I adore summer. The prospect of it gets me through Vancouver’s long, grey winter. Aside from the longer days and the [potential for] increased sunshine, there just seems to be more going on. It feels like every week there’s a festival of some kind to check out. This last Sunday was Car Free Vancouver Day.
This is an event that’s been going on in Vancouver for a few years. The concept is pretty simple: they shut down traffic on a street to give pedestrians a chance to walk down the middle of the road and experience the area without the noise, the pollution, and the danger of traffic. It started on Commercial Drive and has expanded over the years to a few other main drags.
Now, I love this idea. Pedestrians often get the short end of the stick when spaces are being planned, and this is a shame. Walking is great. Not only do you get a bit of exercise and save a little carbon, over time you’re likely to develop a sense of belonging in your neighbourhood. You go out for your morning paper and you see that lady walking her funny little dog, or that couple who dresses the same, or that guy who has got to be the most dedicated jogger on the planet, or whoever. You start to feel like you know them a bit. You get to that stage where you nod and smile when you cross paths, or if you’re one of those gregarious types, you might even comment on the weather. And living in a city where a lot of people complain of isolation, loneliness, and how hard it is to meet people, I think this has a lot of value. You don’t build these connections alone in your car.
I’ll be honest here: this event, for me, is preaching to the converted. I LOVE pedestrianized areas. I think it’s such a waste that they are re-trafficing the northern bit of Granville Street when, after many years of construction, everyone’s used to not driving there anyway. Me, I’m car free all the time. Between my bus pass and my feet, I’m pretty good to go. My husband and I chose to live in an area where we can walk to all necessities and easily take transit anywhere we need to without much fuss. We also have a Zipcar membership that we use every month or three when transit just doesn’t cut it.
So we like to support Car Free Day when it happens. (I also like to support anything that’s free. You shouldn’t need a lot of money to do cool stuff.) It usually makes for a fun afternoon out. This year, the event expanded out to North Vancouver, which is our stomping ground, so we thought we’d stay close to home and check out what Lower Lonsdale had to offer as a pedestrianized neighbourhood.
There was a sponge/finger painting station where we whiled away a good half hour creating masterpieces alongside six-year olds. There was also a street hockey area set-up and the people playing there (mostly kids, but a few adults too) seemed to be enjoying the luxury of not having to move their nets (goals?) every few minutes.
Wandering down the hill, I was given a complimentary pass for a class at a local gym and some cookies made by the executive chef at a new restaurant. (Free stuff!) I also tried out a motorized adult-sized tricycle, which was pretty darn sweet. All of this to the soundtrack of extremely loud but very cheerful reggae music. There were exactly three people dancing to this music, but their enthusiasm made up for their small numbers.
All in all, it was a fun afternoon. I got to be artistic, have some sugar, and ride a bike of sorts. (I don’t know how to ride a bike, so this was actually quite exciting.) It was great to see people out having a wander. There was a positive vibe, and I have a feeling that next year will be that much better, since clever traditions always have a way of improving as the years go by.