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Davie Day Highlights Need for Car Free Street Trial

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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

Metro Vancouver’s next Car Free festival

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From Andrew Feltham

Sunday June 22nd in New Westminster (Sapperton). Easy to get to by bike or transit (SkyTrain). They don’t call it a Car Free Festival, but there’s no traffic on East Columbia all day. Something to celebrate!

Includes lots of cycling related activities as well with the Cap’s Bike Zone. In particular the only pennyfarthing race I know of in these parts…

Its another opportunity to demonstrate the viability of car-free streets.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 19, 2008 at 11:04 am

Posted in car free day

Car Free Vancouver: YES or NO

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A message from Carmen Mills – the lovely lady who organised the wildly succesful car fee days last weekend

<<<please forward this important message>>>

Hey all, so…did Car Free Vancouver Day go off OR WHAT?!

We had 125,000 people out partying in the streets…with 400+ volunteers…and a few cut-rate traffic cops…zero “security”…and NO incidents to speak of. The media coverage was fantastic, and it looks like the experiment results are in…Vancouver is ready and begging for car-free festivals, car-free days, and car-free streets. Other cities all over Canada, the US and the world already have it happening…let’s kick it up!
BUT…to make this happen…City Hall needs to hear from YOU!
The event organizers will soon be meeting with folks at City Hall to do a debrief, iron out the bugs, and talk about taking the experiment to the next level. So far, the only people who have contacted the City are the complainers…and they are few, but they are loud! Car Free Vancouver Day needs your support, and our allies at the City need to hear your voice.
Please take a moment to write a BRIEF note to City Hall, telling them why you loved Car Free Vancouver Day, and what you want to see happen next. These folks are here to help us, and they have been hugely helpful to us all along the way, so please be positive, grateful, and encouraging.
Oh, and…don’t forget…with the City elections coming down in November…do grab every opportunity to ask candidates where they stand on Burrard Bridge lane re-allocation, transit, pedestrian and bicycle priority, opposing Gateway, car-free days, and car-free streets.
We have so much power, let’s use it NOW.
Huge thanks to all of you for making this dream real!
-the Car-Free Vancouver Crew
Send your BRIEF letters to:
The Mayor and City Council at:

cc to:
The Film & Special Events Office:

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2008 at 11:01 am

Posted in Transportation

The Livable Blog – Car Free Commercial Drive Festival 2007 #2

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The Livable Blog – Car Free Commercial Drive Festival 2007 #2

with pictures of yesterday’s festivities

Written by Stephen Rees

July 23, 2007 at 8:45 am

Posted in car free day

Car Free festival something to get used to

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Kevin Potvin : Vancouver Courier On Line – Opinion

Yes, that Kevin.

A politically driven ecomium to the car free day.

The idea organizers now have is to spread the word and the expertise out to interested parties in other neighbourhoods in the city so they can all have their own car-free festival Sundays, and to keep working to increase the number of them here. It started as one Sunday afternoon on one street two years ago, and this year it will be two Sundays. Why not every Sunday in June, July and August? Why not Saturdays too? Why not all weekend, every weekend throughout the year on a dozen different streets throughout the city?

I would like to see this here – I think Steveston would be a good place to start. After all they already close the main shopping streets for parades. And with the opening of the new bit of Bayview (which also includes a roundabout) you could even get into the car parks – with a bit of judicious juggling with one way restrictions.

And to give you an idea of what it was like go see Chis Porter’s photos, this is just a sample

Fun Zone!

And Chris pointed me to an even bigger collection of photos by Dustin Sacks

Car Free Commercial Drive

Written by Stephen Rees

June 20, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Arbutus Greenway

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The greenway is really showing how well the plan is working now. The start of sunny weather and car free days in Vancouver is bringing people outside. We walked from King Edward Ave to Granville Island


13th Avenue


10th Avenue


6th between Cypress & Burrard


6th between Cypress & Burrard


5th at Fir


5th at Fir


5th at Fir


5th at Fir


5th at Fir

All these photos were taken on my iPhone 6 and are as shot, no post processing at all.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 16, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Photo Challenge: Path

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via Photo Challenge: Path

So my first reaction to this, somewhat belated, challenge was the Arbutus Greenway. But the first photo I came across on my flickr photostream was this more recent one – of the path through the Arbutus Village Park. The path I use most often.

