A summer-long celebration of community and car-free public spaces got underway in Vancouver yesterday with the kickoff of the city’s pilot Summer Spaces program.

Similar to the popular car-free day festivals, but with a much smaller footprint, Summer Spaces saw Main Street closed to traffic from Seventh Avenue to Broadway and Commercial Drive closed from Venables Street to First Avenue.

The program runs Sundays through August and will expand to include a multicultural summer market near the Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station and a farmers’ market in Gastown.

Coun. Andrea Reimer, who checked out both the Main Street and Commercial Drive celebrations yesterday, said the event was as envisioned with shops and cafés spilling into the street. There was a strong family atmosphere and children were literally playing in a car-free road.

“It was a wonderful experience to be sitting on Commercial Drive, having a coffee this morning,” said Reimer, who walked to the festival from the Commercial Drive SkyTrain station and was struck by how the sound of traffic disappeared when she hit First Avenue, replaced by the sound of people talking.

Lynn Warwick, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association, which helped put on the Market 1886 event on Main Street, said that event aimed to remind Vancouverites of a simpler time when streets were free of vehicles.

“You don’t realize how noisy the traffic is until it stops,” Warwick said.