Canadian cities tease car-free summer

Once crowned the world’s coolest street, a bustling stretch of Montréal’s Wellington Street will be off-limits to cars this summer. 

Driving the news: Cities including Montréal and Vancouver are ramping up to launch or expand car-free street pilots in downtown areas in the coming months, with the aim of boosting foot traffic for local businesses — and giving your step count a shot in the arm.  

  • Vancouver is launching its first car-free zone this summer, while cities like Toronto and Hamilton are rolling out their own extended patios and temporary car-less zones.

  • Meanwhile, businesses in Calgary overwhelmingly voted to reject a car-free street program, citing concerns about customer parking and access to delivery drivers.

Why it matters: Cars sit idle 95% of the time, taking up valuable space on busy streets. While car-free roads aren’t right for every city, places like San Francisco and Stockholm have come up with creative ways to make that real estate more useful for pedestrians.

  • In Sweden, some cities have replaced some street parking spots with different Lego-like structures that can be used as picnic tables, outdoor gyms, and playgrounds.

Bottom line: Car-free streets are great for places with good public transportation and cycling infrastructure to get around, but for a lot of Canadian cities that were largely designed for driving, it could just mean more time sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.—LA