What it was:  an abandoned railroad

A few ideas came to me while checking out the Arbutus Greenway plans yesterday and chatting with project staff.

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You can see the plans and quiz staff — see HERE — two sessions yet to come.  Deliver your opinions online too, if that suits you better.

First — there’s been a big payoff from the brilliant plan to put in a widely accessible temporary surface, with several different configurations in different places — and just let it be, while monitoring people counts, and doing on-site interviews.  All sorts of people were able to get onto the Greenway, experience it, and form rich opinions as to what it is, what it isn’t and what it could be.

Second:  the most-often-heard issue with the temporary Greenway was, apparently, that people on bikes and people on foot were too close to each other.  Or — the shared path was too narrow (take your pick). And the bark mulch path got very little use.  From my reading of the new plan, mode separation is now a metre in most places, with clear demarcation by various means such as surface treatment, planters, trees and constructed wetlands (water control / raingarden).

Third:  this plan totally blows up the perception that the Greenway will be solely a get-me-there corridor for people on foot and on bikes, with perhaps too much perceived emphasis on bikes.  Now, the Greenway clearly has major elements of destination and community facility (plazas, seating, gardens, picnic areas, public art, places to play, places to exercise).  You get the picture. Oh yes, and an observation tower.  The completed Arbutus Greenway will be an enduring attraction for tourists and for people from all over the metro Vancouver region.  And a way to travel.

Problems:  in most places, the bike lane is 3.5 metres (11.5 ft) wide, when 5m (16 ft) is preferred.  It’s a tough call, when lanes, mode separation and streetcar provisions need all to be shoehorned into a relatively narrow corridor, all the while trying to accommodate predicted volume by mode type. In other places, some pillars and some amenities like picnic tables back onto the bike lane — potential safety issues for the next round of design.

Final:  this plan is a triumph of clear vision, patient listening and thoughtful design. The old overgrown abandoned CP railroad will be turned into a genuine people-oriented jewel, making life richer and happier for all the people of Vancouver for decades to come.