VANCOUVER -- As COVID-19 restrictions ease but people remain cautious about gathering indoors, the City of Vancouver says it will introduce 50 kilometres of what it's calling "slow streets," and plans to repurpose some roadways to use as patios.

The streets the city identifies as slow streets will allow only local residents to drive cars down them, which the city says will leave more space for cycling and walking.

City traffic planners also plan to create more room on sidewalks by repurposing some curb-side traffic lanes for pedestrians, and creating special loading and pick-up zones for certain businesses "with high turnover and increased curbside needs."

City staff say they ran a slow streets pilot in the Kits Point neighbourhood in April, and have already installed 12 kilometres of slow streets.

Lon LaClaire, the city's general manager of engineering, said that because physical distancing will be in place for some time, the city needs to make space "to ensure people can safely do the things they need to do like exercising and travelling to work."

The city says it is also working with businesses to streamline applications for outdoor patios, with a goal of providing businesses clear guideline by June 1. 

According to city staff: "Small and medium-sized patios next to a business, or in a street parking space, can expect to receive their permit within 48 hours from the time they apply, provided they have met all application requirements."

A map created by the CIty of Vancouver shows the location of existing slow streets: