'We will do it': Victoria mayor’s vision for Government Street will cut car traffic, favour pedestrians
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2019 11:19AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 29, 2019 2:52PM PDT
Downtown Victoria's iconic Government Street corridor could be in for a European-style overhaul.
“In this term of council, we will do it,” says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
Helps has just returned from a Collaborative Climate Action conference in Heidelberg, Germany, where she was inspired by the city’s pedestrian-friendly core.
Cars, culture, kids and commerce are all integrated in the area known as Hauptstraus. And in Heidelberg, it works.
“There’s a kid and a grandma and then two minutes later a car drives by and then two minutes later a server walks by with a tray of beer,” says Helps, who chronicled her trip with photos on her personal blog.
Victoria city council’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan calls on the city to “Open Government Street to pedestrians" and consider a pedestrian-only Government Street in the 2020-2021 budget process.
Helps says the word “consider” is key in this process, and that allowing some vehicle traffic is part of her plan, unlike the pilot program last summer that saw the tourist corridor closed entirely to vehicles.
Maintaining the people-first feel is possible while keeping a trickle of vehicle traffic, Helps says.
“You can narrow the street with planters, with some of the businesses spilling out onto the streets. You have to create a space that welcomes people and slows things down."
While there is no specific timetable for change on the city’s main tourist-friendly street, Helps wrote on her blog that, if successful, other downtown streets could follow suit.
“We don’t just need to 'close Government street to traffic,' which is a 2020-2021 Action in council’s Strategic Plan," she wrote.
"We need to rethink the whole purpose of Government Street and maybe other streets too. Streets are for people.
Helps added that streets "are for kids kicking soccer balls and grandmothers bending down tenderly to their grandchildren without any thought of being run down by a car.
"Streets are for commerce," Helps wrote. "For the exchange of goods and services, for afternoon coffee, evening beer, for sharing a meal. Streets are for connection and joy.”