There’s finally more information about Vancouver’s Slow Streets in a press release that came out Monday, but still no overall “route map” available on the City’s website.The intent is to have Slow Streets on roads that are wide enough to maintain resident parking, and also allow for local vehicle access. The new Director of Transportation, the well respected and capable Paul Storer is leading this work.
Vehicles will be temporarily sharing the road with pedestrians, rollers and cyclists on fifty kilometers of “Slow Streets”. The first twelve kilometers have already been opened, as described in this article by Gordon Price.
Gordon talks about the Lakewood, Ridgeway and Wall Street sections of Slow Streets. The streets have jersey barriers of different kinds either on the street or at the street’s side, indicating that it is a slower street, with repurposing for walkers, rollers and cyclists to maintain physical distancing.
There are two reasons for doing this: one, to facilitate destination oriented routes for people not in vehicles; and second, to provide a way for families and others to exercise in a safer environment with physical distancing that could not be met on the sidewalks.
This presentation on the Covid-19 Mobility and Public Life Response which was given to Council last week provides more background and rationale for the City’s response. In a survey conducted in April, the City found that walking downtown had declined by 40 to 50 percent, commuter cycling had declined by 35 to 50 percent, and transit usage had declined by 80 percent. And if you see less vehicles downtown, you are right~there’s 48 percent less vehicles coming in and out of the downtown, with a 39 percent decline of vehicles coming in and out of Vancouver as a whole compared to April 2019.
The City’s three pronged approach besides the “Room to Move” outlined above also includes “Room to Queue” which is providing expanded street space for people to queue outside of businesses. This can mean taking over the parking lane if needed outside of businesses. And to facilitate deliveries, “Room to Load” will provide special priority loading zones for business deliveries. The City also intends to work with local businesses to provide expanded patio spaces on road surfaces, with that information promised for next week.
While there is a graduated approach to opening businesses and services, it is expected that the use of private vehicles in the post-Covid city could dramatically increase in the short term. For some, automobiles are seen as “safe, secure” types of travel. The intent of these Slow Street measures to facilitate easier travel by walking, rolling and cycling is to provide potential alternatives towards a more “equitable and sustainable transportation system”.
The City intends to implement the fifty kilometer network of Slow Streets between now and July, and follow up with monitoring and public feedback between July and September. Past September Slow Streets’ performance will be evaluated, and depending on public use and feedback, may have a future role in Vancouver’s emergence from the Pandemic phase of civic life.
Images: GlobalNews & Georgia Straight