Late night Whyte Avenue to be pedestrian-only for pilot project

“Car Free Whyte Avenue" would close the street between 102 to 107 Streets from midnight to 2:30 a.m. on busy nights.
Whyte Avenue is jammed with vehicles and pedestrians on a typical weekend night. (CBC)

Should Whyte Avenue be closed to vehicles on nights when thousands of bar, restaurant and festival patrons are milling around?

To find out, the city will launch a pilot project called Car Free Whyte Avenue, where the street will be closed between 102nd and 107th Streets from midnight to 2:30 a.m. on busy nights.

“There's over 10,000 licensed seats on Whyte Avenue and so at closing time Friday and Saturday nights it's very busy,” said Angela Turner with Responsible Hospitality Edmonton.

Although the avenue will be blocked off, buses and emergency vehicles will still be allowed in. A designated area for cabs will also be set up outside the barricade.

Business owners say they support the idea.

“It's all benefit,” said Cathal O’Byrne, owner of O’Byrne’s Public House. “I don't see any negatives as to what this can do for our city.”

O’Byrne believes the initiative could attract more people to Whyte Avenue and increase safety for his employees.

“Our staff go above and beyond to help our customers get home,” he said.

“I feel a little uneasy when our staff are stepping out onto the road inbetween the cars that are parked here, and they have to step out to hail a cab,” he said. “It's just dangerous in general.”

Turner says that periods where the street could be closed include Hallowe’en, St. Patrick’s Day and the first six weeks of university.

Details of the program are still being finalized. People are being asked to tell the city what they think by taking an online survey here.

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