Skip to content

Burnaby councillors 'disappointed' with lack of car-free day options this summer

One councillor said he was 'stunned by the cost' estimated by staff for a car-free day event and said he intended to see smaller events.
Hats Off Day crowd
Hats Off Day street festival in Burnaby garners huge crowds - but city council says that's not necessarily what they're looking for when it comes to summer car-free days.

Burnaby councillors were “disappointed” with a staff update that told them to rein in their expectations for summer car-free days in the city.

Coun. Pietro Calendino asked staff in January to research car-free Sundays throughout the city which he said would create community connections and a lively atmosphere.

But staff reported back costs could be as high as $750,000 per event and staff resources the city currently doesn’t have.

“Additional events at this scale either require a large influx of new resources or necessitate the scaling down of other activities,” said the report.

Calendino said he was “stunned by the cost,” at a council meeting April 29.

He said he never intended the car-free day events to be compared to two major street festivals, Hats Off Day and Canada Day StreetFest.

“That was not really my intent, although I would love to have that many people at any of the car-free days that we will organize,” Calendino said. “I was implying that we start a little more modest, and slowly it picks up and grows and grows.”

He suggested the city wouldn’t have to support or plan the various activities and programs for the event but rather just close off the street and let people and buskers come to celebrate organically.

Culture director Emmaline Hill said “activations” are what amps up the “level of vibrancy” and makes an event feel like the place to be.

“Our experience with StreetFest is that you do need to parachute quite a bit of activation into the site to generate that activity and make people feel safe and like there’s something to see,” Hill said.

Coun. Maita Santiago noted there’s a university in Metro Manila in the Philippines that closes its roads every Sunday for pedestrians, with very few or no activations.

“Bu there’s lots of people that come out because they use that opportunity to go for a jog or a stroll or go on bikes. So it can be a whole range of things.”

Coun. Daniel Tetrault agreed the summer car-free days weren’t intended to be the same scope as Canada Day.

“I’m also a little disappointed not to see anything proposed for this year,” he said and suggested staff look to neighbouring municipalities’ car-free days and copy those plans.

He said council still might like to see a pilot event this year.

“I’m really hoping we have something in place for next year because it’s lacking in Burnaby, and I know there’s a lot of excitement that was garnered when we initially carried this motion – so I know many people will be disappointed that there’ll be nothing this summer.”

Staff will attend Hats Off Day and Edmonds City Fair this summer to ask community members what they think about car-free days and similar events in the city.

They plan to report to council with recommendations in late 2024.