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Car Free Day 2005
04/12/2004

It's going to be catastrophic. It will be absolutely chaotic downtown on that day.

That's what Councillor Doug Holyday said (according to the Toronto Sun) about the idea of closing part of Queen Street and King Street for Car-Free Day, on Thursday, September 22, 2005.

While I feel that Holyday's warnings are hyperbolic, I do think he may have a point about alienating drivers. Readers of this blog know that I'm a big supporter of transit and alternatives to driving, but I have to ask -- if the purpose of Car-Free Day is to make drivers think about alternatives, how is pissing them off going to help?

I've been a fan of Car-Free Day since 2001 when I attended a great event to promote it here in Toronto. The way it works is when it essentially forces lots of people to try living without a car for one day. Many people who never even think about alternatives actually see that they not only do just fine without a car, but they actually like it.

As nice as it is for Toronto to be making a bigger effort to be involved in CFD this year, closing down Queen and King between Church and Spadina won't have the effect described above. People won't leave their car at home because of this (unless the media has Doug Holyday on the air to work drivers into a panic). And if people don't leave their cars at home, they won't see anything different except more congestion on that one day.

Just closing a couple streets won't create the sort of learning experiences that are intended, so there's not much upside. Sure, some people would enjoy having the streets closed -- and I'm one of them -- but then why not do it on a weekend?

The way I see it, Car-Free Day should either shut down the whole damn city, or not bother.

POSTSCRIPT: I'm not opposed to the idea -- I just think that the political capital and the $600,000 could be spent in better ways. For example, Councillor Jane Pitfield's idea of getting downtown companies to compete to see who can have the most people bike, walk or take transit on that day.


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