Two views today on the debate concerning the temporary surface to be used during a pre-consultation period as an old railroad corridor lurches into becoming a Greenway.
Mike Klassen in the Courier reviews the arguements in progress and the planning history around the Greenway and says: “Welcome to pavement politics in Vancouver”. It’s a useful broad-brush, high-level review and a primer on planning processes, based in part on a careful re-reading of a 25-year-old planning document, and subsequent versions of similar material.

I was convinced (and remain so) that City of Vancouver staff had made a smart decision to hasten access to the Arbutus Greenway for all pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users, even with a planned public consultation on the pathway barely underway. . .
. . . The Task Group’s final report — titled Greenways-Public Ways (1992) . . .  It was in the “Greenways” report that the idea of an Arbutus right-of-way that “includes bicycle and pedestrian paths” was forged.
A while back I received a bound copy of the report as a keepsake — along with the Vancouver Greenways Plan (1995) — from retired city planner Sandra James, who was, and is, the city’s most energetic proponent of walkability.
On page 46 of the greenways report, a section titled “Vancouver Vision: Year 2010” . . .  sounds a lot like Vancouver today, with improved walking and cycling routes, reduced car trips in the downtown core thanks to better alternatives, and a network of greenways across the city. . . .
. . . But legacies are for another day, and Vancouver’s pedestrians, cyclists, runners, scooter and wheelchair riders deserve access to the greenway now.

Following a public letter released by this wheelchair user, some truly disturbing attack-oriented correspondence ensued, and this vigorous and well-voiced response. The story is long and it ‘s alternately saddening, maddening and heartening.  Referring to just one arguement of the “we love gravel, let’s not do anything to the Arbutus Greenway” crowd:

Nonetheless the image of people being knocked down like bowling pins had been planted in my mind.
So I asked a friend who is blind what he thought.
“What do you mean?” he said
“Would it worry you if part of the space is used by bicyclists and skateboarders?” I asked.
“I don’t understand” he said sounding genuinely baffled.
“I think some people think you will (I hesitated, now regretting starting the sentence because I knew how ridiculous I was about to sound)…they think you will be in danger.  (Silence) Would you be worried about being run over?”
“You’re not serious. The goal is inclusion.” he said.
To be sure, shared spaces require a consciousness of different needs.
In my own experience whenever there is a collision of users it is a reflection of poor design.

[Ed:  would commenters please limit their comments on this post to 3 per day]


  1. It’s a great article by Ms Sine Nomine. It’s nice to see someone who has others speaking for them come forward to correct things.

  2. Why the heckfire are people getting so upset about this TEMPORARY surface treatment? The whole idea is to stimulate discussion and gain some sort of consensus on the final design so the City can move forward with it. If “people getting knocked over like 10 pins” is really a problem, then the temporary path will help to make that obvious and the final design can include separated pathways for pedestrians and cyclists/skateboarders. (In fact, I think the proposed design already does).
    People seem to be really unclear on the concept here. I’m actually quite surprised that the city stopped work on the temporary path.

    1. Indeed, “poor design” by City engineers is a rapidly thrown down blacktop without the safety of curbs or delineations between cyclists and pedestrians in order to accommodate speeding cyclists only, who are willing to risk going off the edges of the blacktop into the ditches on both sides. Temporary and fast is unsafe and a waste of money, just a repeat of Vision Council’s other pet projects that render citizens at expensive risk.

      1. Where are the required engineering study results that must be compiled and analyzed for safety, accessibility, toxicity, need, efficiency, cost, etc. before constructing transportation routes or infrastructure? What happened to fiscal responsibility and engineering ethics? All has been thrown to the wind by Vision in order to leave dangerous “legacies” for our city by their own admission. Accountability is inevitable.

      2. Better than leaving it unpaved for years while “consultation” is happening. Twinning it, or adding benches, mini-parks, bushes, hedges and curves will happen, in time, but that costs A LOT MORE than a quick pave AND will take a lot longer to implement.
        It will be beautiful, in time. In the mean time: “pave, baby, pave” so all users (incl. wheel chairs, strollers, rollerbladers and skateboarders) can use it.
        btw: Awesome downhills in some sections. I can see the skateboarding crowd salivating already scoping out the best 3-5 block long uninterrupted downhills ! Some of the best rides in the city !

        1. “Unpaved for years while consultation is happening” — what city are you living in? This Council offers only 1-2 weeks of “consultation”, and it has no effect whatsoever. So, are you telling me that you cannot wait 1-2 weeks for the City to due its due diligence? That is illogical.

      3. “without the safety of curbs or delineations between cyclists and pedestrians in order to accommodate speeding cyclists only, who are willing to risk going off the edges of the blacktop into the ditches on both sides.”
        Anyone who has observed the hazards created on the Stanley Park Seawall by using a raised curb to delineate the pedestrian/cyclist areas understands that this design feature can actually be more dangerous than a simple painted line, or if absolute separation is required, a taller fence or barrier. Curbs along the side of pathway would also represent a greater danger to someone going off-course (over the handlebars in all likelihood) than simply riding off the paving and into some gravel and brush.

