Bernard closure survey shows traffic, impact negligible

Bernard Ave reaction mixed

Foot traffic and an overall positive impact on businesses is lower than what may have been expected when the City of Kelowna agreed to close a portion of Bernard Avenue to vehicle traffic for the summer.

That according to results from a recent survey of downtown businesses conducted by the Downtown Kelowna Association.

But DKA executive director Mark Burley says it's important to note the survey went out to all members of the association.

Of the 117 responses received, 67 per cent came from businesses not located on Bernard Avenue.

Nearly half of respondents (47 per cent) said traffic did not increase on their block during the first two weeks of the closure, while nearly 55 per cent stated traffic was not up during the past three weeks.

The remainder either believed traffic was up, or were not sure.

"Unfortunately I believe that the idea for the Bernard closure somewhat backfired after the outbreak was announced in early July," one business commented.

"While the outbreak was not a result of the closure it brought negative attention to the increased foot traffic at the foot of Bernard and likely caused others to stay away entirely."

As for the impact of the closure, nearly half of all businesses responding (46.2%) indicated the closure has not had a positive effect on their business, with 37.6 per cent saying they were unsure. Only 16.2 per cent believed it had a positive affect.

As for an overall positive affect, a majority of respondents believed the effect has been positive (37.6 per cent) or were not sure (32.5 per cent).

"In our opinion, the closure has been unequivocally positive. Please do it again next year," replied another.

"It would be great to help the city find ways to program the 400 and 500 blocks so that they feel more vibrant. Having the extra space for walking/cycling makes it feel much more safe to get around downtown during the pandemic."

Despite some negative stories around the early July outbreak, and the pandemic itself, a plurality of businesses believe the closure should return next year.

Of those responding, 37.6 per cent said bring it back while 28.2 per cent disagreed. The rest were not sure.

"I would love to see the road closures become an annual summer event in Kelowna. I believe that it creates a much more welcoming atmosphere for our residents and tourists alike to enjoy the downtown," stated one respondent.

"I would like to see even more done with the space freed up from traffic, such as farmer stalls, face painters, busking stations, artists, etc. I realize that so some ideas may not be suitable until the pandemic is no longer an issue."

However, some believe if it does return, that the closure should be concentrated on the lower half of Bernard.

"I think the closure thru to St Paul was too far. Seems to me the closure helped most from Abbott to Pandosy, the restaurants down there were really hopping. But it killed foot traffic past Mosaic books.

"Maybe next year it should be a shorter section of Bernard that gets closed. Our business was up early July. But it was the COVID articles about downtown that caused appointment cancellations and business dropped to half the pace of the previous few weeks."

As for the early July outbreak, 41 per cent said media coverage did have an affect, while 38.5 per cent did not.

The Bernard Avenue closure runs through the Labour Day long weekend.

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