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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Car Free Sunday

Last June, at its 40th anniversary meeting, the Urban League featured as its guest speaker Gil Penalosa, former Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation in Bogota, Columbia. Now living in Toronto, Gil is the executive director of the Canada-based non-profit 8 – 80 Cities (formerly Walk & Bike for Life) as well as a successful international speaker and consultant.

Gil's passion for bicycling was evident in his riveting presentation on what is happening around the world: how some cities are becoming friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians with untold benefits to our environment, our health and even our pocketbooks! He challenged us to join the hundreds of other cities that are implementing Car Free Days in which a part of a city street is blocked to vehicular traffic for an afternoon and people can use the streets to walk, run, pedal, rollerblade or dance. Some cities call it "Open Streets", some call it "Cyclovia". We're calling it Car Free Sunday. It will be Sunday, April 11, 2010, the date encouraged by the World Health Organization, as part of its World Health Week celebrations and the 1000 Cities-1000 Lives Campaign.

At city hall we have been working on this for a couple of months, together with our partners Downtown London (formerly Mainstreet), the Thames Recreational and Environmental Association (TREA), and the Middlesex London Health Unit. We are closing Dundas Street from Wellington to Ridout to traffic so that we can enjoy a spring afternoon on the street listening to live music, enjoying BBQ's, looking at exhibits and demonstrations, trying out wheelchair sports, getting our faces painted, chalking the sidewalk, singing and dancing. There's something for everyone, even some games and prizes. Click here for the complete schedule.

Join us in the street on Sunday. It's our first effort. If it is successful, there may be many more!

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