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Paths for People, a local organization advocating for active transportation in the city, said space will still be needed in the winter months and is calling on the city to create other public areas for residents to use. Board chair Dave Buchanan said some of the adjustments made could even be made permanent because they haven’t had much of an impact on traffic.
“There are maybe other spaces around the city that can be adapted to create public spaces for people in the winter to continue to do the same kinds of things,” he said. “In the winter, we’re going to need these spaces even more. People are going to need to get outside safely because a lot of people are not going to feel comfortable in indoor spaces.”
Buchanan said the city should also be analyzing usage of the shared streets and reach out to residents on their experiences to help form future decisions. He pointed to a study by the University of Alberta that found the temporary road-use changes reduced physical distancing violations.
For seven days in April, video footage was collected at two locations both before and after the street adjustments were made, to analyze how the changes impacted the ability to distance by at least two metres. The study found a reduction in physical distancing violations by 52.4 per cent along Saskatchewan Drive and 24.5 per cent along the Victoria Promenade.
“We’ve heard that people love it and that they want more of it. The main message we’ve got from our members was why aren’t there more,” Buchanan said. “We put it in there temporarily and we saw how well it was used.”
The temporary program was also met with some criticism, including from Coun. Mike Nickel, who referred to the road adjustments as “emergency bike lanes” and argued it wasn’t the best use of city funds during the pandemic.
“As a city we must focus our limited financial resources on core services moving forward,” Nickel said in a social media post Wednesday afternoon.
City senior communications adviser Sarah Jackson said the cost to implement the road changes to date is approximately $73,000.
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