Bruce Allen sounds off on Summer Spaces

Post by Mike Klassen in



While I don't always agree with Bruce Allen, sometimes he nails a topic so hard he just has to hit gold. Today's CKNW Reality Check on the Sunday car-free days is one of his best.

Have a listen or download the MP3 here.

Here's a sample passage below. Listen to him hit the emphasis on words like car, errands, shopping, etc. like he's trying to explain to Vision what they are.

I don't know about you, but I work all week. The weekend is when I want to get some things done. That usually means hopping in the car, doing a bunch of errands that usually involve a bit of shopping. The biggest turn-off to any shopper is coming up to his favourite retail area, and see the street's blocked off, and a bunch of looky loos strolling around pushing baby strollers, walking their dogs, hanging around the middle of the street and lounging around in coffee shops...

Ouch. Allen's tirade just gets better from there.

You have to wonder if Robertson, Reimer and Vision will ever learn that their social engineering experiments are wearing thin on Joe Public.

Nah, probably not.


Or, you can go to Europe and see the completely car free market areas loaded with people - wait for it - shopping.

I live downtown, work downtown, shop (mostly) downtown and don't own a car.

Too far to walk? Ride a bike.

I'm just as Joe Public as anyone else.

Car free days are great. If I had my way, downtown would be entirely car free except for commercial deliveries through the alleys.

That probably wouldn't go over with the overweight, drive everywhere, long commute, cocoon in the deathburbs crowd though.

Screw 'em, they had their day and they muffed it.

The farmer's market in Gastown - also part of the Summer Spaces program - is something the actual residents have been after for years. Do you think they prefer fresh food, or more parking?

Face up to it: if you don't like people actually living in and around your "favorite retail area" and using their neighborhood for things other than your convenience, then you're part of the spoiled entitled problem that turns our neighborhoods into nothing more than open-air malls.

Plus, what kind of person that describes themself as "Joe Public" also has a "favorite retail area"? There's nothing blocked off that you NEED to "get things done," so the only thing left must be that you're sad you can't park the Beamer in front of your favourite antiquing spot on Main, right? Cry me a river, "Mr. Public", and let the people who actually live in those neighborhoods decide, not some spoiled yuppy commuting in for his retail experience of the week.

What the macacanadian's of the world forget (while imposing there enviro-religion on other) is that Europe was designed before cars.
It's like teasing the obese kid with two obese parents about being fat. It's not like it was only up to him.

I get frustrated by car free days when car traffic is dangerously redirected onto residential streets and the bus is cancelled on the route. This is more about screwing car drivers than it is promoting public transit and so-called progressive behaviour.

I also think the negative impact of car-free days is much greater when it occurs outside of the downtown core, where there is a denser grouping of commercial spaces: but I suspect the downtown-dwelling posters above are too busy stereotyping people who are unhappy with car-free days to consider that.

Look at the demographics -- we have an aging population, not all of whom have the knees, hips and balance to ride a bike and walk everywhere. It is also pretty hard on young families.

For the record, I'm not opposed to the odd car-free festival day: but do they have to be practically every weekend?

car free days in Europe were not a decree of a city council - they happened logically and organically over time. The synergy of businesses and the services they provide make a huge difference on whether a pedestrian only environment is workable and viable for the existing businesses. More often than not - the neighbourhood itself is the one that decides to close the street - not city hall. Swooping in and declaring a street car free, throwing a little bit of money at it, and then assuming it will be a roaring success for EVERYONE is unrealistic and the sooner politicials understand this, the sooner we will stop wasting money and really get on with creating great neighbourhoods.

Bruce Allen's turn-offs include looky-loos, baby strollers and coffee shops.

Turn-ons include driving everywhere, "doing a bunch of errands."

Methinks he won't meet anyone on Plenty of Fish with those characteristics...

Who cares what this buffoon thinks?

He's already shown himself to be a giant bigot.

Keep it to yourself Bruce. yawn.

To "macacnadian"; you are not like most of the public in that most of the public are not able to live and work in the downtown core. Your ability to do so, and you should consider yourself lucky to be able to do so, is not the norm - it is the exception.

Sadly, the arrogant and elitist attitude your displaying is not unique - most downtown Vancouverites share it.

Enjoy you're studio apartment. I'll be enjoying my mansion. Oh, and my cars :)

I do consider myself lucky. Lucky to be Canadian, lucky to live in Vancouver, lucky to be healthy and on...

Living near where I work was a choice.

Elitist? Since when is walking and taking transit elitist? In fact, isn't it looked down upon? Mansion and cars? Seriously? One, I call huge BS and two, who's elitist now? Way to submarine your own post.

Also, I think you're mistaking arrogance with annoyance. Between that and the elitist remark, I think some quality time with the dictionary might be needed.

I'm surprised I didn't get called a socialist.

I do enjoy my place (one bedroom thanks). Great view of English bay, sunsets and the mountains. You're going to have a hard time making me jealous of another place. Certainly not some middle-of-nowhere two-level with a great view of... a neighbor's identical house.

