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.


  1. “…the first party since the Second World War to plough over park space and lay asphalt to convenience the automobile.”
    As opposed to paving over Haddon Park space to convenience cyclists? Paving park space is paving park space, it’s not good.

    It does seem off that the residents of Point Grey Road had the gall to complain, after essentially receiving a private drive.

  2. Don’t worry Karin. When the accident does happen, there will be a handy and healthy horde of eager cycling good-samaritans quickly on the scene to administer soothing comfort to the groaning victims. They’ll be whipping out their MEC first-aid kits and ripping up their Spandex for necessary tourniquets, and, of course, redirecting traffic while the ambulance meanders around the new* West-End-like cut off dead-end one-way maze of side streets.

    We are definitely moving into the neighbourhood. I mean, darling, it is uber-trendy, particularly now that Gregor and Amy have moved in. Don’t forget too that the rabble is held back now. It’s just like Palm Springs, a nice quiet and exclusive country club.

  3. All this negativity. Congratulations to the city design engineers who did a great job. I do have a concern on the raised concrete lip Gordon mentions, as I saw a cyclist get a wheel caught in it. It is worth watching to see if changes will be required. And a top coat of smoother pavement on the traffic calmed section will be very welcome.

    Looking forward to the launch party.

  4. It’s amazing how the infrastructure has changed the type of cyclists who use PGR. It’s always been popular with the MAMILs, but now it’s packed with families and cyclists out for a leisurely ride. It really is an extension of the seawall.

  5. A celebration of the completion of the Point Grey -Cornwall-York Greenway is being organized by HUB and the Vancouver Public Space Network.

    We are tentatively looking at July 5 as the date for the event. Anyone interested in helping, sponsoring or providing ideas is invited and encouraged to come to a meeting Wednesday May 28 at 6:30pm at the HUB office, 828 W 8th Ave. Please RSVP to Paola Qualizza

  6. A great addition to the city. We need more like this everywhere. Less cars in residential neighborhoods. More walkability/bikeability. Where else in MetroVan ( besides UBC’s new South Campus called Wesbrook village where every second street is a green street ) do we have plans for this ? Why is Robson Street not being re-built with shoppers and pedestrians in mind ? Or downtown Hastings ? Or Alberni ?

    Soon home owners will realize that a house on a green street is worth 20-30% more than on a busy one full of ugly cars! and we might even see residents demand it.

    1. Thomas, you may have missed the Strathcona residents’ dissatisfaction with living on the Union/Adanac bikeway. You see, cyclists have not yet grasped that with increasing infrastructure comes an increasing corollary expectation that they will follow rules, so the incidence of cyclist/pedestrian accidents and near-misses is high, and there is a good deal of resentment of the cyclists. I’m not surprised that PGR residents may have preferred to exit their driveways into car traffic – cars follow rules, or at least there are rules that can be taken to court if broken, a process supported by a licensing system. Bicycle traffic, in contrast, is largely unregulated, and unregulatable.

      As to the answer to your question about Robson and so on, what most people miss in the consideration of such questions is the corollary need for hidden auto infrastructure. Most European pedestrian areas have large parking areas on their peripheries; otherwise they cannot be economically viable. We see the need for this every time a neighbourhood holds a car-free day – people drive from miles around to attend those things, and they need a place to park. The neighbours of these events know this, but organizers and politicians don’t look beyond the boundaries of the street itself.

      It’s really just like a farmer’s market – if the economic viability of the event requires that people buy more than they can logically transport on foot/transit or by bike, then they need to drive there. At least, those of us who don’t routinely wander around with a rolling suitcase/handtruck do. Even shopping by bicycle in these situations is tricky, because you can’t lock up your purchases on your bike to go back for more, so once you get past what you can carry you can buy no more.

      Your vision of course includes an enormous increase in density around your proposed pedways, which is all very well. But people do not always constrain their lives to close to home; they come and they go. The presence of lots of local density won’t reduce the demand for nearby parking.

      1. Downtown Vancouver has plenty of parking, especially on weekends and evenings when offices are closed. There is also a subway and Skytrain nearby. Once Robson is a pedestrian zone shopping will actually be enjoyable, leases will rise and owners will love it, as will shoppers. Cars don’t shop. People do.

