I have been pretty outspoken on the need to support local retailers as they start opening up their businesses in the next phase the Covid Crisis. I have also been insisting that we need to look at the use of the city street in a different way to accommodate these businesses and to make potential customers more comfortable on the street.
Customers must feel safe and comfortable and be able to wait before entering retail premises with the appropriate physical distancing. Other people need to be able to walk or roll on the sidewalk with the same comfort of having that two meter spacing from others. That’s pretty impossible to accommodate on many city sidewalks that are at most 1.8 meters, or in the downtown where there are heavier flows of people on the sidewalk.
The City of Vancouver has not been nimble at working towards opening streets off the downtown peninsula for walkers, rollers and cyclists to access shops and services,even though there is the tax payer funded greenways network where walking and cyclists have priority. These streets could be easily filtered to allow for local and emergency traffic only. Similarly there has been no civic road map for businesses on how to open or use the sidewalk and/or adjacent parking lane to allow for physical distancing. That changed this week with Council’s motion to review street allocation for customer line ups, loading, and using sidewalk space with the appropriate distance.
There’s also a motion that the City reallocate “road space, such as high use greenways and streets…temporarily to ensure safe shared use…”
Eight Covid weeks in no one is holding their breath, but it’s a good start, as well as this week’s initiative to create a “Council Covid-19 Recovery Committee” which provides a place to figure out what the “new normal” really is.
Meanwhile Brendan and Amanda Ladner are reopening their Pender location of the SMAK healthy food emporium as a takeaway, with an innovative curbside “glide through” counter option using city parking spaces.
It’s a nifty design, with rubber mats showing where to stand safely to access service from the sidewalk if you aren’t in a vehicle or on a bike. You can learn a bit more about SMAK, their philosophy and menu here.
As more local Vancouver businesses reopen and use innovative ways to relaunch, we’d be happy to mention them in Price Tags. As the Province’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says, “We are all in this together”.
Images: Brendan Ladner, Tom Gallos