Windsor City report recommends against lane closures on Riverside Drive during pandemic

A Windsor City councillor will be asking to close one lane of Riverside Drive while physical distancing measures continue to be in place during the COVID-19 pandemic at a council meeting Monday afternoon.

Administration recommending against closures in report being tabled Monday afternoon

A graphic shows the proposed closure of lanes on Riverside Drive between Devonshire and Caron. (City of Windsor)

A Windsor City councillor will be asking to close one lane of Riverside Drive while physical distancing measures continue to be in place during the COVID-19 pandemic at a council meeting Monday afternoon.

"The volume of traffic and specifically with automobiles right now is way down, probably down 50 to 70 per cent because of the pandemic," said Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin. "So a lot of the concerns don't really meet the reality on the ground… There's a lot more pedestrians and cyclists out along the riverfront than there are automobiles driving along Riverside Drive."

The councillor was responding to a report which he asked for last week to look at closing down one lane on each side of Riverside Drive between Devonshire Road and Caron Avenue "and give it to pedestrians and cyclists," Bortolin said.

He argues that as the weather improves, more and more people would have the urge to get outside and enjoy the weather. Giving pedestrians more space through road closures would give people more room to observe physical distancing.

"As the economy starts to open up, I don't think this is a lost effort because I think, regardless of what comes over the next month, two months, three months, the social distancing requirements will still be in place," Bortolin said. 

Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin is asking for one of the northern lanes along Riverside Drive be closed during the pandemic to give pedestrians and cyclists more room on the waterfront. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Any road closure in the city must go before the Special Event Resource Team (SERT) which looked at the safety, cost and effects of closing the lanes. In the report, they expressed numerous concerns about going ahead with the lane closures including response times for emergency vehicles, increased congestion, ability for people to board buses and the fact that providing the space could encourage people to break social distancing.

"Providing additional space for pedestrians and cyclists may inadvertently encourage congregation," the risk analysis portion of the report read.

"Administration does not recommend pursuing these types of lane/road closures at this time," the report concluded. 

Motion going forward

"Most of them are against it," Bortolin said about SERT. "They are against almost every situation where we go to close a road." 

The report sets out two cost estimates projected over a three-month period. The city could rent the barrels needed to create the physical separation for $124,200, or buy them for $90,200.

However, Bortolin's ask has changed. At this meeting he plans to make a motion to just close the northern lane during the pandemic instead of lanes on both the north and south side. 

A graphic from the city report showing what a curb lane pedestrian zone might look like. (City of Windsor)

Seven councillors joined him last week to ask for the report. He hopes his motion passes this week, but he is uncertain.

"There are concerns, but I will be asking questions to sort of go through some of those concerns," he said.

"We'll have to see, I'm guessing it will be tight but I'm hoping that we get at least the six votes."


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