Car-free Robson Street brings community benefits
The Vancouver Public Space Network applauds the City of Vancouver’s initiative to retain pedestrian priority of the 800 block of Robson Street in order to test the viability of a permanent central public square [Letters, September 6-13]. With proper consultation, Vancouverites will have time to explore the various issues—the opportunity to improve public life and strengthen pedestrian and public space, all weighed with transit considerations—and the effect on local businesses and residents.
There is strong support for the concept. In 2011, the VPSN conducted two surveys designed to measure public support for keeping Robson Square car-free. Over 1,800 signatures were gathered in support of the expansion of Robson Square, while just over 40 indicated opposition to the move.
Numerous cities have had success with similar public-space projects. Stockholm, which is typically colder and wetter than Vancouver (173 wet days annually to Vancouver’s 161), and Copenhagen (113 rainy days) manage to sustain a strong pedestrian life, with great benefits to local businesses.
Vancouver has been talking about the need for a central gathering place in the Robson area since the 1950s. Architect Arthur Erickson’s reimagining of the space didn’t include vehicles, and council passed a motion in 2010 to explore this further.
The 800 block of Robson is the geographic centre of downtown. It links bustling shopping, entertainment, and dining districts that would benefit from improved pedestrian connections and a central gathering space for people.
With thoughtful programming and design—such as winter and summer markets, year-round events, and climate-appropriate seating—a permanently pedestrianized Robson Square has the potential to be the economic and social centre of the city.
> Heather Forbes / Chair, Vancouver Public Space Network