You will need yer wellies today

This was taken before Christmas, but it might as well be today. While major roads get salted and ploughed when it snows, and sidewalks are supposed to be shovelled by the property owners adjacent to them (but more often aren’t) paths get neglected.


This is what it looked like back in August – and I took this picture to illustrate another blog post about the use of blacktop for pedestrian/bike/non-vehicle paths.

Because I use this path all the time, I rarely think to take a picture of it.

I believe that we need more car free paths – indeed to illustrate the point I even curate a flickr group called Places Without Cars – though I have had to close it to any more pictures as so many people do not seem to understand why pedestrian only streets and plazas are worth documenting.

And I did actually take a picture of the path in question today: I have only now got round to posting it to Flickr


The point being that the car parked there ought not to be in the park at all

Written by Stephen Rees

December 27, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Posted in pedestrians, photography

Tagged with

Granville Island 2040: Phase 3

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I went to the “Open House” on the Granville Island 2040 plan this afternoon. This was not an open house format in any sense I would use. There were three longish identical presentations during the day with an opportunity to ask questions or make comments at the end of each. A few display boards were in the Revue Stage Lobby – so this one was the leftmost of the icons in the image above “Draft Directions”. Apart from these boards, there were no materials being distributed nor is there very much on the Granville Island web page. It may be that the presentation may be made available there later as there was a tv camera pointed at the presenters. I did not stay for the comments and questions.

The theatre was by no means full: I estimate around 70 people were present and I do not include staff or presenters in that number.

The presentation was made by Darryl Condon of the architecture company HMCA retained by CMHC. While there were several others at the two top tables, on the stage, facing the audience none of them gave formal presentations but were available to answer the comments and questions.

I am not going to simply report all of what the presentation covered as I expect that the draft plan will be available in due course. The vision of that plan will include the idea that GI is a “zone of public possibility” which will acknowledge both its history and the collective creative potential of its users. The principles governing the development include

  • public good has priority over market forces
  • an increase in diversity of users
  • social and environmental resilience
  • a place to learn and be challenged

There are others too.

Among the ten key goals are #6. Pop up culture (currently the Island’s offerings are very static) #7. Reduce the dominance of private cars


As you might expect I was most interested in what is being termed CarLite. Access is a critical issue, and reducing car use depends on increasing the availability of alternatives. Currently 1/4 of the Island is roadway or parking. There are 980 parking spaces on east side and 300 on the west (Granville Bridge being the middle). There is a declining use of cars to get to GI (increases in walking, cycling and use of ferries were reported in an earlier post) The aim is to make the west side car free, while maintaining access for deliveries, people with disabilities and drop off and pick up of passengers. This is expected to produce more vitality and activity. Many places have already made significant progress in prioritizing pedestrians e.g. The Rocks, Sydney; DUMBO and Times Square, New York. It is also intended to increase the amount of nighttime activity following the examples of Amsterdam (which has a Night Mayor) and Brixton which has a Night Market.

I want to intervene here to point out that despite the commitment to increasing inclusiveness, there was no mention of the very successful Richmond Night Markets.

It was also noted that the present arrangements allow little access to the water, and a number of suggestions were offered as to how to increase this including sales from boats or places to “dip your toes in” False Creek. The Public Market will be expanded to be more than a building: it will become a precinct with open air stalls, food trucks and the like. There is also a commitment to make greater use of the many “in between spaces”. With the reduction of car park spaces, there will be a greater opportunity of large flexible spaces and mixed use.

The two most important pieces from my perspective were what is now being called Alder Bay Bridge


The display map in the lobby was nothing like the present proposal, which is now designed as both a curve, landing further north west and not crossing at the narrowest point. This will allow for use by pedestrians and cyclists, protect the “sanctity of the green space” and link to an enhanced path along the northern edge of the island.  Examples of curved bridges as art pieces with sculptural quality were shown but not identified.

Frank Ducote photo


Frank Ducote photo

Two alternatives were shown for an elevator connection to Granville Bridge. The bridge now carries 6 bus routes, with an effective average 2 minute wait time for a bus between GI and downtown, but getting to GI now is actually not that easy. So an elevator to midspan bus stops makes obvious sense. What makes much less sense is the City proposal of a median “greenway” on the bridge. Any pedestrian would, I think, prefer a view of the water and the scenery rather than of lots of traffic. (One idea I have seen that was not shown is a walking deck beneath the car deck.) An elevator to a median bus stop would require structural alterations to the bridge. So if there were two elevators, one for each direction of bus service, they could be built outboard of the structure. They might even be temporary initially as a proof of concept, but more elaborately could include a wider sidewalk and bumpout bus stops – again my thoughts not what was shown.



