The City of London is making Dundas Street even more cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly by closing it down to all vehicles on weekends for the rest of summer.
The move is one the city hopes will support physical distancing and make it easier for businesses along Dundas Street, from Talbot to Wellington streets.
“Safety during COVID-19 is paramount, and more space for Londoners shopping or dining on Dundas will help us maintain physical distance,” says Mayor Ed Holder. “While Dundas Place is not able to host traditional events or summer festivals downtown at this time, the city can still take advantage of the flex street’s ability to open and close to vehicle traffic.”
Vehicle traffic will be unable to travel east or west along Dundas Street between Talbot and Wellington streets Friday and Saturday evenings between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and on Sundays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Several businesses Global News spoke to along the city’s first flexible street are in support of the move.
“This new flex street is for cyclists and pedestrians, and that’s when it will be meeting its full potential, and that’s what will benefit us as a business the most,” said Troy Hutchison, owner of Grooves Records.
Hutchinson told Global News he hopes this is the first step in seeing the street closed more often and that it encourages more people to visit the area.
“I have been in favour of Dundas being a pedestrian thing for a long time, though I don’t think it should be closed to vehicle traffic all the time,” said Jonathon Bancroft-Snell, owner of a gallery by the same name.
For others like Billy Thompson, owner of Scot’s Corner, the move is not good enough if it’s meant to help restaurants.
“It’s a stupid thing, in my opinion,” Thompson said.
“Why they don’t just close it to traffic at 6 p.m. Friday and open it back up again when the weekend is over is beyond me.”
Thompson said by only closing the street down for a few hours at night, it doesn’t help or allow them to make their patios bigger because the closure only lasts until 11 p.m. He added that it also does not support the other businesses because most are closed by the time the changes take effect.
Restaurants have been some of the most impacted businesses during the pandemic. Without the patio, Thompson said they are dead inside. He said it would make more sense to close the street down on a seasonal basis when it is warm out.
Scot’s Corner is one of seven patios on Dundas Place, with the city saying more are in the works.
“Dundas Place is designed to be a community space that enhances how people of all ages and abilities experience the core,” says Coun. Arielle Kayabaga. “The changes this summer are meant to add to the ambiance of the current patios and unique experiences downtown businesses are offering as we navigate a path forward from construction and the pandemic.”
The change to Dundas Place is temporary and a part of a pilot project to support economic recovery.
The City of London, in collaboration with Downtown London, will be measuring results and consulting with businesses each week to address any concerns. The city also plans to add additional loading spaces in the area, much like what was co-ordinated during Dundas Place’s construction.
In keeping with public safety during the pandemic, temporary outdoor sanitization stations will be set up along the street. Despite the changes, the city is emphasizing the need for people to continue practising physical distancing.