Getting out on the street – some but not enough to make this an annual event. Car Free Sunday needs a re-think.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON July 17, 2012  Everyone thought it was going to be bigger and better than the Car Free Sunday on Appleby Line back in June  but the crowd, if that is what you can call it,  on Brant Street and Locust Streets for the second Car Free Sunday was not as large  – something was missing.

Interest group and services tents set up on Brant north of Caroline drew traffic – it was much quieter south of Caroline.

Was it too hot; were people away at their cottages, kids off to camp?   There was no reason to walk over to Brant Street – other than to be able to walk about with no traffic.

Bus service was rerouted an cars kept off the street for most of the afternoon. Should it be an annual event?

There was no focus to the event – but then there was no focus to the Appleby Line event and it had better participation than last Sunday’s event on Brant Street.

There was live music at the Civic Square but it drew very poor audiences.  There was a Country and Western Music event at Spencer Smith Park and some of its traffic made its way up Brant – but there just wasn’t any sense that there was something going on.

The organizers did arrange for various interests groups to have tents on Brant north of Caroline – and they were busy and gave that part of the street the sense that there was something going on.

There are retailers that get it – and they are the one’s that succeed. The shopping bag that lady is carrying isn’t empty. The folks that run Joelle’s understand retail. There were far too many stores closed.

Far too many of the Brant Street merchants were not open – not a good sign.  The Downtown Business association needs to get a bit of a burr under the saddles of some of its members.  Those that were open did continuous business.

This was the first year the event took place.  It’s worth doing the same thing next year, but there clearly has to be some brain storming if there are ever going to be people out on the street for large parts of a day.

Those who were lined up in their cars at Brant and Caroline to get through the intersection didn’t think very much of the idea of people taking over the streets of the city – even if it was only for a couple of hours.

There seemed to be more police presence than was necessary – lots of overtime booked by the HRPS.

The pavement didn’t seem to be a problem. Get a dozen kids and a soccer ball plus two nets and you’ve got a game. It was pleasant to watch – some benches would have kept people around longer.

The Burlington Teen Tour Band was out – they always draw a crowd but the idea was to have people out on the street for a large part of the 2pm to 7pm time frame.  The barriers were taken up on Locust close to 6 pm and Brant was wide open to vehicles  at 7 pm

During Sound of Music there were different attractions on the street that drew people and kept them around for a while.  There were precious few places to get out of the sun and nowhere to sit and have a drink.

There were nets for kids to play soccer at the John and Brant intersection but there was no seating for anyone who wanted to watch the kids play.

Brian Dean, top toff at the Downtown Business Association was out drumming up business for those of his members that took part in the Red Bag Sale. Too many of his members let the community down last Sunday. Keeping the doors closed while the city works at getting people out on the street isn’t the way the game is played.

There is a soccer player in there somewhere

It was suggested that a focus was needed and there are a number of opportunities to bring in close to cost free events that would attract people and keep them around for a while.  The antique car club people will show off their vehicles any chance they get.  Inviting them to the city and asking if the owners of the cars would drive up along one of the rural roads with a guest passenger in their car – and then choose the guests from raffle ticket winners would certainly draw attention and participation.

A chance to sit in an MG  or a Corvette with the top down would keep me hanging around hoping I got a chance for a ride.   It would beat being on one of those nasty little ponies that were walking around the cenotaph at the side of city hall.

It is going to take some imagination to make this an event that people want to participate in and one that justifies closing down street for a period of time.

Good effort, they got the idea right now to add some ginger and make it more fun because there wasn’t much fun on Brant Street last Sunday afternoon.

There are a bunch of volunteers – more than 25 of them,  that deserve more than the car free Sunday T-shirt they got.  There were also half a dozen staff members who gave up half a nice day to make the event happen.

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1 comment to Getting out on the street – some but not enough to make this an annual event. Car Free Sunday needs a re-think.

  • Penny Hersh

    The residents of Burlington are suffering from “EVENT FATIGUE”. In the span of less than one month, we who live downtown have had to deal with The Sound of Music, Canada Day, The Country Blues and BBQ Festival,Car Free Sunday and as I type this a road race that once again results in people having to deal with traffic issues, noise and the inability to get into their homes.

    I truly believe that Less is More. Do fewer events but do them well.