Coronavirus: Some Ottawa roads set to open to pedestrians

Cyclists on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. NCC / Twitter

Some busy roadways in Ottawa are set to close to vehicle traffic in the coming days to help residents keep their distance from each other amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard tweeted Tuesday evening that the city will close the two outer curb lanes on the Bank Street Bridge over the canal. Regular traffic and transit will flow through the inner lanes, while the closed-off sections will be reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and other forms of active transportation.

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Menard said he expected the closures to start within the next week.

In an effort to show how difficult it is for pedestrians to maintain the recommended buffer zone of two metres when passing each other in the street, the roughly two-metre-tall councillor previously tweeted a video of himself lying down on the sidewalk, covering nearly the entire pathway from head to toe.

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Mayor Jim Watson had previously come out against opening up Ottawa’s roads to pedestrians, tweeting earlier this month that the move could encourage residents to leave their homes.

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Global News reached out to the mayor’s office for comment on the Bank Street lane reductions but has yet to receive a response.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, said in a statement two weeks ago that passing someone quickly on the street does not put an individual at significant risk of exposure to COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus efforts ‘bearing fruit’ says Ottawa Public Health, but not time to ease restrictions

Also on Tuesday, the National Capital Commission said it plans to take cars off parts of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. The NCC, which is responsible for a number of major roads in the nation’s capital, did not provide a timeline or details on which sections of the Queen Elizabeth would be closed.

The Crown corporation said it does not currently plan to close the Sir John A. Macdonald or Sir George-Étienne Cartier parkways, citing advice from public health officials, staffing demands and requirements to keep the roads open for transit and emergency services.

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