NCC closing parkways along Ottawa River to vehicles over upcoming weekends

SJAm closures
The NCC will be closing a portion of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway to vehicles on weekends starting Saturday, May 16. Map via NCC

The National Capital Commission is opening up more streets to give space to pedestrians and cyclists ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend in Ottawa.

The NCC, which manages some roads in the capital, said Thursday it will close off parts of both the Sir John A. Macdonald (SJAM) and Sir George-Étienne Cartier (SGEC) parkways to motor vehicles on weekends starting this coming Saturday.

Vancouver’s Stanley Park closes to vehicle traffic
Vancouver’s Stanley Park closes to vehicle traffic

The westbound SJAM will be closed to vehicles between Dominion Avenue and Booth Street while the SGEC will shut down between the Aviation Parkway and St. Joseph Boulevard, both from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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The closures will run as a pilot project until May 31.

SGEC closures
The NCC will be closing a portion of the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway to vehicles on weekends starting Saturday, May 16. Map via NCC

The latest parkway closures follow a similar pilot on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway (QED), which has been closed since April 18.

The NCC announced it would extend the partial closures of the QED until May 24 following positive early results, namely that pedestrians and cyclists were largely following physical distancing guidelines while using the extra space.

READ MORE: Queen Elizabeth Driveway closures to continue 2 more weeks, NCC says

The parkway closures along the Ottawa River come as the issue of opening up additional streets to pedestrians divides members of city council.

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Wednesday’s council meeting turned sour over a motion to increase funding available to councillors to close streets in their wards, with Mayor Jim Watson introducing a surprise bill to give retailers affected by proposed closures some power to veto such attempts near their shops.

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READ MORE: Ottawa city council turns sour amid debate over closing streets during COVID-19 pandemic

The move particularly irked Capital Coun. Shawn Menard, who had apparently received staff approval to close three blocks on one side of Bank Street before Watson’s motion put a wrench in those plans.

The issue came up again Thursday at a virtual town hall on COVID-19 in Ottawa, with one caller asking why, when other cities around Canada are opening up major roadways for active transportation, Ottawa appears to be stymying similar initiatives.

“It seems all we’re seeing in Ottawa is roadblocks,” the caller said.

Watson noted in response that there have been city streets closed off in numerous wards across Ottawa where “pinch points” were pushing pedestrians onto the street in an attempt to maintain physical distancing.