British Columbia

Car-free Sundays get green light from Vancouver

Bicycling advocates in Vancouver got a double dose of good news on Tuesday from city councillors.

Bicycling advocates in Vancouver got a double dose of good news on Tuesday from city councillors.

On top of raising the city budget for cycling infrastructure, city council voted to implement temporary car-free zones in four neighbourhoods this summer, and opened the door to more road closures in the future.

The extra funding for bike routes will double the existing $1.7 million budget for bikeways and other infrastructure, said Coun. Geoff Meggs, who believes existing routes aren't safe enough for cyclists.

"There are too many shortcomings that we aren't able to fit with the existing budget, and I don't think motorists are going to notice at all," said Meggs.

Council also approved a new program called Summer Spaces, which will close four neighbourhoods — Collingwood, Mount Pleasant, Gastown, and Commercial Drive — to vehicle traffic on several Sundays each summer.

The pilot program will cost up to $200,000, which would come from the Parking Sites Reserve, a fund normally used to develop parking spots.

The Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition was also pushing a proposal to close six kilometres of road around English Bay to cars, including Beach Avenue, Pacific Street and Cornwall Avenue.

That proposal was based on an active-living concept called ciclovia — the Spanish word for bike path — that was developed in Colombia in the 1980s. The council agreed to ciclovia in principle, but indicated if it happens, it likely won't be this year.

Some people in the public gallery on Tuesday were opposed to the idea. Jim Storie, the president of the Vancouver Trolley Company, was one.

"You literally have thousands of cars come through that route. Where do they go?" he asked.

The city is also planning to close one lane on the Burrard Street Bridge to vehicles to provide a bike lane for cyclists this summer.

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