Part of Ottawa’s Queen Elizabeth Driveway opening to pedestrians on Saturday

The NCC says the Queen Elizabeth Driveway will close from Laurier to Fifth avenues daily starting Saturday. NCC / Twitter

Ottawa residents looking for a wide-open space to stretch their legs will have access to one of the city’s major downtown roadways as of Saturday.

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is closing parts of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway (QED) to motor vehicle traffic as part of a pilot project to help residents spend time outdoors while maintaining physical-distancing recommendations.

Beginning Saturday, the QED will be closed daily between Laurier and Fifth avenues from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The pilot project will continue until Sunday, April 26.

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Access will be maintained for emergency vehicles during the closures. Motorists will also be able to cross the QED at Pretoria Bridge and enter Pretoria Avenue as usual.

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The NCC says the closed sections of the road should be used in a similar fashion to the Crown corporation’s multi-use pathways, with the yellow line delineating northbound and southbound travel.

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The Crown corporation asks that only pedestrians living in the surrounding neighbourhoods make use of the QED to stretch their legs and that residents from other areas do not drive to the area to go for a walk.

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The NCC says the road closures might continue past the initial dates depending on how well the public respects the new rules of the road and whether physical-distancing guidelines are maintained.

Public health officials and Mayor Jim Watson have previously been wary about opening roads to pedestrian traffic, worrying it could encourage residents to leave their homes unnecessarily.

But councillors, such as Capital Ward’s Shawn Menard, have argued that Ottawa sidewalks are too narrow to effectively maintain the recommended two-metre distance between pedestrians.

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Menard announced earlier this week that the two outer-curb lanes on the Bank Street Bridge over the canal would be closed to vehicle traffic in the coming days.

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