As bleak as the last couple of years have been overall, some good has come out of the pandemic, too. We’re no longer just paying lip service to carving out a legit work-life balance. Many of us indulged – and continue indulging – in large new stores of time with our families that became all the more precious when there was nowhere else we needed to be. And gone are the days of setting aside a couple of hours for a 15-minute doctor’s appointment.
The pandemic also forced a re-evaluation of our downtowns. Initially, their streets were closed to make room for outdoor dining at restaurants where there wouldn’t have been room otherwise. When indoor dining was prohibited or severely restricted, it was the only means of survival for so many of the independently owned restaurants that populate the small towns of the Delaware River Towns and the rest of the country.
But then an unexpected thing happened: These towns began to flourish in all new ways. The restaurants gained just enough traction to inspire some hope for the first time in months. But even more than that, New Hope and Lambertville, Yardley, and Doylestown became gathering places. Isolated neighbors, starved for connection, reconnected on a corner. And shop owners, starved for business, reveled in the procession of window shoppers.
Earlier this month, with the pandemic receding from its latest peak, the Doylestown Borough Council announced that it would be closing its town’s streets again this spring and summer, signaling perhaps that the idea has staying power. The plan was originally a product of “Operation Doylestown,” the borough’s official pandemic response plan.
Beginning next month and continuing through October, portions of East State, West State, and Main streets will close to traffic on Friday and Saturday nights on a rotating basis, enabling shops and restaurants in the designated areas to spread out onto the sidewalks and streets, just as they did over the last two summers, only, we can hope, with far less apprehension.
The first section to be designated as a “pedestrian zone,” as the council is calling them, is a stretch of West State Street that serves as Doylestown’s version of “restaurant row.” That will happen April 8 and 9. On those days, West State will be closed to traffic from 5 PM to 11 PM and street parking will be available for free after 5 PM throughout the town.
At the time of this writing, New Hope, Yardley, Lambertville, and Frenchtown had not announced plans of their own to close any of its streets this spring or summer.
Here’s the schedule for Doylestown’s pedestrian zones:
April 8-9 West State Street
April 22-23 North Main Street
May 13-14 East State Street
June 10-11 West State Street
June 24-25 North Main Street
July 8-9 East State Street
July 29-30 West State Street
August 12-13 North Main Street
August 26-27 East State Street
Sept. 23-24 West State Street
October 7-8 North Main Street
October 21-22 East State Street