Peter Ladner knows how to help restaurants and businesses in Stanley Park thrive in these disrupted times.  He describes his idea in detail in this open letter to Nancy Stibbard, owner of the Prospect Point Café.

Dear Nancy:

You may recall our conversation a couple of weeks ago. You and your management team were surveying the financial wreckage at your Prospect Point Café; I and my fellow pensioner cycling friends were commiserating with you at the top of the Stanley Park Hill. I was recalling my son and daughter-in-law’s similar fate of owning restaurants forced to close but the bills keep coming and the future looks bleak. You looked shaken, uncertain, but with time and curiosity enough to chat with us.

You and your team’s three vehicles were parked outside, and I imagined how, for you and your team, access to your restaurant without a car would just not be possible or practical. The same at Capilano Suspension Bridge.

You said your restaurant would have no hope if the tour buses couldn’t get there, and if cars were backed up in gridlock, which you predicted. You since joined up with 13 other Stanley Park businesses and associations to persuade the Vancouver Park Board—unsuccessfully- to reopen the park to two lanes of motorized traffic.

Your organization’s spokesperson, Nigel Malkin, then told News1130: “Accessibility to Prospect Point for anyone will basically be near zero… You’d have to park across the road…” Malkin, in case you haven’t picked this up by now, has a disturbing aversion to facts and cyclists. It’s not a good look to have a spokesperson who describes the 350,000 cyclists over the first 67 days of the lockdown as “near zero”. That’s around six times the number of cars that used to drive by during the same two months last year.

He also predicted, like you, contrary to traffic engineers’ data, “It’s inevitable you end up with severe traffic issues.” I am reminded of the old quip attributed to Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

According to a CBC report, he foresees “a bicycle lane that’s a velodrome for beyond seasoned cyclists… It’s not being inclusive, this is not something where families and children are going to be able to ride around.”

 

Now that we’re stuck with the six-month bike lane trial and near zero foreign tourists, let me propose another approach: turn those fighting words into a warm embrace.

You have six months to seize an amazing opportunity that has just backed into you.

You sit atop what could be the next new tourist sensation in Metro Vancouver: the Stanley Park Hill.

Just as you learned how to milk the natural splendour of the Capilano Suspension Bridge to attract and please tourists, you could do the same here.

Think about it: this is a hill that’s a 15-minute bike ride from downtown, within 10 km of hundreds of thousands of people. It is just steep enough to be a big sweaty challenge for a lot of people, but easy enough that my five-year-old grandson goes up it with me on his clunky bike, without a rest, past the people pushing their bikes, and is bursting with pride and excitement at the top. Not to mention anticipation of the heart-thumping big downhill ahead.

People in cars don’t notice hills like this, but for cyclists, trust me, it’s a big deal.

This hill could be turned into the cycling equivalent of the Grouse Grind, only way more accessible. It fits into a very manageable 10 km cycling loop of the park. It weaves through the heart of the towering forests of Stanley Park, breaking out into the clifftop vistas of mountains, the Lion’s Gate Bridge, the entrance to our working harbour, views you know so well from your restaurant. It already has a public washroom where many people stop. (I’m including cyclists and hikers when I say people.)

So I am going to offer some gratuitous marketing advice. Now is the time to embrace the hundreds of thousands of cyclists that will be riding past your site. Welcome them, encourage them, love them. They are your new customers who just might save your business.

 

Here are my 12 off-the-cuff ideas for you and your fellow entrepreneurs to make the most of this COVID-released opportunity:

  • Make The Stanley Park Hill Climb a thing. Get T-shirts made up saying “Stanley Park Hill Climb Finisher” with a picture of your restaurant and the bridge. The Ferguson Point Teahouse could do the same: their T-shirts could say “Stanley Park Teahouse Two-Wheel Club” on them, never forgetting “Via the Stanley Park Hill Climb”. The Stanley Park Brew Pub could label a “Stanley Park Hill Climb Lager” for people who “conquered The Hill” on their bikes.  Just like the Grind, people’s Stanley Park Hill Climb times could become a badge of honour and cultural touchstone for locals and tourists alike.
  • Faster cyclists will immediately start comparing times on their Strava accounts. (Going uphill means they can’t go too fast, but if separating speedy cyclists is a concern, push for them to have priority on the bike lane from, say, 6-9 am daily.) Maybe it could get to the point, like the Grouse Grind, where people who want can log in at the start and finish and have their times automatically tracked and ranked daily on a screen in the Prospect Point Cafe. Kids especially might like this. (Make sure you have a category for biggest family group.)

