Car Free Sunday proposed for parts of Comox Valley

If the Comox Valley can put on a big multi-day event like Vancouver Island MusicFest with more than 1,000 volunteers, Andrew Gower thinks the Valley can close some streets for four hours on a Sunday afternoon.

If the Comox Valley can put on a big multi-day event like Vancouver Island MusicFest with more than 1,000 volunteers, Andrew Gower thinks the Valley can close some streets for four hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Gower, who is with the non-profit group Imagine Comox Valley, brought the idea for Car Free Sunday to Courtenay council Monday.

The event is being proposed for Sept. 25 between 1 and 5 p.m.

“It’s an initiative that was born out of the presentations Gil Peñalosa gave recently where he came to town … about his ideas about more livable communities, really centred around bicycles and centered around non-vehicle transportation,” said Gower.

Gower told council the group is hoping to create a closed loop in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland for cycling, rollberblading, walking, running, riding scooters — anything except driving.

“The loops chosen are mostly flat terrain to make them easily accessible to all sorts of people, all sorts of ages,” he said. “Gil Peñalosa talked about eight to 80, making your city wonderful for people aged eight to 80, and that’s what we’re aiming this event at.”

The proposed Courtenay route starts on Fifth Street, then goes along Fitzgerald, up 26th Street and along Willemar Avenue.

“What this route does is it connects downtown — of course we’ll close the (Fifth Street) bridge again because that was wonderful on Canada Day — to Simms Park, to the shopping mall, so you’ve got destinations for people to go,” said Gower. “You’ve even got another park right in the middle at the roundabout.”

Gower, a civil engineer by day, has identified some traffic issues that need to be addressed, including busy intersections he feels would need to remain flow-through for vehicular traffic.

“This route also corresponds with a bit of a planning exercise that was done by Tom Dishlevoy and a team of local consultants where we looked at how we can make the community livable, and what this route offers is a huge portion of the community is within three blocks of the route,” said Gower. “People can very easily get to it. “Some comments I’ve received are, ‘Why don’t we make it downtown and focus on downtown?’ and I ask the question, ‘How much sense does it make to have to drive your car to a car-free event?’ This way, you avoid that issue completely.”

Gower also went over the proposed Comox route, which connects downtown to the Comox Recreation Centre, and the Cumberland route, which he said councillors liked so much, they wanted to make it bigger.

“This can be done,” he said. “The logistics aren’t that complicated, and it’s only for four hours.”

Imagine Comox Valley would co-ordinate the volunteers, marketing, events and activities and the other non-profits, and Gower says local governments would hopefully provide sponsorship — mostly in–kind —outreach to citizens and organizations and traffic planning and co-ordination.

While a budget hasn’t been worked out, Gower told council the event would probably cost no more than $10,000 for all three communities.

The Comox Valley Cycling Task Force has set aside $2,600, and Gower said he is confident that, with some sponsorship, they can fill in the gaps.

Gower is a director with the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, and he told council the Chamber has already endorsed the event.

A Facebook event page has been created for the proposed event, and more than 500 people have already indicated they will or might attend, Gower told council.

Gower also brought his presentation about Car Free Sunday to Comox Council on Wednesday.

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