole bunch of bollards on the south end of the street right before the bridge. As John notes
“Sorting thru old photos, found this shot of the recently completed Granville St redo… In light of the ongoing sidewalk space discussion maybe its time to get rid of this waste of space given to bollards marking sidewalk parking for cars… hmmm.”
Covid spacing requirements mean we need to look at our downtown spaces and places a bit differently and ensure people are comfortable getting outdoors with appropriate physical distancing and patronizing local merchants who badly need the business.
I also found this blog on Downtown Vancouver Bollards by Reliance Foundry that enthusiastically sees bollards as “a form of communication”. There’s also been discussions about security bollards to be placed on the street at night following the horrible attack on Toronto Streets.
Covid distancing requirements of that requisite two meters means there’s a need to be a bit more creative on the use of the street. And it’s clear we are not there yet in commercial areas, as these two images from Simon Fraser University’s City Program Director Andy Yan illustrates. Here’s a group of people waiting to get into a grocery store on Commercial Drive. There’s not enough distance on the sidewalk, and so the potential customers are relegated to the street.
And surprise! The bus is trying to use the street too. As Andy Yan states, “This is NOT the best way of making public sidewalk space with the #covid19 rules.”
Kristen Robinson of Global TV has produced a film clip outlining some of the physical distancing challenges on Robson Street as merchants look forward to opening their businesses. At this point retailers are not asking for a full road closure but want to have enough space on sidewalks and in the parking lane to ensure that potential customers can line up with appropriate physical distancing. This has already been done using barricades in the parking lane at several businesses. You can take a look at Global TV’s video here.
Many cities around the world are using the Covid opportunity of the need for physical distancing as a way to reboot their economy by using streets in a different way.
I have been writing on Price Tags about the importance for the City of providing a street network for transportation by walking, rolling and cycling throughout the city. A plan needs to be developed for Vancouver commercial areas too to give them a boost.
Data from Transport for London (TfL) found that street improvements for walking and cycling increased time spent on retail streets by 216% . Retail space vacancies declined by 17%.
But the best news, and this is also in line with research conducted in Toronto and in New York City “people walking, cycling and using public transport spend the most money in their local shops, spending 40% more each month than car drivers”.
Covid concerns add another layer of worry for consumers who will want to support businesses and also keep themselves and their family safe and happy. Creating comfortable physical distancing opportunities in these commercial areas are not solely about taking over vehicular space. This conversation is about boosting consumer confidence and safety. Local businesses deserve a fair and equitable chance to survive and thrive during a biomedical pandemic, and they can only do that with confident customers who feel safe.