Temporary changes to downtown public space in 2021

Aeriel of Downtown Peterborough

City Council will consider recommended temporary changes to the downtown public space to support public health measures and outdoor business activity, including patios, through the spring and summer months, during a Special General Committee meeting on Monday, March 29, 2021. 

City staff report on recommended temporary downtown public space changes

Based on the review of last year’s temporary changes to the downtown public space and feedback from the community, several changes have been made to this year’s recommended plan. Public health remains the overarching priority while supporting business activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The proposal includes upgrading the bollards/delineators to improve the look of the changes, the feeling of safety in the dividers between traffic lanes and pedestrian spaces, and accessibility by more clearly separating the spaces. The City is considering the use of portable flower planter boxes and fencing. Implementation is expected in May, pending Council approval. 

COVID-19 Guidance from Peterborough Public Health

Peterborough Public Health has provided guidance to assist the City and downtown businesses with planning for the downtown space during the spring and summer months. Among its guidance, Peterborough Public Health encourages the wearing of face coverings outside when physical distancing may be challenging, such as on downtown sidewalks. 

 Peterborough Public Health Guidance - Downtown during spring  and summer

In Ontario, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been guided by the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework. This framework has been developed to keep Ontario businesses operational, while at the same time dictating various restriction levels based on the transmission of the virus and capacity of the health care system. The framework imposes more restrictions for indoor settings and businesses, which means that for some sectors, the Framework supports outdoor activities and services. With this in mind, Peterborough Public Health (PPH) anticipates that the warmer weather will increase demand on our outdoor public spaces, particularly in the City’s downtown core.

The following guidance and recommendations have been developed to support the City of Peterborough’s 2021 plans for the downtown space for the spring and summer seasons. These recommendations have been developed based on the following objectives:

  • Mitigate the risk of increased transmission.
  • Protect vulnerable/high-risk populations and settings.
  • Maintain the health care and public health capacity demands below critical levels.
  • Increase social and economic activity with appropriate conditions and controls in place.
  • Monitor impacts to inform decision-making regarding modifications to approach.
  • Frequent and transparent communication to the public to highlight their role in reducing the risk of COVID-19.
 What is the risk associated with COVID-19 transmission in outdoor settings?
Over the past year, the entire world has continued to learn more about the COVID-19 virus, risk of transmission, and measures needed to control the spread. Public health officials have continued to monitor research and best practice to ensure evidence-informed decision making is occurring at local, provincial, and national response levels. Analysis of the COVID-19 cases in Canada to date continue to reinforce that risk factors associated with transmission of COVID-19 include close contact of 2 metres or less, crowded spaces, closed spaces, and forceful exhalation.
Over the past few months, new variants of the COVID-19 virus have emerged. “Based on the observed rapid rise in incidence and the higher secondary attack rates, reproductive number (Rt) and viral load, VOCs appear
to have higher transmissibility than other non-VOCs.”5 Additionally, there is evidence of higher risk of hospitalization and death from VOC infection.
Personal public health measures, such as keeping a minimum distance of 2 metres from anyone who is not from the same household, staying home if you are ill, frequent hand washing, and wearing a non-medical mask continue to be the most effective preventative measures, for COVID-19 VOCs and non-VOC transmission.7 When these personal public health measures are coupled with outdoor settings with good air flow, rates of COVID-19 transmission are quite low.
For these reasons, residents and businesses across the Peterborough region should be encouraged and enabled to get outdoors as much as possible. Activities where physical distancing can be maintained and physical contact with other persons minimized, for example solitary activities and those enjoyed by household groups, represent the lowest risk for COVID-19 transmission.
 Why modify the downtown area for the spring and summer months?

The City of Peterborough downtown area is one of the busiest areas in the Peterborough region. This is due to a combination of the high density of residential buildings, businesses, services, and public spaces. While this important mix of uses are needed to foster conditions favourable for long-term health and wellbeing, this does pose challenges for each individual using this space to effectively apply personal public health measures, in particular physical distancing.

Businesses across the Peterborough region have shouldered heavy burdens throughout this pandemic. From reduced indoor capacity limits to long periods of closure, many local businesses need numerous supports to ensure they can continue to operate throughout COVID-19 and beyond. In light of this, businesses are supported through the Ontario Covid-19 Response Framework to modify their operations to offer outdoor sales and/or curb-side pick-up. Businesses in the downtown area have limited resources to expand outdoors or offer curb-side pick up due to competing needs of abutting spaces. To ensure the downtown businesses can be afforded the same opportunity as all businesses in our region, outdoor sales and curb-side pick up areas for downtown businesses should be created. However, it is critical that any space granted for this business activity must not jeopardize the ability for another downtown user to safely implement their personal public health measures, primarily, the ability to physically distance from others (e.g., outdoor sales areas must not compromise physical distancing potential for sidewalk users).

 What are the personal public health measures all residents need to practice?

