Business Success Stories:
Making more space for pedestrians, bicyclists, vendors, and patios
Patio Innovation Program
Excerpts from recent city staff report
Over the course of 2020, a successful Patio Innovation Program was developed which included a series of measures to encourage new restaurant patios and café seating, as well as retail vending in the right of way, by reducing or waiving fees and accelerating approvals. The initiatives in 2020 were designed to be as nimble as possible, aligning to the fluctuating restrictions as a result of COVID-19. With City Council’s support and approval, the following are the several initiatives under the umbrella of the Patio Innovation Program which were implemented in 2020:
- Waiving the monthly rate for right of way (ROW) patios and café seating permits, (which has been continued for 2021 through Council’s approval of the 2021 budget);
- Eliminating the cap on the quantity of café seating tables permitted per business;
- Streamlining the circulation process for new ROW patio permit applications;
- Waiving the monthly permit fees for the ROW Winter Patio program (beginning November 15, 2020);
- Developing a new retail vending program to allow retailers to vend on their business frontages
- Partnering with Building Code Services to develop a streamlined system to review inquiries and building permit applications for tents and awnings related to patios;
- Partnering with Traffic Services to undertake the closure of several city streets as pilot projects to facilitate patio expansions;
- Amending the Zoning By-law temporarily for patios on private property to waive the 30-metre setback requirement from residential zones along with other provisions and introduce a registration and property owner notification system. (which has been extended by Council until January 1, 2022)
As noted above, the waiving of monthly fees for 2021 for ROW patio permits and the implementation of a Temporary Zoning By-law amendment for patios on private property was completed in 2020. On November 25, Council extended the temporary zoning to January 1, 2022.
Staff are recommending that the remainder of the above noted initiatives be extended for the 2021 ROW patio season as set out below. There are no anticipated financial implications associated with these recommendations, save and except the potential for some minor revenue from the continuation of the retail vending program, which was introduced for the first time in 2020.
One of the successful pilots that were undertaken in 2020 was the variety of road closures to support the expansion of outdoor dining. Several street closures were undertaken as pilot projects to facilitate patio expansions:
- Somerset Street West from Bank to O’Connor; Fridays to Sundays
- Flora Street; Fridays to Sundays
- Frank Street at Bank Street for approximately 15 metres
- Clarence Street from Dalhousie Street to William Street
- ByWard Market Square from York Street to Clarence Street
- York Street from ByWard Market Square to Sussex Drive
In addition, William Street from George Street to York Street was closed for the season to facilitate physical distancing as part of a continuing public realm pilot project from 2019. Bank Street from Queen Street to Catherine Street was closed every Saturday for the month of July to facilitate physical distancing. This pilot, led by the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA), proved to be so successful that the BIA extended the Saturday closures until the end of September.
In anticipation of the summer ahead the Bank Street BIA has put out a survey that floats the idea of extending the closures for two or more days for summer 2021.
Council provided staff the delegated authority for road closures until April 1, 2021 and staff are recommending that the delegated authority to approve road closure requests be extended for the remainder of 2021.
Read the full staff report on the Patio Innovation Program here and a slide deck from the presentation can be found here.
How Bike Lanes Can Help Business
When bike lanes are proposed for a city’s busy, commercial streets, there are often concerns about what the effect will be on business. It’s a reasonable concern. There are questions about parking availability and the effect on traffic flow. Especially in the context of the pandemic, we shouldn’t want to do anything that will make life more difficult for businesses.
Thankfully, there is a lot of research on the effects of bike lanes from cities in Canada, North America and throughout the world. After spending much of the last decade studying the results, it has become clear that making improvements to the bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure of a shopping district provides a net positive effect on business.
Basically, bicycle lanes are good for business, even if it results in the loss of some on-street parking.
In Toronto, the city partnered with Moneris to see what would happen by putting in bike lanes on Bloor Street (a street quite similar to Bank Street). The result: more people spending more money.
Last April, Portland State University released a study of 14 corridors in six American cities and they found that “bicycle lanes can actually improve business. At worst, the negative impact on sales and employment is minimal.” From Toronto to Portland to Dublin to Auckland, the results have consistently come back that when you build a bike lane, the customers will come.
Old Ottawa South?
We have evidence that this would hold true in our neighbourhoods. In a recent survey our office conducted about snow clearing, of the respondents who were forced to drive more in the winter, 41% said that the increase in driving led them to shop at local businesses less, while 61% said they frequent local business less in general due to poor winter maintenance of transportation infrastructure (with sidewalks being cited most as the worst maintained).
With traffic volumes down and with businesses needing a boost, we believe that a city run pilot program for increased pedestrian space and/or bike lanes on Bank Street are worth considering. We know these things tend to help business, so we want to see whether they can help businesses here.
Every Study Ever Conducted on the Impact Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes Has on Businesses - Bloomberg
An annotated, chart-filled review of 12 studies from around the world.
The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking into Bike Lanes | Resources | High Street Task Force
The article by Bloomberg presents an annotated, chart-filled guide to every major study conducted about the business impact of converting on-street parking into bike lanes. Collating the studies was aimed at settling business owners’ fears that such conversion will lead to financial losses.
Love them or hate them, research offers financial case for big city bike lanes | CBC News
Bike lanes come with their share of claims and controversies; beloved by some and bemoaned by others. But research suggests bike lines in urban areas can give businesses a boost.
London’s Commercial Areas Designed for Pedestrians and Cyclists Boon for Retail Businesses - Price Tags
Of course it makes intuitive sense that active transportation users and bus commuters would frequent retail businesses more often than those constrained by vehicles. But it is always better to hav…