While New York City still has problems in some areas that appear to conflict with their progressive plans in others, I’m still including it in this series. With the likes of architect Jan Gehl and DOT Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan (who was here in 2009) in its arsenal, NYC has started changing the structure of its streets.
Sections of streets have been transformed, if only in trials, into space for cafes and public seating, dramatically changing the look and purpose, and allowing people to linger and rest. Car-free programs abound. They launched a car-sharing program with Zipcar and are looking at a high-tech bike share network. They’re also turning parking meters into bike racks.
Resident Ben Flanner is among others growing rooftop vegetables and I wrote recently about Brooklyn’s Habana Outpost. And finally, Give a Minute: a civic engagement website fielding the public’s ideas on how to green the city. (Sounds like Vancouver’s, eh?)
Where Vancouver has its Car Free Day festival annually in four neighbourhoods, Bogotà has embraced a weekly car-free day that stretches far beyond Vancouver’s space.
Every Sunday and holiday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Bogota, Colombia closes off — or, rather, opens up — more than 70 miles [100 km] of city streets. Closed, that is, to cars and open to bicyclists, skaters, walkers, and mass aerobics. When that happens, 1.5 million people come out to enjoy the safety, community, and exercise that a seemingly car-free city allows. According to many participants, the Ciclovi a has transformed life in the city all around for the better. People feel happier, healthier, and more united. — Streetswiki
I made the observation recently that each of us learns to walk, then virtually everyone learns how to bike, then we’re taught to drive. At that point, it’s like the first two are reduced to merely leisure activities or, to some people, hard work. Curious, isn’t it? Culturally, being able to drive and having a nice car is a measure of success. You know, because the bus is the “loser cruiser.” At the same time, being fit and skinny is attractive. They’re a bit at odds with each other, are they not? Sorry, can’t come over tonight — gotta drive to the gym. Whew, now you’ve got car payments, parking fees, insurance, AND a gym membership to keep tabs on. Better get some cheap take-out for dinner.
Whoa, hold up!
How did we get ourselves into this mess? Cities are designed for cars, not people.
On June 14, I volunteered at Car-Free Day Vancouver on Main Street and had the opportunity to also check out the festivals in the West End and on Commercial Drive. The vibe between the three was distinctly different, but without a doubt everyone was having a good time and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. I wound up the evening back at Main where I got to witness the last hour of the car-free street til close to 10pm when it was opened back up to cars. I think co-organizer Shannon described it as “tragic.” The transformation in the morning, and back again in the evening was interesting to witness. Fortunately, it will be happening again several more times over the summer, though on a smaller scale, as different chunks of Main St participate in the “Summer Spaces” program. (Yay!)
I’m volunteering for the Main Street Car-Free Day, one of four locations in Vancouver having this rockin’ street festival on Sunday, June 14. The event runs from noon to 8pm*, with 2 hours of set-up/take-down on either side. (*The other 3 locations end at 6pm.)
This will be an amazing day filled with people playing in the streets. From 12th to King Edward Avenues there will be: 7 music stages, local artisan vendors, street hockey, a skateboard ramp, a bmx ramp, graffiti walls, crazy bikes, story-telling, yoga, public art and dancing. Best of all people will bring their own fun. Last year there were over 25,000 people. With your help who knows how many will be playing in the streets this year!
150 volunteers are needed, so I’m pitching in early in the day before I go gallavanting around. Come help out with two hours of your time! Time slots available (you can pick more than one!) are:
I’m going to miss out on this, I think, because it’s also World Oceans Day on June 8 and the World Oceans Day event I’m attending conflicts in time, but I wanted to pass this on for the rest of you. There are a few spots left I think, so register quickly!
Walking Around the World: Innovation and inspiration for Designing, Engineering and Planning our Cities
“The obesity epidemic, congestion, pollution, peak oil and climate change are just five of the imperatives that demand we walk more — and walk more often. Yet the barriers to walking have intensified in recent years. This presentation will show how streets around the world are being opened up again to people on foot, with spectacular benefits for our personal health, and the health of our cities, our communities and our children.” (SFU City Program | PDF Flyer)
Yesterday I joined my sister and my little nieces to one of several Car-Free Vancouver festivals. It was almost surreal to see a chunk of Main St. filled with people, “dancing in the stree-eet,” with absolutely no cars. The warm air was filled with various music, voices, children’s laughter, and sometimes the crashing and bumping noises of skateboarders on the half-pipe. We enjoyed a live performance from a guitarist/singer + DJ/violinist duo that would probably be called lounge jazz pop? The kids had some fun dancing to it. While the next band set up some dancers moved to, I think it was flamenco music, with various dance props (ribbons, etc.) The girls had their faces painted — a butterfly and a lovebug (ladybug on one cheek, heart on the other) — and posed for some adorable photos!