The Point Grey Road improvements are just about the complete. You can almost hear the final pieces click into place. You can certainly see the increased volumes:
This last week has seen the construction of works on what was probably the most difficult stretch to design and negotiate – the 2600-2800 blocks of Point Grey Road (map here). The residents on the north side had a legitimate concern: all their driveways emptied on to a busy stretch of PGR that looked like this:
And as of this week, looks like this:
To exit their driveways, residents must now cross the separated bike lane and then turn into traffic, and some were not at all happy with this arrangement. During the hearings before council, they made their views abundantly clear, and were annoyed, I think, that their needs weren’t given first priority.
The problem, however, is that these three blocks are critical for connecting the Seaside Greenway through east Kitsilano with the traffic-calmed section of PGR. Without this separated section, there is no way you would see this:
Only road warriors and pelotons were comfortable being mixed in with the arterial traffic – and now there’s safe and separated space for all ages and abilities. The only problem reported so far is the slight lip on the driveway cuts that can destabilize a novice cyclist.
The result on the whole is a superb piece of traffic engineering: realigning a constrained right-of-way while accommodating all the users, and doing it with flair. There is no need for signage to figure out where you’re supposed to be. The experience is seamless, intuitive and attractive, from the beautiful side-street of PGR north of Cornwall, to the separated path along the arterial, to the extended park at Tatlow that announces you’ve entered the mixed section of PGR where bike and foot are truly the dominant modes of travel:
A sunny holiday weekend in May, even before the final construction equipment has left the scene, might not be the definitive moment to declare that PGR is a fait accompli. But no one is going to insist that all this should be torn out in order to restore the previous traffic conditions – except perhaps a fringe political party like Cedar. And maybe not even them. The NPA, though, had better figure out how it’s going to walk back Councillor George Affleck’s declaration that it would effectively be the first party since the Second World War to plough over park space and lay asphalt to convenience the automobile.
The political question, though, is this: Will Vision declare victory, and celebrate the success of what was one of the hottest issues in their term – one where they alienated even some of their supporters, and left a feeling among others that they had overreached, forced through a pre-conceived project and failed to listen to those opposed in any meaningful way. The sense at the moment is that they won’t make a big deal of PGR, even if it turns out to be a success by mid-summer.
But there’s a reason why others should. It’s not in Vancouver where the controversy has its most negative effects; it’s in the other municipalities in the region where their leaders take a measure of what has happened here, and decide, no, they’d rather not wade into bike-lane whirlpools. As a result, a commitment to active transportation and the needed infrastructure falls off the agenda.
It’s most clear in a municipality like West Vancouver – where many of those most opposed to what has happened in Vancouver actually live. Except they can’t vote here. Their council, however, seems to fear unleashing any of the hostility that might get transferred across the water. It’s evident when a cyclist comes off the Lions Gate Bridge and follows the signage to West Van, to be greeted with this:
They make it pretty clear that they’re not going out of their way to accommodate anyone who might need more room that would have to be taken from the dominant user of the road. And good luck finding the signage to the Spirit Trail where you’re presumably supposed to be, at least until you get to the sections that don’t exist because of local opposition.
But if PGR, rather than being a source of political pain, turns into a political plum, then observers from elsewhere in the region might decide that it’s worth taking an initial hit if the result is a big win – once the final pieces are in place.