This was also in the lobby but not mentioned in the presentation.


This survey was for people who had attended the presentations, and will not be on line for long. But CMHC is encouraging further input


Thanks to Frank Ducote for the pictures taken of the presentation

UPDATE May 24, 2016

The final report is now available as a pdf file. The elevator is in but only one and to the median of the bridge – assuming the City goes ahead with its middle of the road greenway. The new pedestrian/ bike bridge on the eastern with its seductive curve is also retained: a straight bridge would be a lot cheaper but would bring more through movement to an area current Island workers want kept quiet. Except for shows and concerts, outside of working hours.  The Olympic Line gets a nod but is left up to the City. There is quite a bit about the need to generate revenue and no expectation of more federal funds.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 3, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Walking and other small advantages

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Walking is the most important transportation mode – and therefore the one that we tend to think about least. Let us start with something that I found on the Guardian yesterday. Their story was about the idea that children need to know how to tie their own shoe laces – or rather, perhaps they don’t now that shoes have velcro straps. That led me to this talk – it only takes three minutes and it is well worth your time.

I had actually noticed that there was a problem some time ago. I had been in the habit of wearing slip on shoes – and while those are perfectly adequate for office life, they can become downright painful if you walk any distance. So I bought proper walking shoes with laces, and found I had to stop every so often to retie them.

For simple health reasons, you should walk at least half an hour every day. Without a doubt the most effective way to do that is to incorporate walking into your routine. Walking is part of your commute whatever mode you use – so making that walk a bit longer ought to be a no brainer. Yes, your commute may take a bit longer. But a longer commute is not necessarily a higher cost – it is actually a benefit under some circumstances and improving your health is certainly one them, of you a re like most people in “advanced” countries and have a generally sedentary lifestyle.

I doubt that transportation models based on generalized cost can actually get the true mode comparison right. After all, for many years we have known that people like riding the train because the time is actually useful – unlike driving – and in many places they chose a longer commute because there is a train.

Of course this is not addressed to those who already cycle everywhere – but they are still in a very small minority. Nor does it help those who do not commute.

We are actually quite good at making walking for exercise attractive. There are lots of places designed for walking – but not usually  for walking as part of a trip. In cities which has some of the best walking paths – the Vancouver seawall, the Richmond dyke – there are many streets that have no sidewalks or even sidewalks that are continuous.

Browngate Road at No 3 Road

Browngate Road at No 3 Road has no sidewalk on the north side even though it is a few yards from Aberdeen Station on the Canada Line. My photo on flickr

We are also adept at providing gyms where there are treadmills on which you can walk in complete safety while wearing a headset to listen to a book or music – or even watch tv. Driving to the gym to walk or cycle actually makes sense to a lot of people, who have been convinced of the dangers of being a pedestrian or a cyclist. Driving actually reduces their knowledge of the city: they know that “you can’t get through there” in a car and may not even think about getting from here to there as a walk that is shorter than the drive.

Google maps shows a short cut

Google maps shows a short cut for pedestrians in Kerrisdale

A people are reluctant to walk in unfamiliar places: research in Portland as part of their Travel$mart program persuaded them to produce way finding maps and better signage. Our current access to GPS ought to help, but not every system is adapted well to pedestrian routes – or maybe that’s just what I have noticed on Ovi maps that come with Nokia phones.

Yew St at W 11 Ave

Yew St is closed to cars at West 11 Ave but provides a direct route for pedestrians - my photo on flickr

These kinds of arrangements ought to be more prevalent than they are. In some locations, people just simply create their own path – there is a beaten track from the corner of W35th Ave and East Boulevard to the Arbutus CP right of way just visible in the Google streetsview image. Of course the CP r.o.w. itself is private property but has become a car free walking and cycling route simply by usage.