And sorry, Sharon and rf, I neither forgot about the age of european cities nor ignored their organic growth. A hell of a lot of medium sized cities were bombed in world war II and so yes, there were decisions made by councils about how to rebuild and more often than not those decisions included wide pedestrian thoroughfares with trolley systems. Amazing - and well after the invention of the car.

Do you have any idea how many 75 year old ladies you can see riding a bike in Germany? Or walking the steep hillsides in Italy? Maybe if we got out of our cars or stopped watching TV once in a while we would actually be fit when we get old.

Here on the other hand, car manufacturers bought up efficient streetcar systems and mothballed them so we had to buy a car. Then they sold us autos as a romanticized esteem builder. Guess what? Hook, line and sinker. Now, we can't figure out why we have to spend so much time in rush hour traffic... The fat kid analogy is partly right, we have been shoveled into a lifestyle but we don't have to follow that path. It's not that hard.

Every where, every day is car day in North America, give me a break when they shut down maybe one street maybe one day a week already. I have a hard time listening to people whine when they're sitting on their lazy asses in the fastest personal transportation mankind has ever known because their trip took five minutes longer than they wanted.

There are costs to a sprawled out culture we are all going to have to pay them. As it stands, urban residents subsidize suburban residents. The services that run into my building cover hundreds of people. In the 'burbs, that would take kilometres of infrastructure and acres of space. Then you ask to have one lane of one bridge available to you for biking and you'd think we shot your dog.

Is it any wonder we get pissy about the issue?


Your rebuttal contains several flawed arguments that go beyond the topic of car-free days. I cannot resist responding to some of them =^)

I think you are suggesting that your one-bedroom lifestyle meets everybody's needs -- that's what the main problem with your argument is. It doesn't address the needs of families, older people, and people with health problems.

Suggesting that people with hip and knee problems wouldn't have those problems if they were more active in their youth is ignorant -- often these health issues creep up with age, especially after someone has lived an active lifestyle for many years. And that is if you are lucky enough to have your health in your youth.

I think it is great that you have made the choice to live near where you work -- so have I. But do you really meet all of your needs in one neighbourhood, the one where you live and work? That limitation is unnecessary and does not address the fact that no human community has ever truly been self-sufficient. It is an ahistorical myth. They all trade and interact with each other to meet their needs the best they can. Why should we not visit other neighbourhoods and parts of the region? Furthermore, most people change jobs more often than they change homes, so giving people a hard time for not living near work doesn't address the reality of working and residential life.

Your analysis of post-war development in Europe is deeply flawed. In North America, we decided, rightly or wrongly, that the best way to house returning soldiers was to develop agricultural land on the fringe of our cities into single family homes. Europe did not, for the most part, have this option due to scarcity of land: they lacked the space to do so. At the time, nobody knew the negative consequences of suburban sprawl: it is in retrospect that European cities appear enlightened for their denser urban form. Uncritically praising them for it is making a virtue out of necessity.

I think you are creating a false dichotomy between downtown urban living and suburban monotony: many of the suburban parts of the Lower Mainland have walkable Town Centres that also offer a high quality of life without requiring that somebody live as a single in a shoebox.

I also do not think our transportation issues are so hotly contested because of, as you suggest, a mere "five minute difference" in travel times. That is setting up a straw man. It often takes 2-3 times longer to use transit, if it is offered at the time when you need it. Your downtown experience is the happy exception. And damning people who resent doubling their travel times doesn't help the situation. Your attitude of "screw 'em" if they do not see things your way is not how to build consensus on how to address our land use and transportation issues -- it just makes people angry because you are downplaying their transportation troubles. I think that is why you received rude responses from other posters.

The posters above didn't accuse you of being a socialist. But hey, if the shoe fits ...

The sad thing about the Commercial Drive experience was that there was simply not enough to attract people to the Drive. Other car free areas have events and so on to bring people to the area. Once a year was one thing - the novelty effect - but a regular thing, well that needed something else.

The great insight of the car free movement is that the favourite activity of human beings everywhere is people watching. Yup, those "looky-loos" are actually all of us. Except of course the great and all powerful Bruce Allen who is above all that. Actually he does not seem to represent people at all - he speaks for corporations who view us as consumers and need us to drive everywhere and only get out of the car to buy something.

I have been pointing on my blog for some time to people like Jan Gehl who have been so successful in transforming traffic clogged cities into places that people actually want to spend time in. And in order to collect examples of places where this works - there being so few around here that I started a group on flickr called Places without cars and there now 826 images of place s around the world where this idea works.

Curious, don't you think that Vancouver is the exception? After all, even New York has now closed both Times Square and Herald Square to traffic on Broadway. But it would never work here, would it?

wow...there is someone in canadian politics with balls!!! run for vote! your so right, enough is enough. When i call information I want someone who speaks english, when i hear the national anthem I want the canadian version, at xmas..i will proudly say "merry christmas" ...hellloooooo people...THIS IS CANADA!!!! dont like the way we play? go back home

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