Pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users will now have a little less space on some St. John's streets.
City council has voted to end a pilot project that used pylons to extend the sidewalks on Elizabeth Avenue, Parade Street and Newtown Road.
The short-lived extension was approved by council in May and implemented in early July, with the idea it would help people maintain physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, notes from city staff included in council’s agenda on Tuesday showed the city received negative feedback about the change, especially on Elizabeth Avenue, where there were concerns related to traffic congestion.
City staff also studied the areas before and after sidewalks were extended, and found the additional space didn’t result in increased usage.
But not everyone on council agreed to give up on the project so soon.
On Tuesday, Councillors Maggie Burton, Ian Froude and Hope Jamieson voted against Coun. Sandy Hickman’s motion to end the project, while the rest of council voted in favour. Coun. Debbie Hanlon was absent.
Important correction- I said that we have learned from this pilot project and should a severe second wave hit, we are more prepared to react with appropriate distancing measures. https://t.co/cc0dATR2Lf— Sandy Hickman (@SandyHAtLarge) August 4, 2020
Froude said the project failed on delivery rather than on concept. He said a more interconnected version of the project in which more streets got the extension might have gotten better use because people could have more easily travelled around the city using the extra space.
Burton and Jamieson also said they’d prefer to add more of these spaces rather than take them out altogether.
Jamieson said the project wasn’t set up for success, and the watered-down version council ultimately agreed upon was to blame for the issues people had with it. She said that without interconnectivity, people won’t use it. She also said it’s the same issue the city sees with sidewalk snow-clearing.
However, most councillors agreed with city staff’s note which said the current Alert Level 2 allows for larger outdoor gatherings and open playgrounds, and it’s reported that the risk of outdoor transmission is low, so there’s less need to provide widened sidewalks.
The latest possible date council could have extended the project was Oct. 30. After that point, staff said, the pylons would have to be removed for winter snow-clearing.
The project cost the city about $22,600, including the anticipated cost to remove the pylons.
While the decision to end the project takes effect today, the markings and signage will be removed at the earliest possible opportunity.