OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson suggests residents wanting to practice physical-distancing while getting some fresh air during the COVID-19 pandemic travel on less-busy streets across Ottawa.

The City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission have no plans to close quiet roads for cyclists and pedestrians trying to practice physical-distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ecology Ottawa has launched a petition calling on the City of Ottawa to re-purpose underused roadways to provide safe outdoor access for pedestrians and cyclists.  Over the weekend, social media users called on the city and the NCC to close the parkways to motorists so people could walk, run or cycle while practicing physical-distancing.

Speaking with reporters Monday afternoon, the Mayor said “we’re trying to encourage people if they want to go out and get some fresh air, walk or run to use streets that are less busy.”

Watson did say the city would consider a “bump out” onto the street in front of a busy pharmacy or grocery store to accommodate busy sidewalks.

“To date the suggestion of closing all of Bank Street, or a good portion of Bank Street, has not been supported by our emergency operations.”

The NCC has previously said it would not close the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, the George-Etienne Parkway, Colonel By Drive or Queensway Elizabeth Drive to traffic for cyclists and pedestrians.

The City of Ottawa has closed public parks, except for walking through.

“Obviously people need to get fresh air, their kids have to go out, try travelling on the less busy streets. You don’t go to the busiest street in a particular neighbourhood if you want to maintain a safe distance,” said Watson.  

Ottawa’s General Manager of Emergency and Protective Services Anthony Di Monte was asked why the emergency operations department didn’t support closing roads, particularly Bank Street. 

Di Monte told reporters when the city closes a road, staff need to do an analysis on the road closure, place bollards on city streets for security reasons and to make sure pedestrians are protected.

“We would prefer that both a bus route and an emergency route stay clear,” said Di Monte, referencing Bank Street.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches has urged people to maintain a two-meter distance from others when in public.

In a statement to Councillors last week, Etches said “passing someone on the sidewalk is not considered close contact or a significant risk for exposure to COVID-19.”