New Westminster to pilot Cool Streets this summer

Cool Streets are coming to New Westminster this summer.

The Cool Streets initiative seeks to increase space for people and to improve access and connectivity to parks and open spaces in high-density, low-income and park-deficient-neighbourhoods. In August and September, the city will be pilot Cool Streets on four local streets: Ninth Street (between Sixth Avenue and Queens Avenue); 11th Street (between Sixth Avenue and Queens Avenue); Fourth Avenue (between 11th Street and First Street); and Fourth Street (between Third Avenue and Eighth Avenue.)

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“Cool Streets are proposed on local streets where light-quick-cheap interventions are introduced to create space for residents to walk, roll, cycle, gather and socialize in a ‘cool’ environment while adhering to physical distance guidelines,” said the report.

In addition to helping people keep two metres away from others while exercising and getting fresh air, a staff report said the Cool Streets initiative aims to provide safe, comfortable and cool corridors for walking/cycling from the city’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods to existing parks and open spaces during the hot summer months. This includes areas with residents with low incomes, seniors and a large number of residents without backyards, patios and rooftop gardens.

The city will pilot the first stage of Cool Streets in August and September by erecting construction-style barriers and local-traffic-only signs. Staff will later analyze the data and feedback on how walking, cycling and rolling changed on these streets because of the initiative.

“This work will inform a review on the possibility of future new bike routes, public spaces and neighbourhood traffic-calming projects,” said the report. “Staff will report back to council on feedback and lessons learned during the pilot period in spring 2021 and make a recommendation for the Cool Streets network for summer 2021.”

According to the report, the financial impacts associated with the project are about $2,000, which is for the provision of street barriers and signage at either end of the Cool Streets.

“This is a great program,” said Coun. Patrick Johnstone.

Johnstone said Cool Streets is a “cheap, quick and light” initiative that supports the city’s Streets for People initiative. In May, council approved Johnstone’s Streets for People motion, which calls on the city to move quickly to expand road reallocation toward pedestrians, cyclists and public gathering spaces.

“This summer, we will have some streets where people will have a little more room to stretch out, a little more room to go out for a walk or roll in shady places during the hot summer, and hopefully, if it works out this summer, we will look to expand to more streets in different neighbourhoods next summer or in the years ahead,” Johnstone said.

Mayor Jonathan Cote questioned how staff will measure the success of these sorts of initiatives to determine if they should be expanded or be made permanent.

Lisa Leblanc, the city’s transportation manager, said staff wants to talk to people and learn about their experiences with the interim measures being put in place.

“We want to get a feel for the demographic, the spectrum of people that are using these facilities,” she said. “We have asked the consultants to think about who isn’t there as well. We are going to be counting and observing who is there, but we are also asking them to have a good look at who is missing, so that we have a sense of whether we are tapping into the broad spectrum or demographic here in New West or if we are only catering to a limited demographic. That work is going to be starting in the next couple of weeks. We look forward to reporting to council, probably on an interim basis in the fall, and then a final report later in year or early 2021.”

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