Former Green Party deputy leader David Chernushenko, a local resident who ran in two elections in Ottawa Centre, writes in the Ottawa Citizen about the feasibility of "car-free" zones in Ottawa. Based on his daughter's fanciful illustrations of car-absent Venice, Italy, Chernushenko suggested Canada should at least consider the notion that we can move beyond cars.
Chernushenko pointed in particular to one of the city's most tourist-friendly districts as a potentially car-free zone.
The Byward Market district, on the other hand, could be a vibrant "people place" like Venice, with a car-free zone of eight to 12 blocks. Most of the ingredients are there: art galleries, museums, the Château Laurier and Parliament Buildings, food vendors, clothing stores, furniture sellers, bars, restaurants, and the famous outdoor produce stalls that bring such colour and flavour. There's even a canal nearby, and gelato.Chernushenko blames the lack of non-car discourse on fear: "Fear that shoppers will flee to the suburbs and the free parking of the shopping mall and the big box store."
A pedestrian-only zone would work, he writes, if planners adhere to the following steps.
First, a fully integrated public transit system that is frequent, affordable and comfortable to board and ride. Second, a "critical mass" in terms of the size of the precinct and the range of offerings. Third, a mixed-use zoning and city planning policy that encourages the development of a community that incorporates residential with commerce and retail, and that encourages housing for a diverse blend of income levels. Expensive condo precincts do not make for lively street interaction.There should definitely be a place for this kind of dialogue in local media. Chernushenko's idea has some merit. So long as he doesn't call for a car-free city, a la Venice, perhaps a car-free zone is an option.