        It would greatly enhance Vancouver’s urban core which is quite ugly. Only the waterfront is its jewel, 2 blocks from the water it ain’t so pretty. An urban shopping / green / walk zone along Robson from Stadium to Stanley Park would be very well received, kinda like Granville Island with jugglers, musicians, benches, trees, benches, shopping, walking, wandering …

        1. Granville Island? Really? Granville Island is the most car orientated public realm space in Vancouver, Cars constantly circling with pedestrians forced to mix with cars on the “shared” spaces. Storage sheds filled with car parking because everyone drives there.

        2. Robson St. is in decline (lots of vacancies) because it has lost its uniqueness. All of the flagship stores that used to be there have been duplicated at Metropolis at Metrotown (so its less of a draw from outside the City).
          Alberni is up and coming as a luxury strip, but Robson itself is mellowing.

    2. Pedestrianizing at least part of Robson, or at minimum expanding the sidewalks and rethinking private automobile traffic on the road, would be a tremendous boon to street retail and the city. The volume of foot traffic on an average day appears to far exceed the number of people who drive, much less who stop, and the recently approved West End plan only anticipates higher resident densities. Sadly, I think the political capital for such a change will be found in the rather distant future, after planned growth has already occurred.

      1. Agreed. Robson should have been made a pedestrian street years ago. It would be busy all day with commuters, shoppers, and people just walking around. Many other cities would have done this decades ago. Not sure why Vancouver is taking such a long time to create pedestrian streets.

        The other real obvious choice is Water Street. The street was totally rebuilt just 15 years ago. The speeding commuter traffic has wreaked the surface so now it has to be rebuilt again. Get the traffic off it to save taxpayers the money of having to rebuild it every 15 years.

        1. Richard, Thomas. Off the top of your heads, What are some examples of North American pedestrian malls that lead you to these conclusions? Curious to hear your examples.

        2. Water St. is part of the one-way couplet with Cordova providing the eastbound street. In the absnece of a highway connection to the TransCanada Highway, Water/Cordova-Commissioner-McGill (together with 1st Ave.) provides a vital link to Hwy 1.

          With the demolition of the Viaducts on the horizon, Water & Cordova may just get busier.

  7. Thank you Gordon for pointing out some of the significant sacrifices that residents have made on Point Grey Road, both East and West of Macdonald, in order for the City to fill in the gap in the Seaside Greenway to accommodate cyclists, runners, pedestrians, and wheelchair and walker users of all ages and abilities. These disadvantages have been purposely overlooked and downplayed by motorists who are angry that they can no longer commute via PGR. In addition to drive-way access requiring residents to cross bike lanes East of Macdonald, the same is true in the 3600 block of PGR at Alma. As well, local residents now have to drive 2-12 blocks extra going to and from their homes as diverted by the numerous new traffic control measures (including a just-installed traffic diverter at 2nd Avenue and Balaclava Street, which was not part of the City’s plan for the area and greatly impedes neighbour access Eastbound). Parking spaces have also been removed almost entirely on the North side of Point Grey Road and on some side streets, limiting resident parking availability. City and resident property has been repeatedly stolen and vandalized by thwarted commuters. Though a 30K zone West of Macdonald, trouble-makers intentionally drive at excessive speeds, squeal their wheels at all hours, drive down the separated bike path between Bayswater and Macdonald (using Jackie Cohen’s new driveway) and turn their radios up full blast to cause a nuisance for residents. Cabs and others regularly do not abide by the new traffic regulations and diversions, putting residents and all lawful users of the road in danger. Residents have been the targets of verbal abuse both on PGR and in the media, including social media.

    Nevertheless, in weighing the pros and cons, most residents of PGR and the neighbourhood value as greater the benefits daily of more and more good people of Vancouver using the road in an enjoyable and respectful fashion. No pain, no gain.

      1. Guest,

        Yes, moving trucks, garbage trucks, dump trucks and concrete mixers all readily come and go from the road.

  8. One of the most important assets to the closure of Point Grey Road to commuter motorists West of Macdonald is the increase in greenspace for all users– as pictured above, Tatlow park has now been increased in size, as has the greenspace between Tatlow and Volunteer parks; the 5 just-planted trees in that space greatly beautify the Macdonald Street-Point Grey Road juncture. Similarly, the cul-de-sac at Trutch on PGR in 2015 will expand Point Grey Road park, and we can already enjoy the enlarged green space at Cornwall and Burrard. Funny how those opposed to the City’s Completion of the Seaside Greenway project like to claim a loss of greenspace when, in fact, it has been substantially increased.

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