Vancouver unveils 12 km of 'slow streets' for physical distancing amid COVID-19

The City of Vancouver has unveiled its first batch of “slow streets” meant to encourage safer walking and cycling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city plans to designate up to 50 kilometres of roadways as slow streets, to limit large gatherings and help people keep two metres apart while getting out of the house.

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Those routes won’t be closed, but will have access limited to local traffic.

Under the program, people will be allowed to walk on the roads, while vehicles will be expected to reduce speeds. On-street parking will be preserved, as will access for emergency vehicles and waste collection.


The first batch of streets includes a 12-kilometre route linking New Brighton Park and Queen Elizabeth Park via John Hendry Park.

It will include Wall Street, Lakewood Drive, Gladstone Street and the 37th Avenue Greenway.

Several of those streets already feature significant traffic calming infrastructure.

On Friday, the city said it had installed signage and barriers along the route, and that it would be adding more routes “in the coming weeks.”

The city says it will also be asking for public feedback on how to improve the routes, and that it anticipates the slow streets will be in place until at least 2021.

The initial network roll-out is budgeted tat $2 per kilometre.

Last week, city staff made a presentation to councillors including slow streets examples from Oakland, Seattle, Toronto and Milan.

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City staff said since the start of the pandemic, walking was down between 40 and 55 per cent, driving was down 39 to 48 per cent and transit use was down 80 per cent. Commuter cycling has dropped between 35 and 50 per cent, while recreational cycling is up between six and 50 per cent.

Vancouver has already closed Stanley Park Drive and a portion of Beach Avenue to vehicle traffic to accommodate better physical distancing.

The city has also reallocated portions of some major arterials to make more room for customers to safely line up for businesses or to better accommodate deliveries during the pandemic.

A motion by Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Coun. Lisa Dominato to look at more opportunities to reallocate streets is due to be heard at a council meeting on Wednesday.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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