My five-year-old grandson enjoying riding in the park. He lives nearby and has been doing complete circuits since soon after the park closed to motorized vehicles. He has been cycling for three months.

  • Have everyone in the Stanley Park stakeholders association, and especially your employees, ride around the park and up the Stanley Park Hill so they can relate to their new cycling customers. Hire a cyclist to get advice on how to attract, retain and please passing cyclists. Or just ask them directly.
  • Milk the finish line. Carve off a few parking spaces at the edge of the “finish line” at the top for a painted archway with ‘Stanley Park Hill Climb Finisher’ on it. Some people will find this kitschy; others will take it seriously and love it. People topping the hill on their bikes for the first time will take their picture under the arch, guaranteed, and send selfies promoting your restaurant around the world.
  • Add some bicycle amenities at the top of the hill: a pump, a mobile bike repair service on busy days, a Mobi station so people could hike in, have lunch and ride back on a rented bike.
  • Invite all the bike rental businesses within a two km radius of the park entrances (including on the North Shore) to join your Stanley Park stakeholders association. Work with them on package deals for park-and-ride guided tours steering cyclists to park restaurants. Work with them to ensure that the entire park bike gravel trail system is clearly marked with directions to restaurants and other park attractions, especially showing people where to hike up the trail from the seawall to your restaurant.
  • Don’t overlook marketing the thrill of riding a bike over the Lion’s Gate bridge. A park-and-bike package from Park Royal (lots of free parking), guiding people over the bridge, stopping for lunch in the park, then back over the bridge, could become a thing to do.
  • Post a camera on the causeway overpass pointing at the bridge (beside all the other commercial cameras taking traffic pictures) and figure out a way for people to order pictures of themselves riding south across the bridge. Have an order kiosk in the Prospect Point Café selling T-shirts with their pictures and the slogan: “I’ve been LionsGated”.
  • Promote bike safety: push for signs clarifying cycling rules of the road along the bike lane: Keep right except to pass. Don’t swerve. One way only.
  • Speaking of safety, recognize that cyclists/your customers don’t like being sprayed by poisonous gas microparticles on their way to your restaurant. Push for a ban on diesel vehicles, incentives for electric vehicles, and promote an electric bus shuttle around the park.
  • Do the math: the more active cyclists there are in Vancouver and the more you promote the Stanley Park Hill Climb, the more potential customers you have. So it’s in your interest to promote cycling every way you can. Cross-promote with HUB cycling. Get your Stanley Park businesses included in their member discount program.
  • Endear yourself to the cycling community by promoting the importance of being able to cycle through parks: call out the park board everywhere they blithely mix cyclists and pedestrians to the danger of both groups: along the seawall, in Kits Park and in Jericho.

 

I’m sure you can think of more and better ideas, but you probably get my drift.

I’m afraid I don’t see any other options for the next six months.

Sincerely, Peter Ladner

 

PS: And about those seniors who some seem to believe require full two-lane auto access to the park:

 My friend Oleh, who lives near the Capilano Suspension Bridge and cycles four times around the park on Stanley Park Amigo Rides twice a week with fellow seniors. He’s waiting for a double knee replacement   

 

Comments

  1. What great advice given by former City Councillor Peter Ladner. I would have liked to purchase an icecream or lemonade at Prospect Point but it was all closed. Smart ideas given here!

  2. Great ideas, Peter.

    I rode to Prospect Point Cafe on Monday, stopped, and engaged the staff at the concession in a discussion. They reported they had been busy all weekend, and that was before the vehicle lane was opened. Photo linked here.

    https://twitter.com/WeAreHub/status/1275479202154897409

    There are lots of ways for businesses to partner with HUB Cycling. One is to participate in Bike to Shop Days later this summer.

    https://bikehub.ca/biketoshop

    In past years we have led guided rides during BTS for people who hadn’t ridden to shops or restaurants before, stopping in at partner businesses. We led rides from Vancouver to Ambleside and Dundarave, to farmer’s markets, and to Granville Island. Business in the park would be an excellent fit.

  3. In business, it is important to not only know who your customers are, but also who are your potential customers. This is a huge fail on their part. Hopefully, Peter Ladner’s excellent advice will wake them up and they will realize the missed potential.

  4. Thanks for the great advice on how to make lemonade from lemons Peter. We’re just launching a new platform called SaveOurShops.today. We hope to feature great, creative ideas like this to help small businesses get creative and survive the pandemic.

  5. Peter’s very proactive advice should be brought to the attention of the Park Board and Tourism Vancouver. A big thank you to Peter for taking the time to think this through. The park’s businesses outdoor probably need some help to get started.

  6. Add covered bike racks in line of sight from the tables, fresh high carb snacks, and good coffee to the menu and it could be a year round MAMIL stop.

  7. A great article on recognizing a valuable new clientèle. I’ll pass on the last bit to someone with a bad knee.

  8. 350,000 cyclists in 67 days is 300,000+ wallets passing by these businesses in that time. That’s a lot of potential opportunity!

  9. I wondered why the Stanley Park restaurants were not seizing on potential bike clients that were passing by their places everyday. Waiting for large number of tour buses is going to be a long wait, This summer is wash out for tourists.

    I congratulate Peter for his comprehensive proposal with all kinds of marketing ideas. Owners get busy.

  10. Thank you Peter for writing this.

    My comments were too long for a post, so I sent them on to Gordon, but I want to echo the thoughts above on how much opportunity there is here.

  11. I cycled “the hill” and was excited to reward myself with an ice cream or glass of wine. But the cafe was CLOSED. This reminds me of all the businesses on Hornby Street that fought the bike lane. We need to remember that it’s people who ride bikes and buy stuff, not cars.

  12. In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.

    In practice, there is.

    In theory it is true and doable: “next new tourist sensation in Metro Vancouver: the Stanley Park Hill.”

  13. In the words of a famous UK cartoon: [ a collection of several dozen Sunday cyclists at a pub. 30 “teas for one, please”
    Cars bring an encouraging group of eaters–MAMIL cyclists bring a singular bunch of non-eaters with water bottles who cycle three times around the 8 km bike road and call it a day.

    1. Not sure where this is coming from. Cyclists do need to eat a lot of food. Given that there aren’t going to be a lot of tour bus riders coming through the park this summer I think it’s pretty clear who needs to be catered to here.

    2. Reminds me of a cartoon depicting something that could never possibly ever happen. A whole bunch of motorists had become so incapable of actually standing on their own two feet they created an entire industry where they no longer had to even get out of their car to order food. Wouldn’t that be weird?

  14. I live near UBC, and the Stanley park ‘circuit’ is my routine cycle route. The hill is a challenge but not too long. When I’m cycling with friends, we usually finish the park then stop for coffee and a treat at the Laughing Men or lately in Park Royal. We could just as easily stop at the Tea House or Prospect Point.

    It’s true that serious cyclists may not find the hill much of a challenge, but the promotion for the hill could be combined with a ‘lap counter’ for people who complete one or more circuits of the park and the hill much as they do when recording on the Grouse Grind. eg. “I finished xx Stanley Park circuits this month/year.

    Great suggestions by Peter Ladner.

  15. Some good ideas here, but what is missing is that the current situation is a barrier for others to enjoy the park. The noted example of a senior who happily bikes in Stanley Park is great, but what it suggests is that “if he can, anyone can” and that line of thinking is just so ableist and lacking in empathy for those who cannot. And by that, I don’t mean officially disabled people who have a notice hanging in their car, but lots and lots of regular people who would not feel able or comfortable biking from home and around the park (and please don’t say “but if only there was better bike infrastructure…” because no, that’s not what this is about).

    The five year old who is using the park is great. Again, he lives around the corner. What about kids and families who don’t? Maybe they want to bring stuff to the park or maybe one of their party is an elderly person. Absolutely want to encourage more ideas and fun in the park, but let’s get away from this notion that keeping cars out is a solution. The park should be for all, no matter the mode they choose or need to use.

    I would also suggest that many casual cyclists miss the seawall route which is stunning and nice and easy and flat. That’s essentially why those bike rental businesses exist, because visitors have heard of this spectacular route. Give the seawall back to cycles and walkers with signage to discourage unsafe distancing, just as every other park and cycle route does. Let cars back in the way they could before, with parking like before so everyone can enjoy Third Beach, which is presently 100% closed to parking. 21,000 signed a petition asking that car access to the park not be restricted, but I think opening the seawall to cyclists is also an important thing too.

    1. “The park should be for all, no matter the mode they choose or need to use.”

