Figures from the Town of Sidney show just how much activity has picked up since the provincial government started to lift social restrictions.
The pedestrian counter installed outside Tanner’s Books at the corner of the Beacon Avenue and Fourth Street recorded 1,331 on May 19 — up almost 25 per cent from the daily average of 1,071 for the period between March 1 and May 19. Looking at all four counters in downtown Sidney, the daily average was 640 for the period of March 1 to May 19. For May 19 the average was 844.
Coun. Peter Wainwright said he would not call the increase of pedestrians at Tanner’s Books a concern.
“I think what you are seeing is an indication that the re-start is actually happening,” he said. “There is a greater number of people apparently in the downtown. Obviously, this kind of thing is weather-dependent.”
Wainwright said the number for May 19 would likely be lower if it had rained. “But May 19 was not like that and it also wasn’t a spectacular day either,” he said. “So the numbers are probably not super high because of that. What you are probably seeing is that a lot of people felt like getting out and seeing what was opening and taking advantage of some of the stores that had previously not been opened. There is a lot going on and that is good.”
Wainwright also said that the municipality plans to bring forward measures to help address various social-distancing challenges for pedestrians in the downtown to ensure the safety of residents.
“We know a lot of businesses have limited ability to accommodate customers physically inside,” he said. “So in a lot of cases, you will see line-ups on the street and of course people have to be able to get by the line-ups in both directions with appropriate distance,” he said.
At the same time, a “few places” in Sidney have “pretty narrow” sidewalks that serve as “pinch-points,” said Wainwright, pointing as an example to the bus stop immediately adjacent to the TD Bank. Wainwright also wondered how people waiting for the bus would be able to gather safely in maintaining social distance.
Ultimately, any measures will have to consider a wide range of issues, such as safety, mobility and commercial parking, he said.
Another factor is lobbying efforts to allow retailers and restaurants to spread out retail and serving space to parking lots, sidewalks or local streets, as some residents call on the municipality to close Beacon Avenue for portions of the day to create that additional space.
Richard Talbot, a retail consultant with decades of experience, generally favours the idea, provided officials consult with merchants before proceeding.
“It’s worth investigating,” he said. He also noted downtown retailers have been historically concerned about parking, with many relying on front-door parking to receive commercial deliveries.
Wainwright said he hasn’t formed an opinion on the subject yet.
“The devil is in the detail with this kind of stuff,” he said. “We have been allowing restaurants and cafes to us public space on the sidewalk historically. They can get a permit from the [municipality] for that purpose. But there are places where you have a couple of restaurants basically side by side and there would be limited opportunities on the existing sidewalk. But maybe we would allow them to take over adjacent parking spaces. It’s a fairly complex issue … and at the end of the day, I am not sure how it is going to play out.”
Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner