KITCHENER -- Kitchener’s Mayor is proposing shutting down several city streets to vehicle traffic this summer in an effort to improve physical distancing.

Berry Vrbanovic posted the message on social media Monday afternoon, saying his goal is to give restaurants and businesses more space to operate safely, and with people walking and biking in core areas, he says people will need more space to stay two metres apart.

“We know that people are feeling very cooped up and we’re going to need more space for people to engage and participate,” said Vrbanovic.

In his post, Vrbanovic laid out a number of options, including closing King Street between Bridgeport Road and Frederick Street on weekends throughout the summer.

The streets span from Uptown Waterloo to Downtown Kitchener.

Another proposal is blocking off parking spaces and closing lanes on multi-lane streets to allow for more space.

Vrbanovic also says Belmont Village is another area they aim to explore re-routing traffic.

The idea of closing streets is not exactly new; the City of Toronto did so on the Victoria Day weekend, closing a stretch of LakeShore Boulevard to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

“Other municipalities in other jurisdictions have shown it’s possible, I think it’s important for us to at least try and adjust from here,” said Matt Rodrigues of the Downtown Kitchener Neighbourhood Association.

Vrbanovic says his plans would need quick action from the province and Region, to get these ideas off the ground.

“We’ve seen that the province is looking for ways to be more responsive and support municipalities, support business as they work through the COVID situation so that we can respond quickly. Particularity for this summer and then we can have a longer look at some of these issues going forward,” said Vrbanovic.

The idea is still in its early stages; the Region has asked staff to draft a report on the issue to see if it is a possibility. 

In Waterloo, the issue of active transportation is up for discussion at next week’s council meeting, where they are expected to discuss a similar idea.