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A thousand car-free days in Vancouver not about to bloom

February 25th, 2009 · 7 Comments

The staff report is just in on neighbourhood response to holding car-free days every Sunday for three months during the summer. The new Vision council had been hoping to encourage that kind of activity in three or four districts this summer, following on the wild popularity of the one-day car-free festivals that have been taking place on Commercial Drive the past few years. This summer, planning is in the works for one-day events in five places, including Main, Kits, the West End and Dunbar.

However, staff say their survey of business associations show that only one is interested in shutting down the street every Sunday for 12 weeks. Six others are interested in putting on a one-day event, but no more. Partly they’re worried about losing business. There’s also a problem, they say, with finding enough volunteers to help staff barricades and help out in general.

It’ll be interesting to see what the car-free enthusiasts on council will do with this, um, roadblock.

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  • As a resident of the Commercial Drive area, I love having one or two car-free Sundays over the summer months.

    But any more would lose their novelty and get tiresome. Because so many people drive to the car free event, the streets nearby are clogged. We cannot leave our home by car, or if we left early, we would not be able to return (without waiting in a multi-hour traffic jam — with two small kids, no thanks), and likely would have no parking spot.

    If an event happened every Sunday, it would mean no trips to visit grandparents in suburbia, no trips to visit friends; difficulty for friends to visit us; difficulty to get to childrens activities even by walking / transit — which is too jammed for strollers on these days (we’ve tried that!)

    And our neighbours who are business owners in the area do say they typically lose business on those days. People don’t come to car-free Sundays to sit down to a nice Italian meal. It’s hard to get in and out of the stores. Customers who come from elsewhere in the city don’t bother on those days because the neighbourhood is packed. I don’t shop on those days for the same reason — too busy.

    Twice in the summer is a great community event. Any more frequent and it’s just not fun anymore!

  • not running for mayor

    I agree with the above poster. It’s great as a novelty and preferable tied to an event. Just closing down a street to traffic won’t be successful. I’ve always like the idea of rotating closures over the summer, give each neighbour a weekend over the summer months and see how that works.

  • Blaffergassted

    The falling economy will always do a better job of turning Vancouver into a car-free city than any politician ever could.

  • MB

    Blaffergassted has a point. But peak oil will do a much better job over the next decade, even as it’s delayed for a couple of years by the financial crisis.

    Unfortunately, transit assets will never make up at their current pathetic level of funding, so I predict a big run on bikes, skateboards and abandoned far flung plastic suburban houses.

  • Helesia Luke

    I am not surprised by the lack of interest in regular car-free days. I live two blocks from Commercial Drive and while the day is fun and novel it is anything but car free. Surrounding streets are jammed with cars as rerouted buses sit idling filled with riders who need to get somewhere.
    A terrible argument erupted between our otherwise peaceful neighbours one year as a senior couple tried to hold a parking spot for family arriving for a special Sunday dinner. Next door, another couple had become frustrated circling the neighbourhood trying to get home from a day trip.
    Not a scene anyone wants to repeat.
    I think of it more as a street festival complete with all the logistical challenges: parking, washrooms, garbage, vendors, branded t-shirts, petitions, outdoor stages ….
    Great every so often but no amount of education is going to stop people from all over Metro Vancouver from driving to a street festival.

  • Frank Muir

    I am assuming that if car-free days were held every one or two weeks, rather than once per summer, they would not be so jam-packed with wholesome noise, street activities, and shoulder to shoulder families that, despite their good intentions, have driven across town to stimulate the runtlets’ growing minds with the funzies to be found at events that are called not street festivals, but car free days. A regular schedule might shift emphasis from the “festival” to the “car-free” aspect of the events–lose the bouncy castle, and perhaps there would be space for LOCAL residents to walk themselves and their kids over to their neighbourhood commercial strip to spend some money and enjoy an afternoon without the worry of fumes and crosswalks.