OTTAWA -- The Glebe BIA wants to hit the brakes on talk of closing lanes on Bank Street for pedestrians until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In a letter to Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa Councillors, Glebe BIA Executive Director Andrew Peck says a balance needs to be considered when providing space for people to get fresh air while physically distancing, and supporting local businesses.

“Commercially, the pandemic has been devastating to our small businesses and their employees,” Peck writes, noting grocery stores, restaurants and other amenity businesses have had to adapt their operations to accommodate delivery and curbside pickup.

“Removing curb lanes on Bank Street to accommodate social distancing could present new challenges for struggling businesses looking to accommodate pickups and deliveries, receiving goods, or serving customers trying to safely acquire essentials while supporting local enterprises,” said Peck in the letter sent on Wednesday.

Peck notes a survey of more than 100 businesses in the Glebe and Old Ottawa South conducted just before the start of the pandemic found 94 per cent believe “new restrictions to parking and vehicular traffic along Bank would have a negative effect on their environment.”

Councillors Shawn Menard and Catherine McKenney had asked the city to close the northbound curb lane of Bank Street, from Riverdale to Gloucester, to traffic. Menard announced on Tuesday that the curb lanes over the Bank Street Bridge will be dedicated for walkers and cyclists, to give them extra room to cross the street.

Speaking with CTV Morning Live earlier this week, Menard said his office is having conversations with city staff to look at other areas to create areas for physical distancing walks and bike rides, including along Bank Street.

"The thing about Bank Street is you've got essential services there that people have to access them."

Peck tells CTV News Ottawa that half of the 200 businesses in the Glebe have been forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place by the various levels government.

“A lot of the businesses are trying to adapt,” said Peck, adding “a balance needs to be struck” between making sure residents practice physical distancing and also supporting businesses.

In the letter to Council, Peck writes “the fact is, until we effectively address the spread of COVID-19 and to do our part to minimize the impact on our health care delivery systems, we won’t be able to full tackle and recover from the financial setback.”

“The only way out of this right now is absolute compliance, we need to trust our health experts. And, they’re asking us to limit excursions and stay close to home.”

Peck says he understands and supports the need for residents to have open spaces, but there's a lot of other options besides the main street in the Glebe.

“Ultimately, Bank Street is not a critical component in the quest for more open space,” writes Peck.

“If there was a need to turn over some of our streets to walkers and bikers, it wouldn’t be reasonably or necessarily have to include commercial areas if it didn’t tangibly support local businesses.”

Peck notes there are several options for fresh air and exercise in the Glebe, including side streets, the canal, Lansdowne and the established cycling infrastructure in the area.

The Glebe BIA executive director notes Byron Avenue has been closed to traffic instead of Richmond Road, where many small businesses are located.

The letter concludes by writing “let’s be thoughtful about Bank Street and continue to serve needs of both residents and businesses in a way that accommodates everyone while addressing the public health and economic crisis before us."