Thunder Bay

Open Streets program would close roads to traffic

An open house to gauge the support for the concept of “Open Streets” in Thunder Bay sparked a lot of dialogue Tuesday night.

Thunder Bay residents weigh the pros and cons of opening up streets to pedestrians, cyclists

At a meeting held Tuesday night, Thunder Bay residents talked about the pros and cons of closing down a city street a few times a year to encourage other forms of non-motorized traffic. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

An open house to gauge the support for the concept of “Open Streets” in Thunder Bay sparked a lot of dialogue Tuesday night.

About 50 people came out to voice their praise and or concerns on turning a city street into an open space in the summer.

Many people want to let cyclists, runners and families take over a major roadway from vehicle traffic.

Michael Sabota said he's in favour of the project, but wanted to know how much money the city, or other community group, would have to pay to run the event.

In Hamilton this fall, people wandered unencumbered down the middle of one of the city's streets and took part in a range of fun family activities as part of Open Streets Hamilton. Thunder Bay is mulling over having its own Open Streets project.

"What about costs like EMS, what about costs for emergency services, policing [and so on], for closed streets?"

Organizers said the price for the program varies, depending on the city.

Gerald Graham wanted to know who would operate the event.

"Who runs the program once it starts? Is there paid staff [or] do you rely solely on volunteers?"

The proponents of Open Streets say the city would play some role in organizing the event. They also said volunteers are integral to the success of the program.

Impact on business?

David Green wanted to know how often the streets would be closed.

He owns three hardware stores and he says he depends on people driving to his store to buy bulky items.

"For a day or two, or three or even four over the summer it's not a problem,” he said.

“But, if you regularly close the street to traffic, it's very detrimental to a business like mine."

Business owners interested in learning more about the Open Streets —and its potential impact on business — had the chance to attend an information session Wednesday morning at the Slovak Legion.

No decisions have been made on what streets would be used for the project, but Algoma Street was mentioned a few times during the meeting.

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