A van that crashed into a patio at Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub in downtown Calgary has raised concerns about the safety of the popular restaurant patio concept.
On Thursday morning, an SUV ran a red light at the intersection of 10th Avenue SW and 1st Street SW, striking a pickup truck and sending it into the restaurant, destroying a patio on the street and a second patio on 10th Avenue. Luckily, the establishment was about 45 minutes from opening and no one was sitting on the patios and no pedestrians were struck.
“I’m sure given yesterday’s situation that our transport department will bring this back to the administration and also to the council with possible recommendations using vehicle collisions,” Coun said. Terry Wong (District 7). “Concrete jersey barriers would probably be the most appropriate barrier, as opposed to the steel fencing you normally see” around these yards.
The Council made changes this spring to the yard program to improve accessibility for pedestrians, particularly those with strollers and mobility issues. The changes pushed many of the sidewalk patios further into the streets so that pedestrians would not drift off the sidewalk.
There are several barricade options in use on restaurant patios. Bottlescrew Bill’s used a combination of them, with a concrete jersey on the east side of the patio, large planters on the west side, and fencing. (Jerseys are the often-seen concrete barriers that are about 32 inches or 81 centimeters tall.)
At Bottlescrew Bill’s, the courtyard was designed in consultation with the city, an engineering firm, and the Victoria Park BIA.
Geoff Allan, the pub’s general manager, said if the courtyard returns next year, the establishment will look at a variety of security options. But, he pointed out, he wasn’t sure what could be done to stop a minivan.
“There’s not much you can do if you’re walking down the sidewalk and a car gets hit while going through an intersection. It’s going to change the direction of that other vehicle, which is what happened in this situation,” Allan said. “I think our business would have suffered a lot more damage if the patio structure wasn’t there.” Speed and alcohol are not believed to be factors in Thursday’s collision.
He noted that initially they would have liked to have concrete jumpers or barriers around the entire yard, but it was cost prohibitive and not part of the city-run yard program.
Chris Toombes said he expects something like this to happen sooner or later where he lives on 17th Avenue SW, due to increased car and bike racing along the route and a lack of police presence. He said that he gets worse on weekends and that’s why he doesn’t eat on the patios.
“From Macleod (Trail) along 17th Ave to 14th Street SW, cars and bicyclists are speeding their cars, running between lights, running within inches of diners on 17th Ave SW,” he said in an interview via social media. . “Would you want to risk your life for a hamburger?”
Wong said the city hasn’t received many safety concerns regarding the patio program, beyond pedestrian flow.
A spokesperson for the city of Calgary said they had issued 85 seasonal yard permits on public property and the city is open to further adjustments.
“We continue to monitor this situation and where improvements can be made,” a statement read. “The City also engages in regular discussions with cities across Canada to ensure we meet standard security practices used in other Canadian jurisdictions.”
Mark Garner, executive director of the Downtown Calgary Association, applauded the approach the city has taken to the courtyards, which for the most part have not had any major safety issues as of this week.
He said other cities have surrounded courtyards with concrete jerseys and that makes the area look like a permanent construction zone. The variety in the types of barriers used in Calgary has brought life and color to streets and neighborhoods, rather than taking them away. This includes mural and painting projects on many of the concrete jerseys in the city center.
To improve safety, he said the city could slow down on these streets during yard season. However, she pointed to city data showing that summer is actually one of the safest times for pedestrians when it comes to traffic collisions and this needs to be taken into account.
“I think they are safe,” he said. “I would hate to see them become construction sites…for a yard. I think what we need to do is get the community familiar that in the summer, these kinds of things will be out on the street because they create a great public space.”
Ernie Tsu, president of the Alberta Hospitality Association, said the patio program has been important to restaurants and bars during the pandemic and in recovery, and safety has been considered in its design and construction.
“It’s been a great lifesaver for all the restaurants,” he said.