Stephen Rees's blog

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

Business community rejects councillor’s ‘car-free’ plan

with 6 comments

Vancouver Courier (thanks to the Morning Brew) headline wrier manages a bit of editorialising and stretches the truth a bit. The business community has not even been asked

Lyn Hellyar, executive director of the West End BIA, believes her association isn’t keen to close streets over several Sundays.

“Why would any merchants want our streets closed for a day for 12 Sundays?” she said. “It depends, I guess, if they feel it brings business or doesn’t and we haven’t asked our members that yet.”

And, of course, when they are asked the exact wording of the question will be really important – and would you trust Lyn Hellyar to word it objectively?

To quote myself  “Cities are supposed to be about people interacting – not cars blasting through as fast they can.” I wrote that about a plan to close parts of Broadway in New York City. The Vancouver proposal is much more modest – and refers to a proposal to close a few shopping streets on Sundays – a move which has already increased takings on the streets where it has been tried. Of course, Lyn Hellyar also appears ignorant of that – and of the many other cities where car free streets work well.

Street cafe

I started a group on flickr for pictures of such places – and the variety and geographic distribution of them is stunning. This picture happens to be of “Davie Day” – a daylong car free street festival at Davie Village in Downtown Vancouver last year. And, by all accounts, was very successful. But of course when you are dealing with entrenched opinion moulders like BIA leaders and journalists who work for “the man” do not expect anything like facts or experience get in the way of the usual spin.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2009 at 11:17 am

Posted in car free day

6 Responses

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  1. WRT Bogota, the PBS series e2 Design carried this story. The series runs on Knowledge Network (channel 5) on Thursday nights (although it may have run its course by now).

    Ron C.

    March 6, 2009 at 1:33 pm

  2. Last year, right after the car-free days on Denmann street, I e-mailed Lynn Hellyar and sent her a few photos of pedestrian areas in Japan, China, France. Some of these areas are 30 years old already and thriving. I didn’t get a reply and wasn’t expecting one as it seems that Ms Hellyar, according to several articles in the local gay paper Extra, isn’t as broadminded as she should be (pun intended). Don’t get me wrong. I know that she mean well and work very hard for the BIA (I read that she is no longer the Denman/ Davie/ Robson BIA president?) BUT like many people here who haven’t travelled much, except to the closest American states, the idea that it is possible for businesses to thrive on a street without cars is as alien a concept as planes were for everyone 300 years ago. As a matter of fact, during the same car-free day, an older lady was telling one of the young event organizer that she wished we could have car-free days “one Sunday a month as in Europe”. When I told them that in fact in Europe most cities have car-free areas everyday of the year BOTH looked at me as if I was out of my mind and walked away.

    Red frog

    March 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm

  3. To be fair we should give props to the West End BIA which organizes Davie Day (unless I’m very confused)…. so on some level they do get it.


    March 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm

  4. L, the Davie Day is part of the numerous events surrounding the Pride parade. Obviously the BIA members who cater to a gay clientele and/or to a gay-friendly clientele do get it as they put the event together but some influential members of their own BIA don’t. I forgot to mention, and funnily enough, heard it on the news as I was re-reading this post, that several major streets will be car-free during the Olympics, as VANOC wants it, so this will be a good test.

    Red frog

    March 6, 2009 at 11:55 pm

  5. Stephen, I finally added a few of my photos of pedestrian areas to your car-free Flickr site. It took me a long time as I am not the most computer savvy but it should work. The photos aren’t the best as I was more interested in the car-free bit than making a great photo, and some of the photos are scans of photos taken a few years ago with film. Yahoo didn’t let me use Red frog as nom de plume but frog is part of my name on my flickr stream.

    Red frog

    March 8, 2009 at 5:47 pm

  6. Actually – Davie Day (early Sept: ) happens a full month after the Pride Parade (early Aug), so I would consider that a totally separate event.

    I think the street closures during the Olympics are going to be fabulous, and hopefully will open the eyes of some BIAs to the potential of closed streets. Robson Street is begging to be closed on weekends in the summer (at least) since transit can easily be rerouted down Alberni.


    March 10, 2009 at 12:11 pm

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