Now I chose the title deliberately  because I wanted to share some knowledge – but really it is off topic for this blog. I travel to New York every so often because my son is there. I have found that many travel search engines seem to ignore Cathay Pacific as a possible carrier on this route even though people like Doug Coupland have long recommended them in print. I used hipmunk to compare travel cost and convenience: Cathay came top. There is a direct overnight flight between YVR and JFK both ways – and that also saves two hotel nights. Hipmunk links to Orbitz for booking both flights and accommodation and also found us a cheap place to stay. The combination of AirTrain and subway is about as cheap and convenient a transfer to downtown as you can get – we were literally steps from our hotel to 7th Ave/49th St station. Certainly better than subway plus New Jersey Transit to EWR. Cathay has better leg room and on board service than Air Canada – and does not load to 100% capacity apparently. So your chance to stretch out across three seats isn’t bad either. And since the plane has come from Hong Kong you board through the international terminal, clearing US customs and immigration at JFK with the HK passengers. That means, if you check in on line and check no baggage, you really do not need to be at the airport 2 hours early. Not many people are going through security at that time of evening so the line up is minimal, and you cannot actually get access to the boarding area until the in-transit passengers have got back on the plane. The flight crew will do the document check at the gate. The only downside is that on the return, there is no Canada Line – and a long line up for cabs.  When in New York you can buy an unlimited MetroCard for a week. That may be cheaper than loading a card with money to be deducted for each ride since the opportunities for free transfers are very limited. But if you are staying in midtown, you will probably walk most places, just like we did. Soon after I returned I was asked to do a consumer survey: one question was how often I had exercised the previous week, and I could truthfully say that I had walked for more than two hours every day. I doubt I would have done that if we had bought unlimited ride Metrocards.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2012 at 11:10 am

“EU to ban cars from cities by 2050”

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That is the headline from the Daily Telegraph. That is not something I usually read – it’s a dreadful old Tory rag as far as I am concerned. And the reaction it chooses to emphasize shows that they really are stuck in the mid twentieth century.

My first reaction was that is is a very sensible idea, but that a forty year time horizon is a bit unrealistic. Will there be any oil at all by then?  Actually what they say is “no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres” which is not so much a policy as a prediction. And, of course, is rather more nuanced than the headline.

There will be cars, just not cars as we know them, Jim. It is part of a broader transportation objective aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and, as is obvious, business as usual is not a feasible option. But the reasons for banning personal motor vehicles – however they are powered – go far beyond ghg and, it seems to me, are incontrovertible. Most European city centres have already got much further in reducing car use than we have. They have excellent public transport systems that they are still steadily expanding. Everywhere there are car free streets and squares. Many have public bike sharing systems. In most major cities you can operate much better if you do not have to worry about a car, and the only time you might think about renting one would be for some rural jaunt.

Rue de Lutèce

Rue de Lutèce - car free Paris - Ile de la Cite

The progress that has been made in London since I left in 1988 has been remarkable – especially since I had spent the previous twenty years banging my head against the brick wall represented by the sort of ideas the Telegraph still espouses. If I had suggested electronic road pricing and a congestion charge I would have been laughed at. In fact I did and was. I even got into trouble for suggesting that Senior Civil Servants lose the privilege of parking on Horse Guards Parade – which has indeed been implemented. The tube network has been expanded, and an inner orbital railway – “The Overground” – opened. LIght rail came not only to Docklands but also Croydon – with on street running! There are bike lanes and bus lanes everywhere. And don’t forget even in 1988, 95% of the people in Central London got there by train.

It’s not just within cities that things changed. They have high speed electric trains that cover the main lines to Scotland and the North – and now to Europe too. Commuter trains from Kent that are capable of 125 mph to fit in between the Eurostars. Passenger travel on Virgin trains on the West Coast mainline has doubled since they took over.

It seems to me to be quite possible that London, Paris and Copenhagen could all ban internal combustion/fossil fuel cars in their centres much sooner than 2050.  2020 seems doable to me – and not at all unlikely just on “present trends continue”.

The challenge for us of course is much harder. First of all, our “city centre” is tiny by comparison – and we have yet to grasp why building and widening freeways across the region might not be too clever. The Daily Telegraph could produce a Vancouver edition quite easily – those quotes could just as easily come from our established “elite”.  And currently those ideas firmly hold sway – in both national and provincial politics. Just try to secure a small amount of space for cyclists and see what a ruckus that causes. Suggest we steadily reduce the amount of space devoted to cars in Vancouver – both moving and parked – and you will be looked at as though you are mad. Yet that is exactly what Copenhagen has been doing – for the past forty years! Paris is going to take the autoroute off the banks of the Seine and return it to the people. We can’t seem to grasp why taking down the viaducts should have been done years ago.

By the way if you want to read what the EU is actually saying (as opposed to what the Torygraph is reporting) you can download the pdf file of the White Paper (which means it is a proposal) “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system” (thanks to John Calimente for the link)

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Transportation