Westmount pushing for one-direction pedestrian streets amid COVID-19 crisis

At just two square kilometres, Westmount is one of Montreal island’s smallest cities. With 20,000 residents, it can make for congested streets.

So in a bid to keep citizens safe from COVID-19, Westmount is launching a safer streets initiative, asking all walkers and runners on sidewalks to only move in the same direction as vehicle traffic.

Montreal’s south-west borough closes pedestrian bridge to encourage physical distancing
Montreal’s south-west borough closes pedestrian bridge to encourage physical distancing

“The initiative is really in an effort to try and just stop people from banging into each other on the street, or walking out into the middle of traffic,” said councilor Anitra Bostock.

READ MORE: Edmonton adjusts roads, pedestrian call buttons to promote physical distancing

Bostock helped launched the idea. She says it isn’t a formal policy, but she and other Westmount leaders — including mayor Christina Smith — are pushing the concept on social media.

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They posted a video on the city’s Instagram and Facebook accounts of the two of them waving as they walked in opposite directions on opposite sides of the street. The city also sent emails to Westmount residents, explaining the idea.

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They believe one-directional pedestrian traffic will make social distancing easier.

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“There is this anticipation of, ‘Am I going to bump into someone, will I have enough space.’ So I think the idea behind this would be to alleviate some of the stress,” Bostock said.

“I think it’s about mutual respect. I think we are all in a situation where we are in tight quarters.

“It would allow some of our seniors to not bump into each other, and reduce the risk of people walking out into traffic.”

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Meanwhile, the City of Montreal is also making changes to one of its busiest streets, to make it safer. It’s creating a 2.7-kilometre long safe walking corridor on Mont Royal Avenue, from Esplanade to Papineau. It’s eliminating parking on one side of the street, creating a 4.5-metre pedestrian corridor on the other side.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadians should expect weeks or months of social distancing, Trudeau says

“It’s a very dense borough, there are a lot of people, and while people are working hard to keep the right distance it’s hard,” said Mayor Valerie Plante.

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She warned, though, it wasn’t an invitation for outsiders to visit the street.

READ MORE: ‘Please stay away’: B.C. tourist towns urge outsiders to stay home under COVID-19

“This is not a new place to go for a walk. This is really to accommodate citizens living in that neighbourhood,” she said.

The mayor isn’t ruling out making changes to other dense city streets.

“We will be working with other boroughs where the density is very high, but it will be case-by-case,” Plante said. ‘We want to take time to evaluate every situation, but the recommendation to stay home is essential.”

She says too many people roamed Old Montreal roads last weekend.

Police will be out in force this weekend, ensuring social distancing is respected.

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