LETTER: (Personal) Space Invaders | Squamish Chief

LETTER: (Personal) Space Invaders

Personal space may be the two most magical words in the English language. Having someone move onto or across the street to give me my hockey stick distance apart is a little thing — maybe the only thing — I have come to enjoy in these times (working in my pajamas aside).

As provincial governments begin to lift restrictions and even allow unessential businesses to resume, the question of how we continue social distancing is very real.

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With the looming rise in traffic, there becomes an irony in risking personal safety by using our roads as sidewalk extensions.

Many cities are responding to this question and creating needed public space by temporarily reallocating roads to pedestrians.

Winnipeg and Calgary have both introduced plans to restrict or close roads to traffic to protect residents as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Milan and Oakland have announced ambitious plans to temporarily turn over roadways to pedestrians; closing 35 and 119 kilometres of their roads, respectively. Refreshing proposals such as these do not come without problems; but these are solvable problems, not inherent headaches.

Locally speaking, portions of Squamish’s Cleveland Avenue may be the model if our District were to consider such a policy.

It is a downtown street active with Squamish residents and in years past has become the heart of Squamish’s summers. In addition to the safety advantages, are the possible economic benefits for local businesses. Comparable projects have demonstrated increased walk-by traffic and retail sales, as well as the possibility of additional seating capacity for cafes and restaurants. All of this, not to mention likely decreased traffic and parking demands relative to past years begs the question of whether reallocating roads — or even redesigning streets — could be made a reality in Squamish.

There is no question Squamish residents love to get outside. At this stage, however, going out to simply pick up take-out can feel as if it is a zero-sum game. On one hand, we are supporting local businesses at a time in need while on the other, it can be challenging to retain our personal space. So, if Squamish is serious about conserving the health of our community and its health care workers while also supporting local businesses, following the lead of other municipalities and redistributing our public spaces to pedestrians in the interim should be explored.

Scott MacDonald
Garibaldi Highlands

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