'People-priority' Government Street would still allow vehicle traffic, mayor says
Maintaining the people-first Government Street is possible while keeping a trickle of vehicle traffic, Mayor Lisa Helps says. (CTV Vancouver Island)
Victoria's mayor says a potential move to make Government Street a pedestrian hub wouldn't shut the road down to vehicles entirely.
Lisa Helps said the city is working on a proposal to narrow Government Street form Wharf to Yates streets, possibly using trees, planters and picnic tables, to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
The proposal is being discussed at a Thursday morning committee of the whole meeting at City Hall.
"We've heard really clearly from businesses that they don't want Government Street closed to car traffic," Helps said Wednesday. "The proposal that I'm bringing forward doesn't close Government Street to car traffic. It simply slows car traffic down to a snail's pace, makes deliveries possible, all of the things that are there now."
Victoria city council’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan calls on the city to “Open Government Street to pedestrians" in the 2020-2021 budget process.
"The long-term plan is to continue that pedestrian mall feel from Yates all the way to Fisgard so it'll have the same look and feel," Helps said.
She said Government Street is not a major thoroughfare like Douglas or Blanshard streets, so the road is sometimes virtually empty while sidewalks are jammed with people.
Government Street was closed to car traffic last summer as part of a pilot project.
Helps said the inspiration for the plan comes from a recent trip to Europe, where pedestrian-friendly plazas are the norm.