Victoria council has voted to close a portion of Government Street to cars starting Monday morning.
The decision comes after a marathon committee meeting discussing the ‘business recovery from pandemic bylaw,’ which was then passed in a special council meeting, giving the City authority to temporarily “restrict or prohibit all or some types of traffic on a street…to facilitate outdoor commercial use.”
The decision will see Government Street become a pedestrian-priority route from Humboldt to Yates Street and closed entirely to traffic between Fort Street and View Street starting June 8, in order to make more room for retailers and restaurants to provide services while social distancing.
The car-free initiative will be temporary, Mayor Lisa Helps emphasized, and will run until Oct. 31 before it is reassessed.
“This is an initiative to support businesses,” Helps said. “This feels like a bold step for Victoria because of decades long conversations about it. But there are other cities around the world that have opened their streets to pedestrians only.
“Other cities have done hundreds of blocks with no cars, we’re doing one block.”
The pedestrian-priority changes will see the street go from two travel lanes to one supplemented by chicanes – traffic calming curves – to create large amounts of additional space for outdoor patios or other business needs. New signage will identify Government Street as a pedestrian-priority route and “gateway” treatments at intersections will “further reduce the highway character of the road.” Performers and musicians will have numerous areas to entertain.
Helps said she’s hopeful the pedestrian thorough-fare will help businesses hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19.
“It will bring more actual people instead of people just coming through in their vehicles,” she said. “We’re going to see more people coming to experience a Victoria they’ve never seen before.”
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