Editorial

Closing Invermere’s main street (7th Avenue) to vehicles two days a week this summer may not be a bad idea, but it needs meaningful input from business owners.

There are clearly advantages and disadvantages to this proposal, but probably the best way to find out is to give it a try. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to the status quo.

Many towns and cities in BC have closed certain streets to traffic and turned them into pedestrian-only thoroughfares. These venues look quite nice in a “green” sort of way and offers an aesthetic ambiance that draws people in. This encourages people to get out of their cars and walk for their health while shopping, creating an “old town’ atmosphere that brings people together. 

Think about it — less pollution, no breathing in exhaust fumes, no road rage, less stress, and a revitalized downtown.

On the flip side, however, it may ruffle some business (and motorist) feathers as it has done in other municipalities. How many times have you tried to find parking near a business during a market or street closure only to curse and grip the steering wheel in frustration? More times than you can remember. This may actually cause road rage to occur while jockeying for a spot just around the corner. 

Some businesses argue that pedestrian-only traffic impacts their bottom line and does little to increase revenue.

In a 2021 Research Shop study (a small sampling) of the Locke Street business area in Hamilton, ON, street closures did not appear to have any positive economic impact for businesses, meaning no increase in foot traffic or change in sales revenue. However, most attendees who participated in the Saturday closures reported that their perception of the Locke Street neighbourhood was positively impacted. They also felt like part of the community because the closures provided more opportunity to socialize with friends.

However, some attendees called for fewer street closures, citing issues such as accessible parking; business owners called for better advertising and curbside pickup options.

There you go — clearly there are several pros and cons to temporarily closing streets on weekends. While there is merit to giving it a shot on 7th Avenue in Invermere, it needs careful consideration. 

The last thing you want to do is upset the balance between entrepreneurs and consumers. What’s good for shoppers doesn’t necessarily mean “good” for business owners. But it is experiments like these that could pay off in the long run.

Lyonel Doherty, editor