Until the majority of our residents have acquired full immunity from a COVID-19 vaccine, personal public health measures are required. The following measures are fundamental to a community’s COVID-19 response and must continue to be applied even during the warmer spring and summer months:

  • Anyone feeling ill should remain at home and not go out in public.
  • Staying at home as much as possible if at risk of more severe disease or outcomes, this includes individuals who are:
    • older adults (increasing risk with each decade, especially over 60 years)
    • people of any age with chronic medical conditions including lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, stroke, and dementia
    • people of any age who are immunocompromised, including those with an underlying medical condition (e.g., cancer), or taking medications which lower the immune system (e.g., chemotherapy), people living with obesity (BMI of 40 or higher)
  • People who do not reside in the same household must maintain a minimum of 2 metres of physical distance from each other.
  • A face covering/non-medical mask must be worn at all times in an indoor public space.
  • For outdoor settings, it is strongly recommended that a face coverings/non-medical mask be worn anytime 2 metres physical distancing cannot be predictably maintained (i.e., walking on the sidewalk, walking on the platform at the transit terminal, waiting at a busy intersection).
  • Frequent hand washing with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Practice responsible respiratory etiquette and cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
  • Cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces should be increased and signage must be provided where this is not possible (e.g., picnic tables at parks).
  • Reduce personal non-essential travel.
  • Limiting outings and public gatherings as per provincial legislation. 
 What risk mitigation strategies can be applied to the City of Peterborough downtown area?

Hierarchy of PPE Measures as described in text.There are numerous adaptations that can be applied to the City’s downtown to ensure all users can safely use and access this space. The risk mitigation potential for the City’s downtown is based on the types of controls that can be used to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission within this setting.12 The mitigation potential is based on the modified hierarchy of controls, in which measures are considered more protective to less protective in this order: physical distancing, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE)/non-medical masks.

To maximize risk mitigation potential, the City of Peterborough and downtown businesses should consider a “layered” approach where they implement multiple types of controls and mitigation measures aimed at reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including decreasing the number of interactions with others and increasing the safety of interactions. Layering of multiple mitigation measures strengthens the risk mitigation potential overall and ultimately makes the downtown area a safer place for all. Critical components of the risk mitigation also include communication about risk mitigation measures applied, and promoting personal public health practices that everyone must follow. PPH’s following recommendations for a variety of mitigation strategies based on the hierarchy of controls model.

 Physical Distancing

 Strategies to maintain a 2-metre distance between individuals and reduce time spent in close proximity.

  • Ensure sufficient public realm for all necessary activities to take place (e.g., pedestrians, queue lines, etc.). This means that all individuals must be able to maintain 2 metres of physical distance between each other (e.g., one individual requires 4 square metres of space to ensure proper physical distancing).
  • Promoting essential trips only to the downtown.
  • Promoting staying home if you are sick.
  • Businesses should continue to offer modified shopping by offering online sales, delivery, and shipping.
  • Support businesses with curb-side pickup by offering designated pick-up spots along streets that have a large number of retail.
  • Support businesses with designated exterior queue spaces or an outside retail desk to minimize the number of people in an indoor setting at one time. Queue spaces should be appropriately marked to ensure 2m between everyone in line.
  • Support and encourage businesses (primarily food premises) to implement reservation systems to prevent queue lines and unnecessary crowding.
  • Ensure appropriate signage and a thorough communications strategy detailing changes
 Engineering Controls

Strategies to create physical barriers between individuals and reduce exposure to common surfaces. 

  • If sidewalks do not provide enough space for physical distancing, remove parking and other traffic lanes to create space for physical distancing. Ensure any space that abuts a travel lane (e.g., pedestrian space, amenity space) has a barrier or is clearly delineated and signed.
  • On streets with low traffic volumes, consider designating the street as “local access only” to reduce vehicle volumes and speeds, while at the same time providing the full street for all users to distance.
  • Conduct continual pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow assessments to monitor for crowding and/or pinch points.
  • Deactivate any intersection with touch button signals and change to a timed pedestrian crossing.
  • Non-essential common areas should be closed.
  • For indoor and outdoor retail spaces, ensure a 2m space between retailer and customer, or include the use of clear barriers (e.g., plexiglass).
  • Ensure appropriate signage and a thorough communications strategy detailing changes.
 Administrative Controls

Strategies to change the way people interact with the setting in order to reduce risk (e.g., through changes to business policies or practices).

  • Work with local businesses to stagger the hours of retail businesses vs. restaurants to minimize competing space demands (e.g., retail spaces use outdoor sidewalk space during the day, restaurants use outdoor sidewalk space at night for patios).
  • Promote active modes of travel to minimize the amount of square footage each visitor would need (e.g., travelling by private vehicle requires more square footage).
  • Promote designated parking zones at the entrance to the downtown to encourage park and walk to shops and services.
  • Reduce traffic speeds to increase safety for all road users.
  • Increase the frequency of environmental cleaning for indoor and outdoor high-touch surfaces.
  • Non-contact waste receptacles should be available indoors and outdoors.
  • Increase access to handwashing and sanitizing (e.g. by opening public washrooms in the downtown and placing hand sanitizer dispensers in prominent locations) and ensuring these are accessible for individuals with disabilities or other accommodation needs.
  • Businesses can provide special accommodations for clients from vulnerable groups (e.g. dedicated shopping hours for seniors and people with immune compromising or underlying medical conditions).
  • Businesses post accessible signage to discourage shopping from anyone who is ill.
  • Ensure appropriate signage and a thorough communications strategy detailing changes.
 PPE and NMM

 Equipment worn/used by a person to prevent spread of the virus.

