Petition calls for Hamilton’s James Street North to be closed to traffic during coronavirus pandemic

A citizen-led initiative to close James Street North to traffic for the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic has received heavy pushback from Hamilton city councillors.

Residents who have put their signature to the 140-name petition say the temporary closure would open up the street to walkers and cyclists and support their physical-distancing efforts.

Many elected officials, however, believe the impact would be the exact opposite by creating a gathering or destination place.

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Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger says setting up space for more activity would draw “more rollerbladers, skateboarders, cyclists and walkers that are going to congregate to that location, which is exactly contrary to the message we keep throwing out.”

Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla says “any signal encouraging people to actively go out and do anything is a little premature.”

Dundas Coun. Arlene Vanderbeek adds that there are businesses along James Street North trying to survive on curbside pickup and “if we start closing roads in front of businesses that need it so that they can continue to operate and pay some of their bills, we’re really going down the wrong road.”

City councillors voted Wednesday to forward the petition to the emergency operations centre, which is handling day-to-day operational decisions during the pandemic, for “appropriate action.”

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