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More people cycling, more places, more often

How should our streets change in response to COVID?

In response to the COVID pandemic, how can Greater Victoria municipalities change their streets for safe physical distancing of people who walk and bike?

There is an immediate need for temporary street redesign to enable safe physical distancing of people who walk or bike to essential jobs, and for people who walk or bike to get food, medication, and fresh air.

What are other cities doing?

Cities around the world are creating temporary spaces for walking and biking, disabling beg buttons, and making other changes so that people can move on foot and bike while maintaining safe distances. Here in Canada:

  • Calgary has closed some lanes near popular paths to help people walk & bike while physical distancing.
  • Winnipeg has opened its annual active transportation routes early and expanded their schedule to seven days week. On four streets, motor vehicle lanes will be converted into spaces for walking and biking. Instead of last year’s Sundays-only schedule, Winnipeg’s active transportation routes will be open every day from 8:00am to 8:00pm
  • Vancouver has closed driving in Stanley Park and lanes on Beach Ave in the West End.

Outside of Canada, other cities are leading on this front:

  • Bogotá led the world in redesigning streets to enable safe physical distancing during the pandemic and reduce crowding on public transit. In mid-March, Bogotá opened an impressive 117 kilometres of temporary bike lanes (yes, 117) by converting motor vehicle lanes on several main streets. Within days, thousands of Bogotanos switched from public transit to biking.
  • Oakland is closing 74 miles of streets for walking and biking.
  • Berlin has converted motor vehicle lanes on several streets into new, wide bike lanes.

On the advocacy front, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has proposed an excellent strategy to make streets safer during the pandemic. Elements of the strategy include:

  • Widening sidewalks on arterial streets by converting motor vehicle lanes to pedestrian spaces using bollards and other temporary barriers.
  • Allowing both walking and driving in all non-arterial streets, given that most sidewalks are too narrow for safe distancing.
  • Creating car-free routes for walking and cycling by converting motor vehicle lanes on arterial streets.
  • Lowering speed limits and enhancing traffic calming to counter the increase in dangerous speeding we’ve seen over the past few weeks.
  • Setting traffic signals to automatically give people a walk signal without having to push a button.

We’ve already started – here are some of the actions municipalities are already taking:

  • Victoria has closed Beacon Hill Park to vehicles, as well as parking along parts of Dallas Rd.
  • Saanich has closed Mt Doug Park to vehicles.
  • CRD (along with Esquimalt & Saanich) have closed a lane on Tillicum for a sidewalk.

Here’s what you’ve already asked for:

  • Victoria – James Bay, Richardson Rd, Rockland Rd, Government St, Bay St & the Bay St Bridge, Langford St, Fort St, Wharf St, Yates St, Esquimalt Rd, Craigflower Rd.
  • Saanich – Gordon Head Rd, McKenzie Ave, Quadra St, Shelbourne St, Burnside Rd.
  • Esquimalt – Esquimalt Rd, Craigflower Rd.
  • Oak Bay – Oak Bay Ave
  • Sidney – Beacon Ave, Resthaven Dr, 5th St.
  • Colwood – Sooke Rd.
  • Langford – Goldstream Ave.

People have also mentioned near grocery stores and pharmacies as key locations.

We want to hear your ideas for other locations that need improvements.

Where are there currently dangerous “choke points” where more space for active transportation is needed, including narrow sidewalks that cause unsafe crowding or force walkers into motor vehicle lanes in order to maintain safe physical distancing?

How should bike lanes be improved to enable safe physical distancing, and where should temporary bike lanes be set up?

Thanks for sharing your suggestions!

One Comment

  1. There is a real bottleneck where E&N trail converges with Esquimalt Road. This is a problematic intersection at the best of times but is often crowding up now with folks either waiting to cross at the very long light or trying to get by to drive illegally up the bike lane on the wrong side of the street. Hard to know what to do, but at least some warning signage would be helpful. Also, for your reference here is the letter Halifax Cycling Coalition sent: and an article you’ve probably read but thought I’d pass on: