A Langley cycling advocacy group’s call for the City to turn over parts of some local roads to pedestrians and cyclists didn’t find favour with the council this week.
In a letter and presentation to the council at the May 11 meeting, HUB Cycling Langley called for the City to temporarily reallocate the one-way section of Fraser Highway between 204th and 206th Streets, and a westbound lane on Logan Avenue from 204th to 200th Streets.
In practice, that would mean a temporary closure of those lanes to cars, while opening them to foot and bike traffic.
The call comes shortly after Premier John Horgan announced B.C. would soon begin reopening many closed businesses and permitting more physical contact, with limits and safety measures still in place.
“The need for social distancing on the one-way is going to be crucial,” said Sara Hill, a member of HUB Langley.
She worries about physical distancing in the downtown if retail stores re-open but require people to line up outside to maintain a lower number of customers inside at any given time.
Logan Avenue isn’t pedestrian friendly at all right now, which is why HUB is also asking for a lane there to be dedicated to people on foot and on bikes, Hill said.
The council is expected to take a look at the idea when it receives the letter on Monday.
City councillor and transit advocate Nathan Pachal said it makes some sense to consider the idea.
The coronavirus pandemic has knocked traffic volumes down by about 50 per cent, and additional space would allow pedestrians to keep themselves two metres apart.
While sidewalks are wide enough in much of the downtown for people to keep their distance, Pachal noted there are some “pinch points” where it becomes difficult, including at 203rd Street and Fraser Highway or Logan Avenue, and at 208th Street near 51B Street.
As far as a closure that lasted all day, Coun. Teri James, who is also executive director of the Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA) said she doesn’t think it will fly.
“I honestly don’t think there’s an appetite for physically closing the one-way, because that would impact retail,” James said.
In the end, the matter was referred to City staff, who were not supportive of the plan, said Pachal.
“I don’ tthink there will be a closure of the one-way,” he said.
But some temporary closures are not out of the question. James said there is the possibility of closing the one-way one or two nights a week during the summer.
That would allow the many small, independent restaurants along the street to spill out into the road, giving them more physically distant room for customers.
There are questions about that proposal too, which James said included when will restrictions be relaxed enough to allow it, would restaurants – which might need additional insurance – be interested, and would there be appetite from the community for such an event.
Retail stores could stay open during that time as well, James said.
Temporarily turning over downtown regions to pedestrians and cyclists has been happening in a number of North American and European cities as a response to reduced traffic and a need for more physical distancing for pedestrians.
Langley City’s downtown core does go car-free for a few major festivals in most years, and in the past, much of the entire downtown became a pedestrian zone when it hosted the annual Langley Good Times Cruise-In car show.