COVID-19: City of Vancouver takes steps to give West Enders breathing room

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      While the West End has a bounty of attractions that draw visitors from across Metro Vancouver and beyond, it’s also one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the city.

      That means that the number of people on the seawall, sidewalks, beaches, and in parks surges as people flock to English Bay, Stanley Park, Sunset Beach, Prospect Point, and more on the weekends or sunny days—and particularly over the span of long weekends.

      Needless to say, the crush of sunseekers and sightseers compounded by local residents stepping outdoors makes it difficult to avoid proximity to others—even impossible at times. Which, of course, is bad news when it comes to ongoing attempts to curb virus transmission in the region.

      In an effort to manage the large numbers of people in the area, the city is taking a number of steps to discourage visitors while providing opportunities for West Enders—many of whom are living in apartments, which may not have balconies or yards, as well as seniors and those with mobility challenges—to venture out for exercise or fresh air.

      Parking zones

      Earlier this week, the Vancouver Park Board had announced the closure of vehicle access to Stanley Park, effective April 8.

      While the move was designed to reduce the number of visitors to the park and thereby ensure physical distancing, it was also due to motorists illegally parking their vehicles after parking lots had been closed at the park (as well as at beaches and other parks) on March 22.

      While the city had announced on March 30 that it was temporarily suspending enforcement of permit parking zones (in an effort to support healthcare workers and protect frontline staff), the city stated today (April 9) that it will resume permit parking zone enforcement in the West End.

      All permit parking west of Burrard Street will be monitored, with ticketing starting this afternoon.

      Signs are also being placed at access points to the West End to alert drivers about the change.

      Michael Wels/Getty Images

      Beach Avenue

      In response to concerns from West End residents about getting fresh air and exercising outdoors in the area densely filled with apartment tenants, the city is opening up more spaces to pedestrians and cyclists.

      Today, the eastbound lanes on Beach Avenue are being temporarily closed to vehicles from Hornby Street to Stanley Park until further notice.

      Consequently, the No. 23 Beach bus will be diverted to Davie Street.

      Residents can still use the westbound lane to reach their residences and residential parking will be maintained on the north side of Beach Avenue.

      The closed lanes will be available for people to maintain physical distancing (two metres apart) while walking or cycling.

      Similarly, Stanley Park Drive, after its closure to vehicle traffic, is being reallocated to cyclists so that pedestrians can walk on the seawall and maintain distancing. 

      Meanwhile, the city is encouraging residents in other parts of the city to seek outdoor spaces in their own neighbourhoods for fresh air or exercise.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook