*Share your views with Bank Street Businesses using the prompt at the bottom of the page
Over the past two months, we’ve been hearing from hundreds of residents that they need more space on our streets in order to practice physical distancing while walking to access essential services and to go out for physical and mental health reasons. After some successful initiatives—converting the curb lanes over the Bank Street Canal Bridge, working with the NCC to open part of Queen Elizabeth Drive for active transportation—we had developed a plan, in concert with city staff, to provide residents with needed space along Bank Street.
The plan was to take one of the four lanes on Bank Street—the curbside lane on the west side of the street—and open it to pedestrians for a three block stretch in the busiest pedestrian area, in order to provide more of a buffer space for those accessing services. This would have impacted 19 of the 300+ parking spaces in the immediate area (not including Lansdowne and side street parking), in a context where traffic is down, but driving speeds are up, and where people are currently walking into the streets to maintain physical distance around busy sidewalks and storefronts.
We consulted with the community association directly and with residents through a survey we shared over our mail-list. Over 350 residents responded with 80% supporting the plan. We also consulted with businesses, phoning those who were open directly, and held a public zoom meeting in addition to consulting the Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA). Some businesses were supportive of the plan when we spoke with them directly, but others, including the Glebe BIA, were not. The latter believed the plan could pose a challenge for affected businesses due to parking spaces being converted in front of storefronts for ‘curbside’ pick up (the curbside for pick up would be further away) and concerns about gatherings (would people congregate?).
These are concerns that we immediately sought to address. We arranged with city staff to have curbside pick up on the side streets (1st, 2nd and 3rd ave) and across the street in the other parking lane, a few meters away. We also checked with parking staff and discovered that the new parking garage directly behind this area between 2nd ave and 3rd ave was only 15% full on average during Covid-19 and provided plenty of capacity. Our intention is certainly not to cause any economic hardship to local businesses during what is already an extremely difficult time. Rather, our thinking, and the research we did, showed that this would not only help residents but would also help our local businesses as people would feel more comfortable and enjoy the extra space, making it easier for residents to traverse Bank Street, slow down thru traffic with barrel pylons (as has occurred on the Bank Street Bridge) and provide access to local shops and essential services.
The day that city staff were set to implement the plan, the Mayor introduced a surprise motion at City Council preventing the plan, or any future plans of this nature, from being implemented unless 100% of affected businesses consented to it through a petition. Council amended the motion to only require consent from two-thirds of businesses (as is the standard for other City petitions), and the amended motion was passed.
Businesses on Bank Street will now be the ones to decide whether this public policy measure will be implemented. Our office had previously decided that it was best to move forward with the proposal after hearing from various stakeholders: businesses, residents, customers, and workers. Of course, businesses have not done this sort of public consultation work, nor should they be expected to.
Consultation Efforts Continued
Now that the Mayor has ultimately put the decision in their hands, it would be helpful for them to hear from their customer base what their preferences and thoughts on the matter are. Whether you agree with our office’s initial proposal or not, feel free to let the relevant businesses know your views before they decide on this matter of public policy: simply enter your information in the box below and an email addressed to the relevant businesses should open in your email client for you to fill in with your opinion and then send.
Please remember that we are trying to facilitate respectful dialogue, which we feel is needed given shifting circumstances. We want to support small businesses and have been doing so through different means. Many provide essential services and we want to ensure that those ultimately making this decision have heard from the public.