On May 22, 2020, City Council introduced several efforts to help residents and businesses adapt to the new reality of living and operating through a pandemic. These included plans to introduce 50 km of “slow streets,” 12 of which had already been installed. Staff were asked to accelerate the repurposing of road space in neighbourhoods across the city to give people room to move, carry out daily tasks, support business access, and connect with others while maintaining physical distancing. Over the next months, new “slow streets” were put in place with temporary signage and barriers.
Slow streets initiatives occurred across Canada and the United States as a response to the pressures that the pandemic was placing on use of outdoor spaces by residents staying home and spending time outside for exercise by walking and cycling. These initiatives were facilitated by the reduction in vehicular traffic during Covid-19. Although Vancouver was not an early adopter of this strategy, the City moved quickly to affect the use pattern of a number of streets.
The significance of the program will be demonstrated over the next few years as the experience is monitored and if it leads to permanent shifts in the balance of street space allocated for pedestrians and cyclists. Beach Avenue is currently being studied for redevelopment and could be an early example of changed priorities.
Most streets selected to be “slow” were on existing greenways and local streets. Beach Avenue and roads within Stanley Park were also reallocated to pedestrians and cyclists with light interventions to reduce and slow down traffic. The slow streets program was rolled out in three stages:
Stage 1: The first stage of installing slow streets started May 22 through July using construction-style barriers and local-traffic only signs.
Stage 2: From July to September, the City monitored outcomes and public feedback on the changes to date, along with the installation of tactical traffic calming at key locations.
Stage 3: Beyond September through to 2021, the City is gathering data and feedback on how walking, cycling, and rolling has changed on these altered streets. This work will inform a review on the possibility of fast-tracking future new greenways, public spaces, and neighbourhood traffic calming projects.
- City of Vancouver’s Covid Response
- Shape your City, Slow Streets in existing neighbourhoods
- CBC News, City of Vancouver considers ‘slow streets’ for 50 km worth of roads
- CBC News, City of Vancouver seeks feedback on ‘slow streets’ network
- CBC News, Will some city streets in Vancouver remain closed after the pandemic?
Prepared by: VCPC Chronology Committee
Last Updated: December 14, 2020