Better Transit Alliance Makes Car Free Day News

Dads find Car Free YYJ tailor-made for Father’s Day
Jeff Bell / Times Colonist
June 17, 2018

BTA Members Sue & Robin take a break at Car Free Day

The World’s Coolest Dad — at least, that’s what his T-shirt said — spent part of his Father’s Day at the annual Car Free YYJ celebration on Douglas Street.
Jason Rolstone and 14-year-old daughter Katie strolled through the growing throng just before noon to get to a lunch date with his parents. Rolstone said he is a fan of the car-free gathering.
“It’s a wonderful event.”
Mark Paterson, who answered questions with four-year-old son Finn perched on his shoulders, said Car Free YYJ is great for youngsters like Finn and his seven-year-old sister Arabella.
“We like to entertain the kids,” he said.
“It’s easier to let somebody else do it,” he added with a smile. “I knew there would be lots of fun things down here.”
The concept of having a day without cars on a portion of a major city street is worth supporting, Paterson said.
“I like the idea. I’ve always been a proponent of reducing the number of cars and things. And I like tying it in with entertainment.”
The event included four stages over nine blocks from Chatham Street/Caledonia Avenue to Courtney Street.
Another dad enjoying Father’s Day at the Douglas Street attraction was Jason Wang, who had five-year-old Noah and Luca, four, in tow.
“It’s safe,” he said. “There is lots to do. We’re here every year, and every weekend we look for things to do with the kids.”
Soaking in the ambiance of a random patch of grass laid out between Johnson Street and Pandora Avenue were Michael Ross and Brenda Hodson, along with dog Tosca.
“It’s surreal but it’s very pleasant,” Ross said having a lawn spread over a curb lane. “It smells nice, you feel more relaxed.”
Hodson noted that the little piece of paradise was getting its share of abuse.
“Somebody put a cigarette out on it already,” she said. Tying into the car-free theme was a booth set up by the Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria, where Eric Doherty was collecting names of people wanting to support the group’s cause.
“We want the bus lanes completed from McKenzie to the Six Mile Pub area,” he said. “That’s provincial jurisdiction, so we’re trying to get people to write all their MLAs to get that done.”
Doherty said some construction is underway, but there is a gap in the lane planning that needs to be addressed.
It comes down to priorities, he said.
With over 400 vendors and artisans set up for the occasion, Car Free YYJ had everything from used CDs to handmade jewelry to offer.
And then there was the Paddlelac booth, where furniture made from paddles was an intriguing sight for passersby.
“All it is is paddles and screws and varnish,” said Fred Darlington, who has been at all four Car Free YYJs so far with his creations.
Asked where the idea for Paddlelac came from, he said he gives Labatt beer some of the credit.
“We lived right on Lake Erie so our deck was right there,” he said. “We had paddles and boards around all the time, and beer around all the time.
“One day we drank too much, went to bed and came up with Paddlelac.”
As many as 35,000 people were expected to attend Car Free YYJ, up from 25,000 last year.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the event has been an unqualified success.
“I think it speaks to a yearning that people have to be out in the community having space to connect and find each other and talk, without having to worry about their car,” she said. “We’re seeing people-centred cities, human-scale cities that are developing around the world.”
Victoria is behind many cities in the amount of time it dedicates to such events, Helps said.
She said a pilot project is being worked on by some Government Street merchants who want a portion of the street to be open for pedestrians only on Sundays in August and September.