The Battle for Elgin Street Sidewalks- Patios, Pedestrians, and Motorists

The Transportation Committee discussed creating patios at 216, 292, 296, and 360 Elgin Street (Item 7) on June 5. While these proposed patios on Elgin Street would undoubtedly enliven the city street, they would also limit sidewalk space available for pedestrians. City staff recommended issuing a yearlong permit for these locations with the recommendation that staff monitor their patios and the consequences of reduced sidewalk space for pedestrians. Staff would record the amount of times a bottleneck occurs and a person must step onto the road (and into a bus lane). The results of the trial period would be reported to the Transportation Committee prior to the 2015 patio season to determine if the patios should become permanent additions.

Ideally, the Transportation Committee would have recommended that parking spots on the road are blocked off during the trial period so that pedestrians are guaranteed safety. This would ensure that pedestrians are not stepping into traffic and treat their safety as a priority. A concerned community member, Bill Brown, echoed these sentiments in his delegation and argued that blocking off a couple of parking spaces for pedestrian use would suffice so that pedestrians would not have their public space infringed upon by a private interest.

Councillor Holmes and Councillor Bloess acknowledged that simply monitoring how many times a pedestrian must step into a bus lane presents a liability to the City, and Councillor Holmes suggested that the City and Councillors take more time to consider the risk present and the possibility of extending the sidewalks onto the road. Councillor Clark also supported the idea that Elgin Street surrender parking spaces for the use of pedestrians in light of patio permits, citing that it “would bring life” to the city. While Councillors Holmes, Clark, and Bloess did a commendable job recognizing the importance of pedestrian priority and safety on Elgin Street, they unfortunately did not submit a motion to guarantee that parking spaces would be reserved for pedestrians.

The Committee carried the motion and granted the patio permits without passing an amendment that would ensure space and safety for pedestrians. The Transportation Committee receives a Thumbs Down for passing the motion without amendments that would guarantee pedestrian safety. Councillor Holmes also receives a Thumbs Down. Although she is not a voting member of the Transportation Committee and despite of her positive comments, Councillor Holmes ultimately voiced her opinion (Item 7 Report) that her most preferred option is to go through with the patio development and simply monitor the results. Despite of her comments, Councillor Holmes receives a Thumbs Down for ultimately voicing the opinion  that the Committee approve the plan and monitor the effects of the patios.

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