Kitsilano business frustrated with ‘open street’ pilot project

Click to play video: 'Traffic-calming measures on Yew St. create confusion'
Traffic-calming measures on Yew St. create confusion
A traffic- calming measure in Vancouver's Kitsilano community is creating confusion and even allegedly hurting the bottom line of one area business. More than a week ago, the city put up signs and some barriers, to make a section of Yew street more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly during certain times of the week. But as Christa Dao reports, complaints have already forced the city to make changes. – Jul 9, 2023

The concept is simple — transform Yew Street into Vancouver’s first pedestrian-friendly open street, but the execution has been anything but.

Both pedestrians and drivers have expressed frustration, unable to navigate confusing signage.

Yew Street is fully closed to vehicle traffic from 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends.

Deliveries are only allowed outside of these hours.

To make things a bit more complicated, vehicles can’t turn onto Yew Street from Cornwall Avenue or West 1st Avenue.

Kits Market said it had seen a 40-per cent drop in business since the end of June, when the pilot began.

The owners said customers are unable to find parking and their flowers can’t be delivered outside of the scheduled times.

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“We’ve been here for more than 50 years. The city is trying to kill us. I don’t understand that, it’s not fair to the local businesses,” said Hang Zhang, Kits Market’s co-owner.

“We have lost a lot of money. This is not right.”

Click to play video: 'Peer crisis response teams coming to 3 more B.C. communities'
Peer crisis response teams coming to 3 more B.C. communities

The other owner is worried the business might not be able to survive the pilot project.

“We got a call from the delivery company saying, ‘We can’t do deliveries, no left turn, no right turn,’” said Lu Sun, Kits Markets’ other owner.

“We don’t know how we’re going to be here.”

The City of Vancouver said it will add simpler signage for drivers and remove a concrete island. City staff are also looking to add street furniture.

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Despite frustrations, some Kitsilano residents said they do enjoy the car-free zone.

“My experience has been great so far. It’s bringing more people into the community,” Tessa Laxton said.

“More pedestrians (as well). I like it, I think it’s great.”

The open street project is expected to last until the end of the summer.

The city is asking for feedback and staff said if the pilot is successful, it could return next summer with “improvements.”

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