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Calgary to limit vehicles on Stephen Avenue to make room for pedestrians, patios

The City of Calgary said it will be doing its part to help local businesses serve patrons amid the COVID-19 pandemic by restricting vehicle access to one of the city’s popular downtown streets.

On Thursday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, announced the changes for vehicle traffic will begin on Stephen Avenue starting Friday.

“Tomorrow after 11 a.m., only pedestrians and cyclists will be allowed on Stephen Ave,” Nenshi said.

“This is not a street festival and this is not a summer party on Stephen Ave… What this is about is supporting local businesses.”

Nenshi said vehicles will be allowed on the street between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., to allow for deliveries and important traffic, however past 11 a.m., no cars will be permitted on the road.

The road closure will allow restaurants to extend their patios in order to serve more patrons, Nenshi said.

“We’re making it easier to stretch out your patio,” he said. “On Stephen Ave., we’re going to be pushing the patios out towards the road.”

Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) deputy chief, Sue Henry, said the city has also made it easier for businesses to get the necessary permits for their patio expansions.

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All fees for the temporary permission have been waived, and Henry said the city’s planning department is looking to help businesses obtain the proper approvals as quickly as possible.

“Temporary patios are one more option to create more physical space,” Henry said.

“To date, we have had 45 applications for temporary outdoor patios, — these have been completed. 34 applications are being processed and six temporary patios are already installed and operating.”

The decision to close Stephen Avenue to vehicle traffic was made following a survey of business owners in the area.

“The Calgary downtown association did a really good job on surveying their members and they found that the vast majority wanted to try this,” Nenshi said.

“Now I know the businesses are behind it, I’m excited to try the experiment.”

Henry also noted that the city’s temporary 30-minute curbside pickup and free parking zones will come to an end on June 1.

A change in the scheduled reopening date for the city’s playgrounds was also announced on Thursday.

“As of tomorrow Friday, May 29, playgrounds will be eligible to operate,” Henry said

The city originally planned on reopening playgrounds on June 1.

Henry noted that regional playgrounds will open first followed by community playgrounds. With more than 1,000 facilities in the city, Henry noted that it will take some time to reopen the playgrounds, however, she added that all facilities should be open by June 3.

Henry also added that officials will be “lightly” inspecting playgrounds upon reopening to ensure the public’s safety. She noted that parents should also stay vigilant when letting their children use the facilities.

“There’s limited ability to manage physical distancing on these structures so parents please help children use these structures safely,” she said.

Henry said the public should wash and sanitize their hands before and after using the playgrounds and limit contact with anyone outside of their family.

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