Perry: COVID-19 – Here's why City of Ottawa should open some street space for pedestrians

By Michelle Perry, Ottawa Citizen, March 31, 2020

Weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, the stinginess of our public spaces is laid bare.

The message from public health leaders is clear: wash your hands, disinfect, don’t touch your face, stay home as much as possible. Go out for essentials and to maintain physical and mental health, but stay at least two metres apart to prevent the spread of the virus.

This is hard. Our lives have been uprooted. Schools, many workplaces, restaurants and most storefronts have closed, as have recreation centres, parks and other public spaces that make city life tolerable. The mental strain will only build as the pandemic continues. Staying home in a large house with a yard is one thing, but many of us — particularly in the urban core — have small indoor living spaces and tiny or non-existent private outdoor space. There is also a difference between driving in a private vehicle to get to work or pick up groceries and other essentials, and using narrow public sidewalks to do the same thing. Most sidewalks in Ottawa are barely two metres wide, making physical distancing difficult or impossible. Many pathways aren’t much wider. In normal times, this crowding is an annoyance. With COVID-19, it puts us at risk.

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