  3. Imagine if the Northeast False Creek “temporary” paved seawall had never been paved and was left a wet, puddled gravel pathway.
    This one:
    And isn’t the seawall path between Olympic Village and Cambie Bridge still a “temporary” paved pathway?

    1. You are assuming that all “pathways” need to be identical; they do not. They should suit the appearance and defined, corroborated needs of the area.

  4. Susan you complain when there is consultation and put it in your mysterious ‘brackets’ and you complain when you feel there is no consultation. What is it exactly you want?
    You sit here and call city staff complicit in some kind of willful ignorance, call them out as professionals and basically shit on them ad nauseam, yet turn around and ask those same people you just shit on to do due diligence and you really think you’ll believe them in the end?

    1. You are incorrect; I have consistently advocated in favour of consultation, provided it is not just paying the public lip-service. Due diligence is their job; they are required to do it ethically, and they are held accountable if they do not. Watch your language.

      1. Consultation is only consultation when they do what you want. If they do something else, it’s lip service, or should I say ‘consultation’. This is the issue with you, it’s never REAL consultation unless they just accept and do what you think is best.
        News flash, you are not the centre of the universe.
        And I ask again, you’ve already stated repeatedly you think these politicians are corrupt and that the city staff are unethical and unprofessional, yet you continue to demand they do their jobs as you see it, even though you see them as corrupt! Makes no sense.
        Instead of just whinging about it, run for office!

  5. I love how it’s David Fine and Elvira Lount leading the charge against this. A+ for persistence and consistency.
    They were the same pair that opposed the bike lane in Hadden Park/Kits Beach. At the time they said “we are not against all bike lanes, just this one”. A few months later they were out opposing the improvements to Point Grey Road. Elvira was also the one who created a petition to oppose a seawall along the Point Grey foreshore when that was being discussed. Now they’re out again opposing the paving of the Arbutus Greenway.
    I understand their desire to protect wild spaces in our city, but at some point that has to be weighed against giving more people access. I was initially opposed to the Sea to Sky Gondola and worried about it’s impact, but I think it’s done an amazing job at making that area more accessible and getting people out hiking. I think the Arbutus Greenway has the same opportunity.

      1. I remember Elvira’s comment in a post in an article some time back, when she used the phrase “nasty bike trolls” while arguing that people on bikes were going 50 km/hr along the seawall path.

        1. Okay, so clearly something else really is going on. I could speculate, maybe it’s the NPA who instead of presenting something the electorate wants is simply just opposing whatever new thing the current party in power is doing. Another theory is the automobile industrial complex is behind it. In the past they’ve done all sorts of things to get rid of any alternative to their products.
          I really don’t know. I guess all you can do is counter their lies with facts. I’m glad we live in a city where enough people are connected to reality that they won’t just blindly believe stuff like that. (I don’t think it’s even possible to go 50 km/hr on a bike except under special circumstances.) Still it’s sad that some still do and the media is right there to jump in on any conflict, ignoring the reasonable and sane and finding the extremists.

    1. That bike path was going to be put in because pedestrians felt unsafe with bikes speeding by. This crowd fought it, and now there is merely a gravel path. bikes still go fast, just with way less control. And way more conflicts. Thanks nimbys!

  6. This is what the Richmond section of the Interurban route looks like:
    This has been on the ground for at least two years and is extremely successful with lots of people walking and cycling – People of all ages and abilities enjoying this magnificent greenway. Please note the lack of curbs and a simple line down the middle to delineate direction of travel. This is a great implementation of a multi-use path and for those that want to cycle quickly, there are still bike lanes on the parallel road (Railway).
    This is what CoV hoped to duplicate with their temporary path, however it looks like a few people seem to find objections with this plan. Pity. Now we have to spend more money on temporary gravel sections and an expensive consultation process just for a temporary path! The mind boggles. I do feel for the poor councilors and city staff who have to deal with this nonsense.
    New York City has a policy that temporary changes to streets like protected bike lanes can be installed and kept in place for 6 months while consultations take place on the final design. It is high time that CoV council adopted such a policy.

  7. Public consultation is important but accessibility is not a matter for debate.
    That statement rings with the truth of experience. Anyone arguing with it either has a blind agenda or doesn’t understand the need for the principle of universality when addressing accessibility, to which there is no compromise.
    Recommending gravel as a naturally “accessible” path will require a hard-packed surface of compacted fines. But it will be grilled cheese on toast after the first hard rain of November. A vat of cold porridge by the New Year.
    Recommending a Pacific Spirit Park gravel trail for the Arbutus Corridor is so far out of context it is comical. Since when is a large mature second growth forest akin to an historic Interurban and an industrial railway line slicing through the subdivisions? I lived next to it for a decade and the daily grain train delivery to Molson’s rocked our apartment building like clockwork. Over the last century the creosoted ties have no doubt leached toxins deep into the ground. The Corridor has never been close to nature.
    It’s absurd that this path has gotten so much press. There are other neighbourhoods with more pressing needs that require urgent attention. Reading the comments and Twitter feeds in the second post by the wheelchair-bound Vancouver writer makes one wonder what incendiary tack they will take if something truly controversial was proposed, like opening an Insite on West Boulevard.

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