British Columbia

Vancouver car-free Sundays hit a red light

An experimental program to ban cars and open selected Vancouver streets to pedestrians-only on Sundays in the summer has ended prematurely in one of its prime locations.

An experimental program to ban cars and open selected Vancouver streets to pedestrians-only on Sundays in the summer has ended prematurely in one of its prime locations.

The city-sponsored program dubbed Summer Spaces has been cancelled on trendy Commercial Drive, on Vancouver's east side, after complaints from area merchants.

One of the program's originators told CBC News that results of a survey of retailers by the local business improvement association effectively ended the local program.

"What they found was that on the order of 80 per cent of the businesses just were not seeing a benefit and were not interested to see it continue," said Craig Ollenberger, a director of the group Car-Free Vancouver and a co-ordinator of Summer Spaces.

Hardware store owner Sam Buonassisi said business was down at his establishment because people like to come there by car, so he cut back on staff.

"We had to lay off one guy because we didn't need him," Buonassisi said.

The neighbourhood saw four street closures from Venables Street to East First Avenue every Sunday in July.

The remaining three dates planned over the summer have been scrubbed, at least on Commercial Drive.

Ollenberger said Summer Spaces still is a go for three Sundays in August on Main Street and in the Collingwood area, both in east Vancouver, and in the downtown tourist haven of Gastown.

The city will pay a consultant to prepare a retail impact study and a report about Summer Spaces is expected to go before city council in the fall, according to Ollenberger.

Ollenberger said he plans to consult with Commercial Drive merchants and have car-free Sundays return next summer.

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