Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Davie Day Highlights Need for Car Free Street Trial

with 10 comments

As you probably know I do not live – and therefore vote – in the City of Vancouver. But I am very much in favour of car free streets. I administer a flickr group called “places without cars” to collect pictures from around the world of urban areas that have stopped cars coming into streets – either temporarily or permanently. And written about it here quite often.

So when three candidates for the Vancouver council election start talking about it, I am all attention. Go now to Andrea Reimer’s site and learn more. I am not going to endorse candidates but I do feel that it is time for some more progressive attitudes to be represented at City Hall. And from my experience of dealing with them (which admittedly is now getting a bit dated) the City Engineers are not exactly cutting edge on this kind of issue. Which means the new councillors – if they want to see this kind of change – are going to have to be pretty determined to stand up to groups like the very pro-car DVBIA.

And if you want a really well informed blog on the City of Vancouver election Frances Bula (formerly of the Sun) is now on the hook as well as her own blog.

And you can find pictures of Davie Day here

but here is one of them as a sample

Photo by Paul Hillsdon

Photo by Paul Hillsdon

Written by Stephen Rees

September 8, 2008 at 12:54 pm

10 Responses

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  1. I wonder if any of these business associations have tallied up their sales on these car free days. I bet you business goes up on those days because of all the foot traffic that these events bring in. Look at the Soapbox Derby on Sunday. Fourth Avenue was packed and the restaurants had line ups, albeit short ones, outside their restaurants at 2pm. I know one restaurant to which I’ve been to was the busiest I had ever seen it. Mind you the service left you wanting, but the food was fine.

    Anyway, these BIAs should study their own sales on those days and they may start to see how profitable these events are.


    September 8, 2008 at 5:04 pm

  2. Indeed

    BTW I have made your name a link to your blog

    Stephen Rees

    September 8, 2008 at 5:29 pm

  3. Sorry, but the opposite is true. Cyclists shop lightly.. same for foot traffic.

    Why? Because without a car, you can’t carry much more home than a loaf of bread and a jug of milk.

    No wonder the downtown business associations want to nix these car-free festivals. They’re getting clobbered – just so that a few naive “car-free” fanatics can frolic on the streets and think they’re doing their part for the environment.

    And where did you get the impression that car-free streets are successful in North America? Have you walked down Granville Street in the past decade or two?


    September 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm

  4. Interesting- the first thing shops do in Germany when they want to boost sales for the weekend is get the street closed to cars and start a giant party. When we go to Stuttgart we don’t go to the busy streets but the pedestrianised ones with the street performers and the open areas to sit and relax. Cafe’s increase sitting areas and therefore revenue by renting street space for outside tables. Car parks are some distance away but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone -and bike rental in the centre is a major success, mostly among people using the bikes to go shopping.

    The last I heard was that the car-free day in New York caused increased sales.

    Andy in Germany

    September 9, 2008 at 1:31 am

  5. The village of Ladner closes one of its main streets every other Sunday in the summer for their Street Market and from the merchants I have talked to, it is one of their better days for sales. It seems the opposition for street closures came from the Engineering Dept. and the Fire hall.

    Malcolm J.

    September 9, 2008 at 6:43 am

  6. Politico

    Your comment seems remarkably ill informed. You do not seem to be aware of the existence of useful devices which can be added to bicycles to increase their cargo hauling capacity. A basket on the handlebars, a pair of panniers, a rear rack – or even a trailer – all widely used by those who shop and cycle. But street closures are so that people can take back the streets. We have only had motor vehicles dominating urban areas for a relatively short time, and for millennia prior to that urban areas are what gave civilisation its name.

    Granville Street’s foot traffic and shopping was decimated by the opening of the Pacific Centre Mall, not its ban on through motor traffic. And the shabbiest bit of the street these days is the so called “entertainment district” south of the mall which is still open to cars – except at weekends when it has to be closed for safety reasons. Another closure which has been hailed as a remarkable success. Most retailers on the Granville Mall were against opening it up to car traffic – and for very good reasons, based on lots of research on the success of other pedestrian areas.

    Even North America is beginning to wake up to what has been a very successful car free movement in the rest of the world. Insisting on bringing 2 tons of machinery everywhere you go is not the way to create a pleasant place to spend time. And it is the willingness of people to stop chasing through places that makes them work – not just for retailing but for all kinds of human interaction.

    Stephen Rees

    September 9, 2008 at 7:12 am

  7. … and Granville may be car free, but it is hardly vehicle free when the buses are in operation, it’s not comparable to Davie Days at all.


    September 9, 2008 at 12:16 pm

  8. I think there is some truth in what Policto is saying, while I agree sales would be up during Davie Days and other such car-free events, it isn’t the lack of cars that increased the sales though it’s the fact it’s a festive atmosphere and there is alot of stuff going on that brings more people in. If everyday was carfree day I think his point stands that you would see a decrease in sales. Take a look at Cambie st as a good example, the construction didn’t affect pedestrian traffic, locals were still able to shop there but the decrease in vehicular traffic was definitely felt on the stores along that corridor.

    There is probably room for one pedestrian-only street in this city but I doubt for mutliples.

    Joe Just Joe

    September 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm

  9. “Take a look at Cambie st as a good example, the construction didn’t affect pedestrian traffic” – I beg to differ … I take it you didn’t walk along the east side of Cambie Street at the height of construction.


    September 9, 2008 at 6:24 pm

  10. Acutally I did, as I tried to do my part to help out the businesses in that area although I spent more time on the west side. The road was walkable albeit much less people then normal.

    Joe Just Joe

    September 9, 2008 at 9:36 pm

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