Traffic cones, barricades and colourful patio furniture have been installed in Lonsdale’s parking lanes between 14th and 18th streets reducing traffic to a crawl at peak times and driving away others by downgrading the city’s main street to one traffic lane in each direction.
This stage of the city’s “Open Streets” plan intends to help businesses with social distancing during the current pandemic. After consulting with some businesses in Central Lonsdale, CNV Council voted unanimously to allow sidewalk patios and open drinking on Lonsdale, with the intention of providing economic support as businesses re-open.
The Mayor cited the success of the European High Street design back in November 2018 as a desirable model for Lonsdale Avenue.
High Streets work very well in smaller communities, serving an area as the main shopping and entertainment strip; generally closed to or restricting vehicular traffic. (like Granville Street) Part of the success of a High Street is accessible nearby parking and transit.
If the mayor’s goal is this European style High Street, nearby parking is necessary, or support will be limited to those willing and able to walk to Lonsdale, rain or shine. Public parking is limited to the City Library or surrounding residential streets.
There is potential economic benefit to merchants of Central Lonsdale. However, support and patronage will likely only come from those living within a block or two of Lonsdale. Open drinking does not support a family friendly atmosphere, traffic becomes more congested, parking increasingly hard to find and becoming an area to avoid, and people will find alternatives, which is not good for local businesses.
The “Open Street ” policy would be better labelled the “Closed Street” plan.
It includes extreme traffic calming and road closures to through traffic, on 12 kms of roadways, outside of the Lonsdale corridor under the guise of COVID economic support. The City is less than 12 square kilometers. This traffic calming is unnecessary and has nothing to do with COVID support.
Beyond the recent headlines about open drinking on the streets and in the parks, people may not realize that there will be many driving and parking restrictions outside of the Lonsdale corridor included with this plan, including no more parking on the west side of Jones Ave at Mahon Park from 16th to 21St Streets.
St. Andrews Ave, Queensbury and 17th Street, among others, will no longer be available to through traffic – becoming an unnecessary inconvenience for many. This was done hastily, without any input from the residents or consideration of consequences.
The mayor and council have been clear, they are not interested in addressing citizens’ traffic concerns.
Ken Izatt is a former council candidate and a keen observer of civic issues in the City of North Vancouver.