COVID-19: Vancouver mulls street closures to boost physical distancing

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the city is looking at closing some streets to vehicles to give pedestrians and cyclists more space for social distancing.

Earlier this month, the city worked with the park board to close Stanley Park to vehicle traffic as well as close eastbound lanes on Beach Avenue, along English Bay, from Hornby Street to Stanley Park Drive.

Calling the closures “incredibly successful,” Stewart said Wednesday that the changes are allowing more people stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Depending on what health officers suggest, we can move forward with extra space for people to stretch their legs or to pedal, to get the kind of physical and mental breaks you need from what is a very stressful situation for everybody,” he said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said it’s critical for people in urban areas to spend time outdoors while observing public-health rules.

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“If we’re having challenges in certain parks and certain areas, we need to look at — with our municipal planners, with the bylaw officers — how we make it so it is easier to maintain those physical distances,” Henry told her daily news conference on Tuesday.

Both Dominato and Frank said they’ve seen pedestrians forgoing walking in the middle of the street to avoid others on busy sidewalks.

“I think that’s happening all the time,” Frank said. “It’s organic, it’s natural. There’s all this space, very few cars. So we’re just wandering into the streets and feeling pretty safe doing it.

“It’s kind of opening up people’s minds about the ability to get around in Vancouver through human power and there’s there’s a lot of benefit to that.”

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