There won’t be any honking or road rage on Douglas Street as part of the street is set to close for Victoria’s first-ever Car Free Day on the weekend.
Six blocks of Douglas Street from Herald to Fort streets will be closed to traffic from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday for Car Free YYJ festivities.
The inaugural event includes more than 225 vendors such as artisans, businesses, food vendors and not-for-profit organizations, a craft beer garden, a skate ramp and three stages featuring live performances from local musicians such as Bucan Bucan, Le-La-La Dancers, New Groovement, The O’Briens, the Pandora Choir, Steph Macpherson and Winston Wolfe.
A 7,000-square foot grassy park made from artificial turf will also be installed for people to sit and enjoy the festivities between Pandora and Johnson streets.
The Downtown Victoria Businesses Association, who organized the event, estimates more than 10,000 people will show up for the festivities.
“We’ve really been inspired by Car Free Day in Vancouver,” said Ken Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
“We really need to change our ways, even if this, in some small way contributes to a growing awareness of the impact that we as a society are having on this fragile planet, then that’s a good thing.”
The association also hopes the event will draw some much-needed attention to Douglas Street.
“We need to draw attention back to Victoria’s grand avenue — Douglas street used to be the grand avenue, it used to be the street in which people loved to be see and been seen,” he said. “We’re striving to reposition Douglas Street in the minds of the public by having the Car Free Day.”
Car Free Day started in Vancouver 11 years ago as a way of celebrating Vancouver’s diverse neighbourhoods by organizing an arts and culture festival that reclaimed roads as a place for residents, artists and performers to showcase their work.
“We really want people to enjoy themselves. We feel we’ve planned a really exciting day and we anticipate that this will be the first of a tradition that we are building for everyone to enjoy in downtown Victoria,” added Kelly.
The Victoria Police Department will help block off the roads during the festivities.
“We support all kinds of events throughout the city. Car Free Day is an interesting, and frankly, exciting initiative,” said Bowen Osoko with the VicPD, noting they will have reserve officers who will be coming out to help with traffic.
Osoko said it’s important for drivers to check the VicPD and City of Victoria websites for updates throughout the weekend.
“Before people come down, because there will be some traffic disruption, not a lot, based on where the block offs are, but it’s important to take a look at the websites to avoid the areas that are blocked off because it will help avoid headaches,” said Osoko.
“It’s important for people to be patient on Car Free Day. It’s trying something new, and there may be a few growing pains along the way.”
There will be a free bike valet and free parking at all five city parkade as well as at street meters as well.
Yates and Johnson Streets will remain open for traffic flow through downtown Victoria. The event runs from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, visit carfreeyyj.ca.