A report from Global News reporter Nadia Stewart, with a headline that distorts the story:
The protest had three dozen people – surely worth a qualified ‘some’ when the headline starts “Vancouverites upset.” But that quibble doesn’t matter when judged against the absence of data and other points of view (like, say, comments from passing cyclists). Importantly, the video story was supplemented in the online print version, where reporter Simon Little provided important information:
Vancouver Park Board manager Dave Hutch says about 93 per cent of Stanley Park Drive is open to vehicles, and that about 70 per cent of parking in the park remains open.
He said after talks with the city’s disability advisory committee, the board also added 10 new handicapped parking spaces.
“We’re seeing that the park and parking is nowhere near capacity this year. The busiest day was in mid August, we had 63 per cent capacity. We would expect about 90 per cent in August,” he told Global News.
Still, impact-wise, the protesters had the visuals and screen time. There have been demanding that Park Drive be restored to two lanes for cars and have all the parking returned – in other words, back to the standards of mid-century Motordom. That’s what we did in the post-war decades, and the roads of Stanley Park were designed accordingly: a transportation system where cars are given most of the space, there are no separated bike lanes (cars and bikes fight it out for priority), parking is provided in excess, and the seawall has to accommodate the crowding of all active transport users.
However, the most egregious statement comes right at the beginning of the clip. No longer being able to claim that there is no access at all for vehicles on Park Drive, nor any disabled parking at key locations, they’ve added a new adjective. NPA Commissioner Tricia Barker: “I know that people like to say that there is already access for everyone, but let’s talk about easy access for everyone.”
You heard it: now it’s about “easy” access. Presumably this means no separated bike lanes or any reallocation of road space for other users if it makes it more difficult to drive and park. Because that, in the opinion of lawyer Phil Rankin, would constitute discrimination against the disabled and seniors. (Phil also thinks the Park Board should have held public information meetings in the midst of the pandemic before responding to the emergency.)
I have a hunch spokespeople for the disabled and seniors willing to appear have been willingly co-opted. In their minds, diminishing car access also diminishes accommodation for their constituents – and hence a lack of respect, a reversal of gains, and somehow a defeat. So they’ve ended up calling for more cars, more space for cars, less space for other users – and they’re doing it in a park, on a day filled with climate-change-induced smoke, in the midst of a pandemic. It’s a very bad look for people whose leverage is their presumed marginalization.
The NPA park commissioners have chosen to make this an issue on which they and the party will be identified (to the disappointment of this past-NPA councillor when we were the leaders in the development of bikeways and greenways). Their cynicism becomes transparent when they first have to lie (no access for cars) and then change their rhetoric (no easy access) to maintain the pretense of discrimination.
They, unlike those they’ve co-opted, are engaged in discouraging cycling in parks (notably Kits), not taking the climate emergency seriously, and defending the status quo – a city designed for the mid-20th century world where you could easily drive to Stanley Park, motor the scenic loop, take it all in through the windshield, and find abundant parking wherever you wished to stop.
If their position prevails (we’ve heard very little from the other Green and COPE commissioners), there’s a cruel irony awaiting. Eliminating the separated bike lane and throwing the cyclists, motorists and pedestrians together to fight it out is sure to result in more conflicts and accidents. Which means more injuries, especially for vulnerable seniors. Which means, ultimately, more people with disabilities.