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Vancouver plans car-free summer days

VANCOUVER - Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s go-to guy on cycling, walking, bus lanes and all things apparently non-car, and his staff have been writing up a storm of reports that have landed this week.

Enhanced greenways, check. Improved bikeways, check. New bus lanes for Hastings, check. Reducing mandated spaces for cars in the downtown, check. New cyclist signals, check.

Along with all that is the report on the festival of car-freeness that appears to be on the horizon this summer.

Along with the anticipated car-free Sundays in some neighbourhoods (Commercial Drive, Main Street of course, but also Collingwood and Gastown) and tentative experiments in a couple of others (Marpole and Robson), there’s also a suggestion that the city create a car-free six-kilometre stretch of road from English Bay to Jericho Beach for the whole summer every Sunday.

That “ciclovia,” as the idea is called, would open up Beach Avenue, Cornwall and Point Grey Road to everything but cars: cycling, walking, tai-chi classes, you name it.

I know it might sound crazy to some, but I’ve been in Paris, where they shut down big stretches of street and in fact whole neighbourhoods, on Sundays as part of Paris Respire (Paris Breathes) and it’s not too bad.

Of course, half of Paris is gone for July and August so that does make things easier. But I found it delightful when I went to the Bastille area one Sunday and got to wander around streets that were stunningly tranquil without any cars on them.

I don’t imagine a Vancouver ciclovia would be as tranquil.

The car-free seawall is about as relaxing as the Long March in China on sunny days, with hordes of cyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders all competing for space.

Frances Bula reports for Vancouver Magazine and The Globe and Mail.

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