Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for the ‘car free day’ Category

Places without cars

with 17 comments

All over the world cities have set aside places to be car free. Sometimes whole cities become car free for a day. In many urban places, reducing car penetration has been the key to regaining urbanity. Initially it was often thought that it would promote retail streets facing competition from suburban malls and big box stores. But after a while it was realised that successful places became destinations in themselves. And instead of being areas that people tried to get through as quickly as possible there was a reason to loiter and enjoy the place.

There is a desparate lack of such places in this region. There are even fewer places that are closed to traffic but allow transit – another popular variation on this theme.
NET 213 at Old Market Square 14Ap04
To get an idea of what the variety and attractiveness of car free places looks like I have started a flickr group “Places without Cars” . Take a look.

The more I think about the more I am convinced that with the exception of the seawall and similar places in Vancouver, some of the dykes in Richmond we do not actually have a car free space here – and, no, Robson Square doesn’t count. Is there anywhere in this region that has closed a street to cars?

Written by Stephen Rees

March 15, 2008 at 2:15 pm


with 3 comments


BIG NEWS! for all all Car-Free Volunteer superheroes….the time has come…spread the word…

CAR-FREE VANCOUVER DAY is happening! Sunday, June 15 (Fathers Day) 2008

YOU are the people who made the Car-Free Commercial Drive Festival such a groundbreaking, pavement-popping success, proving that massive, grass-roots, volunteer-led car-free events can and will happen. The people jive, businesses thrive, and our streets come alive. Since 2005 we have been throwing it down in East Van to celebrate our neighbourhood, with up to 50,000 people coming out to play in the street (even in the pouring rain!). Now is our chance take the next step, and revel in a car-free vision of our future city.

Car-free Vancouver Day will comprise half a dozen Car-Free Festivals throughout the city, happening more-or-less simultaneously, each with its own distinctive flavour and style. Every Festival is independently organized and pruduced, with 100% volunteer labour.


Each Community Festival is now organizing into festival PODS. A ‘pod’ is an independent crew who take an idea and runs with it… such as site management, spoken word, DJ, bike circus, street food, kids zone, yoga, healing, street hockey, barricades, volunteer, recycling, live music, and so on (you get the idea). They report to the overall ‘organizer’ pod to seek guidance, support, and (sometimes) modest funding as needed. Also needed are artists, designers, tech peeps, poster crews, logistics gurus, stage managers, puppeteers, and weather doctors.

Last but far from least, each Fest will depend on a small army of day-of helpers to staff barricades, set up, clean up, run about, and make sure everything runs strictly in accordance with the rules of joyful chaos. So if you want to contribute on the day-of, for an hour or two or more, please put your name forward and we will get back to you as the date gets closer.

And don’t think you necessarily need to participate in your “home” community — this is our city, and it belongs to all of us.

So please, come to one of the following organizing meetings, or contact the relevant organizer NOW! It’s time to take back our streets…for FUN!

Our website is —  check it out and sign up now for fast-breaking news, info and discussion. For more info about Car-Free Vancouver Day email


CAR-FREE CAMBIE STREET FESTIVAL Tuesday February 12th, 7-9pm at Douglas Park Community Centre,  Orca Room, 801 22nd Avenue West (at Willow) Info: or call Amy at 604.873-9987

CAR-FREE COMMERCIAL DRIVE FESTIVAL Wednesday, February 13th from 7-9pm at 1707 Charles Street (the Turks building), around the side through the wooden gate. Info: or call Craig at 604.320.6560.

CAR-FREE MAIN STREET FESTIVAL Sunday February 17th,  2pm at Mount Pleasant Community Centre, 3161 Ontario Street at 16th, Arts & Crafts Room Info:

CAR-FREE WEST END FESTIVAL Monday, February 25, 7pm at Gordon Neighbourhood House 1019 Broughton St. (@ Nelson).   Info: or call Dave at 604-646-4615

CAR-FREE MARPOLE FESTIVAL Thursday February 28, 7pm at Marine Court Housing Co-op Common Room, 1599 West 71 Ave (across the street from Mackie Park. The common room is in building 1 by the mailboxes. Info: or call Claudia at 604.418.8232

CAR-FREE KITSILANO FESTIVAL Kits is doing something a little different – planning to blanket the neighbourhood streets with individual block parties. Please participate or be a block-party host for your street! A block-party organizers workshop is upcoming. Info: or call Mel at 604.731.0599.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 8, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Posted in car free day

Town and Gown

leave a comment »

Two good op-ed pieces to-day in the Sun, and both about the impact on us of cars. This is part of the paper’s series of articles promoting local academic research.

First “What we’re doing to the air we breathe” looks at the effects of outdoor air pollution on a large group of B.C. children that the reserachers have been following since birth. Not just asthma but also middle ear infections are strongly associated with vehicle exhaust – still the biggest single source of air pollution (though those ships at our expanding port are catching up fast).

Secondly the impact of so called “green vehicles” which might be better than older cars, but much of the benefit is being squandered though our taste for ever larger vehicles – like the “green car of the year” Tahoe. By the way, in Norway, the car companies are no longer allowed to call cars “green” – because they aren’t. They might be a bit better in some aspects, but when you look at the whole cycle of production and so on, no car can be called green because no manufacturer can support that claim.

And I have an added the Car Free web page to the blogroll, which has all sorts of ideas how we can reduce our automobile addiction.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 19, 2007 at 2:28 pm

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

leave a comment »

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

with 5 comments

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