Car Free Vancouver Day: Celebrating People Power Throughout the City

Credit: Car Free Vancouver Day

Vancouverites get out and walk the talk at Vancouver’s Car Free Day 2011

If you found yourself on Main Street or Commercial Drive last Sunday (June 19) you would have come across crowds out in the street; people everywhere were listening to live music, eating street food, riding their bikes and skateboards, browsing markets and playing street hockey. The biggest absence? Cars.

Car Free Vancouver Day originated in 2005 on Commercial Drive and was an instant success as people enjoyed the street festival undisturbed by honking horns and smelly vehicles.


Car Free Day on Commercial Drive. (Image: Car Free Vancouver Day)

Since its inception, Car Free Vancouver Day has evolved into an event that now attracts around 250,000 people and is celebrated across the city, with participation in Kitsilano, the West End, Main Street and Commercial Drive.

The festival is all about fun and community building and gives Vancouverites an opportunity to walk the talk —literally— when it comes to being a greener city.


Reclaiming the streets and keeping it local

These streets are ours: two Vancouverites stake their claim. (Image: Flickr / *_*)


Car Free Vancouver Day board member Maddy Kipling says: “Car Free Day started with a few citizens who were really concerned about the fact that roads were being expanded; the trend was all about the bigger the better, and there were less and less community festivals.”


She goes on to explain, “Our streets were just becoming thoroughfares to get from one place to the other and people weren’t staying in their own neigbourhoods, getting to know their neighbours and supporting local businesses.”


The goal of Car Free Vancouver Day is to encourage community mindedness and to raise awareness about reducing the use of fossil fuels. “Our collective goal,” says Kipling, “is to have less cars on the streets.”


Car Free Day: A 100% volunteer and community driven event

Street hockey where kids don’t have to yell “car!” every five minutes. (Image: Car Free Vancouver Day)


Car Free Day is a great example of community spirit in the city. 100% voluntary run, the board puts out a call every year for volunteers throughout the city, utilizing connections with community centres, social networking and Craigslist to get the word out.


The event runs on a ‘pod’ structure, with some volunteers becoming ‘pod heads’, responsible for taking leadership over particular areas and organising other volunteers. “We have a business pod head, a volunteer pod head, an entertainment pod head etcetera etcetera.” Kipling explains.


The bike valet: Encouraging carbon neutral travel throughout the city. (Image: Car Free Vancouver Day)

Kipling admits it is a big undertaking but says, “People come out of the woodwork.” More often than not the volunteers bring along their friends and family, so the event is able to take advantage of the community snowball effect.


The event relies on the community to keep it moving and Kipling says, “Every year we’re looking for new people to bring new energy and fresh ideas. You don’t have to know anything about event management to get involved!”