One-way sidewalks? Westmount taking measure to reduce close contact

The City of Westmount is requesting that pedestrians treat their sidewalks like one-way streets in an effort to reduce the amount of face-to-face foot traffic.

No tickets, but pedestrians asked to voluntarily follow the flow of traffic

In Westmount, pedestrians are asked to treat sidewalks as one-way streets. The city has also widened some sidewalks by removing parking spots. (Daniel Thomas/Radio-Canada)

The City of Westmount is asking pedestrians to treat sidewalks like one-way streets in an effort to reduce the amount of face-to-face foot traffic.

The city is the first on the island of Montreal to take the measure as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Pedestrians are asked to walk in the direction of the flow of traffic. For example, on Sherbrooke Street pedestrians would walk west on the north side of the street, and eastbound pedestrians on the south side.

"We're willing to try anything to really try and encourage safety around pedestrians," Westmount Mayor Christine Smith said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

They made the decision after hearing from older citizens who were concerned they would not be able to move out of the way if someone is walking toward them. Public health authorities are asking people to stay at least 1.5 metres away from each other.

Space for physical-distancing

"People probably thought we were a bit nuts to do this on de Maisonneuve and then it worked," she said.

To give those walking more space, the stretch of de Maisonneuve Boulevard that runs through Westmount is now for local traffic only, and parking has been removed on Côte-Saint-Antoine Road.

There is signage letting pedestrians know of the change, but Smith says it's a voluntary measure that the city is asking of its citizens and tickets will not be issued.

The borough of Rosemont—La Petite Patrie is also looking into making some sidewalks one-way as a voluntary measure.

But the pedestrians group Piétons Québec isn't convinced it's such a good idea.

Spokesperson Jeanne Robin said "the problem is it obliges sometimes a significant detour that people won't take, for example when they leave their homes."

She said that it would likely encourage jaywalking as well.

The group is more supportive of widening pedestrian areas, such as what is being done on some Westmount streets and on a major artery in the Plateau.

On a 2.7-kilometre stretch of Mont-Royal Avenue, a lane of parking has been removed to give those walking down its narrow sidewalks more space to move.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and Radio-Canada

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