Should parts of the ByWard Market be closed off to cars?

Should motorists be banned from using certain streets in the ByWard Market? The executive director of Ottawa Markets would like to see that happen.

Ottawa Markets has been surveying pedestrians and vendors on the idea

Ottawa Markets is looking into the idea of keeping cars off William Street and ByWard Market Square — the two adjacent streets to the market building — on weekends. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Should motorists be banned from using certain streets in the ByWard Market?

The executive director of Ottawa Markets would like to see that happen.

"People are certainly getting away from their cars a little bit, around the world, and particularly [when it comes to] public spaces and public markets," Jeff Darwin told CBC Radio's In Town And Out.

Ottawa Markets is the organization in charge of municipal buildings in the market area. It's looking into the idea of keeping cars off William Street and ByWard Market Square — the two adjacent streets to the market building — on weekends.

Darwin said that his organization recently closed off ByWard Market Square to host a movie night, and more than 300 people attended. 

"We kept a close eye on the barricades. We figure, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., we may have inconvenienced maybe 20 cars," he said.

Darwin also pointed to last year's La Machine event, when the market had rolling closures and thousands of people took to the streets.

"Nobody died. All the merchants were very happy. They were running out of food. They did a lot of business."

Jeff Darwin, executive director of Ottawa Markets, says his organization is contemplating the possibility of prohibiting motorists from using of two streets near the ByWard Market's main building on weekends. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Possible speed bumps

Darwin said he's heard concerns that closing off the streets could cause parking issues for customers and delivery issues for vendors.

But Darwin said the organization is looking at ways to work around these issues.

"I think we could close a street or two if it's more pedestrian-friendly, and not take away any parking and still allow for deliveries," he said.

One option the organization is exploring is adding an underground delivery area under York Street.

As for parking, Darwin said the lots in the market are rarely full — and once the Confederation light rail line is in full swing, even more people will likely leave their cars at home.

Ottawa Markets doesn't have the jurisdiction to make the call to close streets itself, but it's surveyed pedestrians and vendors and plans to bring the results to an upcoming public consultation how to improve Lowertown.

"What we're doing is trying a lot of things, holding up the mirror, [and] asking a lot of questions," Darwin said.

WIth files from Giacomo Panico