A move to increase foot traffic is a lifeline thrown to many struggling Victoria businesses.
Government Street between Humboldt and View was transformed this week, with a portion of it becoming single lane traffic to prioritize pedestrians and another portion open to pedestrians only. The initiative is temporary, according to Mayor Lisa Helps, and will run until Oct. 31 before being reassessed.
Helps said the goal is to support businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended to facilitate outdoor commercial use, such as allowing restaurants to expand their patios and giving performers and musicians areas to entertain. Pedestrians also have adequate space to physically distance.
“This feels like a bold step for Victoria because of decades long conversations about it. But there are other cities around the world that have opened their streets to pedestrians only,” she said. “Other cities have done hundreds of blocks with no cars, we’re doing one block.”
The move drew mixed reactions from local merchants. Many support the move as a temporary measure, but are concerned the loss of vehicle traffic will impact older customers, who depend on their vehicle to get around, as well as cut off the shops from the lucrative business from tourists.
“Last summer we stayed open late and as tourists waited to catch their bus, they’d browse,” said Rosa McCormick, manager of Cool as a Moose. “We could lose a lot of money if we’re not able to cater to them.”
The change also leaves couriers and delivery trucks scrambling to access the shops.
Victoria city council will take another look at the issue Oct. 31.
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