The City of Victoria is looking to add more car-free zones and pedestrian plazas through the municipality, meaning some vehicle-friendly roads may be no more.
On Thursday, council unanimously voted to have staff look at creating more community squares, public plazas or pocket parks around the city.
These plazas would take over what council calls “underutilized roads” in key areas of the city.
Coun. Matt Dell points to Fernwood Square as an example of one of these plazas. The square used to be a part of Gladstone Avenue, before it was closed to vehicle traffic.
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Dell says establishing more pedestrian-only zones would help address road safety and climate concerns, as well as create spaces for building a stronger sense of community.
“I think people just want more space for community right now,” he told CHEK News on Saturday.
“They want to have more spaces to come out and meet their neighbours, have events – they want more trees in their neighbourhood, that want more gardens, and we don’t have a lot of space for that in the neighbourhood,” said Dell.
He adds that businesses can benefit from the extra space by building patios and attracting more foot traffic.
An important step in the process would be identifying where road changes would have a minimal impact on traffic flow, and where viable traffic alternatives could be located.
“Obviously, one of the challenges is working with neighbourhoods to limit disruptions,” said Dell.
He says since council directed staff to look into the topic on Thursday, he’s received mostly positive feedback about the initiative.
“A whole bunch of people from around the city have reached out and said, ‘Can you do this in my neighbourhood? We have a perfect street that could be turned into a plaza just like Fernwood here.’ So we have lots of options,” said Dell.
There’s no timeline for when new plaza locations would be identified and built. Instead, these locations may be identified on an ongoing basis.
“I’m hoping every year we’ll be talking about ways of how we can convert underutilized roads into pedestrian and green space,” said Dell.