  • Individuals must wear nonmedical masks in indoor public spaces and should be advised to wear them in any outdoor space where 2 metre physical distance cannot be predictably maintained from others.
  • Consider a bylaw that would require individuals to wear non-medical masks while on sidewalks in the downtown.
  • PPE can be used appropriately as per usual practice or as required for workers by the occupational health and safety legislation or local public health authority (e.g., if employees will be within 2 metres of others).

 

How to monitor and evaluate

A robust monitoring and evaluation strategy for any changes to the downtown is critical to the success of this plan. Ongoing monitoring is needed in the short-term to determine if there are unintended consequences emerging. Any unintended consequence would need to be addressed immediately to ensure the public’s health and safety. Possible unintended consequences of the downtown area modifications could include:
  • traffic pinch points
  • crowds
  • gatherings
  • accessibility issues
  • higher pedestrian volumes than anticipated
  • dangerous traffic speeds
  • a particular demographic unable to access the downtown
Public health monitoring of the local COVID-19 situation is ongoing throughout the pandemic. Monitoring indicators include:
  • Epidemiology of the virus
    • Incidence rate
    • Percent positivity
    • Reproductive rate
    • # of outbreaks
    • Level of community transmission
  • Health system capacity: Hospital and ICU capacity
  • Public health system capacity: Case and contact follow-up capacity
 Conclusion
In conclusion, due to the competing demands for public space in the City’s downtown during the warmer months, risk mitigation measures are needed to ensure personal public health measures can be applied safely and effectively by all who use and access this space. Any risk mitigation measure must ensure that physical distancing of 2 metres can be maintained between anyone who is not from the same household, as well as ensuring that accessibility to the downtown is possible for all members of our community.

Temporary changes for 2021

George and Water streets 

For this year, the City is recommending maintaining two lanes of vehicular traffic on George and Water streets with extended patio areas being designed in adjacent on-street parking spaces through a permitting process, similar to the regular permit process for patios. 

Sidewalks on George and Water streets would remain designated for pedestrian use. 

The modifications to the parking lanes will be focused in front of businesses that seek a permit to use the space for expanded patio/display space. Rather than a “one-size fits all approach”, the City will assist with a more customized design of the space. This approach will reduce the number of areas where parking/pick up/drop off spaces are impacted for other uses. Roadway space will be used to accommodate vehicle and cycling modes of travel. 

Hunter Street Charlotte Street looking east

The layout would be similar to the temporary changes that were made last year to allow for expanded patios to use the available sidewalk space. Vehicular traffic will be one lane, one-way traffic in the westbound direction. 

Based on feedback on last year’s changes, it is proposed that there will be upgraded treatment to separate the pedestrian space from the traffic lane, including portable planters and temporary fencing. 

Charlotte Street 

Similar to last year, Charlotte Street would be changed to one lane of vehicular traffic in the eastbound direction. Based on feedback, sidewalks would be maintained for pedestrian traffic this year with patio/business space shifting into the current on-street parking lanes and a portion of the former westbound traffic lane. 

Patios

Expanded patios and display space is a key benefit to the temporary downtown space changes.

Downtown businesses are invited to email the City's Urban Design Planner to express interest to obtain a patio permit. Patio permit applications will be sent to businesses that inquire about patio permits. Applicants will be required to submit a scaled drawing with dimensions of their requested patio space.

Map of temporary changes to downtown public space

Public consultation 

This year's changes will be based on lessons learned from temporary changes made in 2020. A public survey was conducted in February to allow for broad input on the changes implemented in 2020. Among the survey results: 

  • 1,492 responses were received 

  • 61.3% of respondents agreed that the changes gave them the ability to maintain appropriate physical distancing 

  • When asked to rank priorities, with the stipulation that public health/safety is a main priority and accessibility is a foundational principle, respondents ranked the priorities in the following order:

  1. Supporting business activity 
  2. Providing additional pedestrian space
  3. Providing dedicated curbside pickup areas
  4. Providing on-street parking 

Review meetings were held with Peterborough Public Health, the Downtown Business Improvement Area, Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development, and the Accessibility Advisory Committee. 

City Council feedback was incorporated into the recommended design for 2021. 

The Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area submitted its own review of the temporary downtown public space changes as input into the City’s review and for consideration for recommendations for 2021. 

The City of Peterborough continues to welcome feedback about the temporary changes to downtown public spaces. A feedback form is available online, or people can contact City Hall at 705-742-7777 by phone.

Feedback - Temporary changes to downtown public space

City Council

City Council is holding a Special General Committee meeting starting at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 29 to consider the recommendations. 

Public delegations can speak to Council at the special Council meeting on Tuesday, April 6, when it considers approving a direction. To register to speak as a delegation at this meeting, please call the Clerk’s Office at 705-742-7777 ext. 1820 or use the online form at peterborough.ca/delegation

 

George Street looking south from Brock Street