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Victoria's Government Street to be car-free once a month from October to February

07/17/2015 12:17 EDT | Updated 07/16/2016 05:59 EDT
In a surprise move, the City of Victoria has cancelled the car-free day planned for Aug. 16 on Government Street and will instead offer five car-free days — one each month from October through February.

The change comes after businesses complained about the original plan, saying it would do more harm than good to local business. 

"[They said] they don't need any help during summer months," said Victoria city councillor Jeremy Loveday.

"So what we've done is we've pushed it to the shoulder season, basically the off-season, to try to create the year-round economy on Government Street."

Business owner still not happy

"It's a partial victory," said Tom Thompson, owner of clothiers W&J Wilson. 

He said the government is taking the wrong approach.

"It's not the car traffic that's broken on Government Street; it's the lack of merchants," said Thompson, who wants the city to make the area more commercially viable.

However, ​Loveday said opening the street to pedestrians is the key to growing the local economy. 

"We do need to attract other retailers, and I think one of the the best ways we can do that is by making this a place that people want to be," Loveday said.

"It makes it sticky ... and when people stay, they support the businesses."

Could expand to next summer

If these car-free days on Government Street are successful, Loveday said council will consider expanding the project to next summer's peak season. 

"Hopefully Government Street merchants see that this is a good idea and good for their business as well."

The string of car-free days will tentatively begin on Oct. 17 and end with a "Love Gov" event that takes place on Valentine's Day, Loveday said.  

"I think it's a gem of a street, and this is about trying to animate it more and bring more life to it year-round."

To hear the full interview with councillor Jeremy Loveday, listen to the audio labelled: Victoria announces car-free day once a month, October to February.

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