      David, you already know that the roads in the park are open to people using vehicles. No disability placard required. Nobody is being kept out. The roads in the park have been open to cars all week. The petition you refer to asked that roads in the park be reopened to vehicles, which they were, on Monday.. The petition was then revised from “allow cars” to “return it to all lanes for cars” after 16,000 or so people signed it. You know that as well, since you are the petition organizer.

      “I would also suggest that many casual cyclists miss the seawall route”

      Count me in that list. Fortunately, there is a long stretch of Seawall that is not in Stanley Park, and so is wider and bidirectional. Yes, it would be nice to ride there. It would also be nice to walk both directions in the supermarket aisle, and do lots of other things that we stopped doing due to physical distancing. Suck it up. This too will pass.

      And when the Seawall in Stanley Park is open to people on bikes, that doesn’t change the potential for Park Drive in the longer term. For much of the Seawall around False Creek, there is a Seawall path for low speed riders, and a parallel safe and comfortable Bikeway for faster riders. Check out Charleson, part of the Seaside Bypass. And 1st Ave. And York.

  16. As asinine an idea that has come out with a self centred person in a long time.. Those with their fancy cycling tight wardrobe are NOT going to stop at any point within the park as it is overall speed and distance they look for.. Once they have tackled the grade up to the Prospect Point/Causeway access points, they are gone in a flash.. Speeding along (well above the posted 30klms I might add) to get to Beach Ave and beyond..

    The Parks Boards other anal idea of blocking the inbound access point to Prospect Point for all North Shore drivers is as shore sighted an idea as the entire verbal claptrap from above.. Forcing North Shore patrons to go all the way down to Bidwell, to turn right then right onto Alberni, then FIGHT to get into the park to Ferguson Point Teahouse, is a death sentence to that great eatery.

    Obviously Peter Ladner has never run a business where it employs many staff members, waitresses and chefs and cooks and cleaning staff.. So obviously he has no idea HOW the real world in the food industry or tourism for that matter works.. And finally all those cyclists are NOT carrying their wallets for the purpose of stopping to eat.. ID, Health Card and Visa.. How do I know that point.. Well I cycle as well and do not want a thick wallet anywhere..

    1. What is asinine about the idea? I think it is a great idea. Most of the people cycling on this road are not in fancy cycling tight wardrobe. Maybe most of those people might not stop, but some will. Also, there are plenty of others who would love to stop for ice cream and more. When I cycle or run, I don’t carry a think wallet, but I carry the basics, such as ID, credit card and a bit of cash. Cyclists eat much more than drivers do, so entice us and we might stop. If you have better options than elsewhere, we are even more likely to stop. In these difficult times, thinking outside the box is important and that is what Peter’s post was about. Why not try to coax the thousands of daily cyclists to stop? With minimal outlay, they should be able to more than recoup the costs.

      Your comment about speeding cyclists is valid for some, but you forgot about the speeding cars who are generally going much faster than the cyclists. A friend of mine pulled into the left lane to pass a group of slower cyclists and was honked at twice by speeding cars who thought he wasn’t speeding fast enough.

      I also wondered why they are blocking the inbound access point to Prospect Point. I don’t see why they couldn’t have it open it as it was before.

      I’m not sure where you are coming from with your comments about the costs of running a restaurant, I’m sure Peter Ladner is fully aware of what running a restaurant entails. The foreign tourists and most Canadians aren’t coming back this year, so most of the business will need to be local or from elsewhere in BC. They need to find a way for locals and British Columbians to stop and enjoy these restaurants. Doing nothing won’t help these businesses.

  17. Peter Ladner, I’m a convert. I was not necessarily opposed to the idea of vehicles sharing the road with cyclists, but I was skeptical about the idea. Not anymore, after having read your well-considered and visionary letter. It has also occurred to me that during the winter (off-season for tourists), bike traffic is pretty consistent regardless of the weather. Thank your for changing my mind.

  18. OK, so I took my car to Stanley Park yesterday to go for a run with my running club (Vancouver Front Runners) out of Brockton Oval. What did I see? Absolute hordes of cyclists, hardly any other cars. Had no problem getting into Brockton Oval and plugging the parking meter, also had no problem exiting the park via Pipeline rd. Given the amount of cyclists I saw yesterday, if Prospect Point Cafe ever learned how to make a good flat white, I’d hear the squeal of rim brakes from my home in East Van.

    1. Exactly, you can always find the riders and runners at the good coffee shops, bakeries or ice cream shops. Word spreads fast about places that offer quality products.

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