In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of North Vancouver created an Open Streets initiative in 2020—a program that expands public space by transforming vehicle traffic lanes into places for people. The initial goal of the program was to support economic recovery and social connection during the pandemic. The Open Streets have since contributed to a more vibrant public realm, offering more outdoor space for neighbours and strangers to connect and socialize.
Measuring the success of public spaces
Happy Cities is conducting a series of Public Life Studies to help the City of North Vancouver assess the success of its Open Streets projects in Central Lonsdale. These studies capture a snapshot of who is using Open Streets spaces in Central Lonsdale, and what they are doing while there. Through these studies, we measure the impacts of Open Streets on community wellbeing and local business. By conducting ongoing studies over several years, we are able to measure how use of these public spaces changes over time.
In our award-winning Public Life Studies, we collect data on the demographics of people visiting and passing through the sites, to understand whether public spaces are equally serving all community members. We also analyze the activities that people do in a given public space, as well as their mode of transportation. These observations allow us to see which public spaces are most successful, and identify potential improvements that can help increase the use of each space by a diverse range of community members.
Our findings suggest that, three years after inception, North Vancouver’s Open Streets spaces are well-visited and welcoming to a range of people, particularly women. Study findings support the potential for developing the Open Streets initiative into a longer-term plan for Central Lonsdale as a vibrant and people-focused commercial area.