Village Vancouver

Vancouver's Leader in Transition toward Strong, Resilient, Complete Communities

Our proposal this week is to imagine a city where 80% of trips are made by foot, bicycle, or transit. How would this feel? Would you see your neighbours more? Describe the air in such a city, and the noise levels? Such a city exists, but don’t hop a plane to Amsterdam to see it, make it happen here! But do it, and I do not mean just in your imagination...

A great local transit blog, http://stephenrees.wordpress.com/, is managed by none other than the great Stephen Rees, former Translink planner and recent Green Party candidate.

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I would start by saying "hi" more often. The best you can do from a car is to wave...but don't take your hands off the wheel. We all have voices, so why do we so rarely use them?

In a community where we move together on sidewalks, slowly and quietly on the roads, or together on the bus or train, we talk more, learn more, and are richer, happier and safer. OK, some will remain hermits, but the rest of us can talk about them...hoping they are ok. Maybe they are on Facebook!
I do imagine this all of the time. I imagine streets in Kitsilano where it is closed off to cars and bikers and pedestrians move along while the road is lined by shops and cafes, parks, schools and gardens. How would one start to go about lobbying for the blocking off of traffic to a particular street?
Pedestrian streets, often called pedestrian malls, are so ubiquitous now in urban centres worldwide, that it is patently a travesty that renowned highway-free Vancouver has exactly none.

To my knowledge not one street in Vancouver has ever been demapped for vehicle-free, carbon-free commerce and public enjoyment. I want to be clear that BOTH business AND people benefit hugely by these rehabilitations of public rights of way. In every single instance from the developed to developing world, pedestrian streets become more vibrant centres of commerce and business activity than ever before. In fact, business districts around new pedestrian streets often demand to be included.

These repurposed streets are re-balancings of a distorted car-centric era that will soon be coming to an end. The fact is that Vancouver continues to widen streets for cars throughout the city, with the most recent casualty soon to be 12th Avenue from Kingsway to Clark, aka "Grandview Highway."

In answer to the question about how to lobby for pedestrian streets, there is but one answer: Car Free Day.

One June 20th, the movement that began 5 years ago on Commercial Drive is demonstrating once again that pedestrian streets can be vibrant, communitarian, healthy, and successful for all stakeholders. To be sure, a permanent closing must be well-planned in an active and attractive and/or densely-settled neighbourhood. There must be a regular draw for it to be successful, "anchors" so-to-speak, as was proved by the failure of the Council's ill-conceived "Summer Spaces" program of 2009.

A street that comes to my mind for an early trial is Robson, from GM Place to Stanley Park, and also connecting the Main Library, Art Gallery, and numerous busy restaurants and and shops into one long celebration of strolling, truly a "place to be seen." Of course some busy cross-streets would have to be maintained for car and truck traffic, and some early morning or off-peak traffic for deliveries on Robson would still be allowed. But, well-anchored and offering so much so see and do, it could become the spine of an explosion of pedestrianism in Vancouver. I would hope Granville Street would vie for the opportunity to go car-free first, or perhaps at the same time. To be sure, the high pedestrian modal share downtown already is what will make this work. Without it, there would be little chance of success today.

Of course, businesses and residents must be involved in the change, and support it with fervor, or it will also fail. So, in Kits, with among the highest bicycling mode shares in Vancouver already and also significant pedestrian activity in some areas, start by building local support--through block parties, car-free day events, and perhaps even the long-planned Ciclovia through Kitsilano (discussed on this VV page here).

Highways through Vancouver were not fought and defeated in one day. It will take legions of people, supporting each other and our local businesses, to carry the day.

I would venture that most all Village Vancouver members will be supportive of your dreams, and once we are big enough and also well connected with other likeminded groups, pedestrian streets will become ubiquitous in Vancouver.
I'm grateful for every step we take in imagining and realizing this.
Thank you for encouraging positive vision!
@YVRCyclist

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