There will soon be more room to bike and walk around Victoria Park in Charlottetown.
City council voted unanimously at a special meeting on Wednesday to close the interior lane of the road around the park to vehicular traffic one month ahead of schedule.
The interior lane is normally restricted to bicycles and walkers only from May 1 to Oct. 31 but council wants to give walkers and cyclists additional space a month earlier due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic.
Walkers and cyclists will now be able to use the inside lane beginning on April 1.
The decision was made in consultation with the office of the province’s chief public health officer.
Mayor Philip Brown said Dr. Heather Morrison’s staff felt it was a good way to encourage increased social distancing.
“There is a lot of stress in the community, both mentally and physically,’’ Brown said during the council meeting.
“I’ve had a lot of requests from residents wondering if we could get the lane open early and change the rules a little bit," added Coun. Alanna Jankov.
In the interest of social distancing, Brown and Coun. Terry Bernard were in council chambers for the meeting but the rest of council took part via conference call. The media were able to follow along through the city’s video feed.
Bernard said one of the reasons why council is acting now to open the inside lane around the park is due to concerns that too many people have been using the boardwalk these past few weeks.
“The boardwalk is getting pretty congested and (using) that other lane for these unprecedented times, to allow people to get out and get some exercise ... I think the whole idea is give them more space," Bernard said.
The playground at Victoria Park will remain closed, as per the chief public health officer’s order.
Some councillors were concerned about opening the inside lane to cyclists, walkers and people pushing strollers.
Coun. Mitchell Tweel suggested opening the inside lane for walkers only for the first month on a trial basis.
However, Coun. Greg Rivard said the city needs to ease the congestion on the boardwalk.
“If you’re a cyclist and you see someone walking with a stroller, I’m hoping you have the wherewithal to go around the stroller," Rivard said.
“If not, you shouldn’t be on a bike.’’
The inside lane will remain closed to vehicular traffic until Oct. 31.
“This is not just about physical activity," the mayor said.
"This is about mental activity ... just to calm the waters because, I can tell you, there is a lot of stress out there and anything that helps relieve it is a bonus."