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.

 

Comments

  1. If only this debate could be based on actual facts, we might be able to work out a few issues worth discussing.

    Shaking off the unforgivable misrepresentations going on, here are some issues:

    The difficulty of motorists accessing 2nd and 3rd beaches and the Tea House from the North Shore: does that southbound access road off the Causeway still need to be closed to cars? Or could there be some signage giving them directions on how to get into the park once they hit Georgia Street eastbound. (It’s not easy.)

    Lack of car access to 3rd Beach (if that’s still the case).

    Clarity on bikes (still/always) being allowed the option of being in the car lane if they’re moving fast enough.

    Have we moved beyond the horse and buggy era?
    If we agree that we should enable a horse and buggy business for a very small number of park visitors, must it be the cyclists who give up their lane to make room, rather than cars being temporarily inconvenienced?
    Are more pullover bays and passing lanes possible for cars trying to get by the horse and buggy?

    What’s the actual situation with pedestrian crowding on the seawall around the bridge? Does it (still) warrant keeping bikes off the seawall now that physical distancing outdoors isn’t really happening anymore?

    Cycling the seawall- no hills, Ma!- is a pretty special experience and much preferred by unfit cyclists who also deserve consideration. Pedestrians, including seniors and people in chairs and scooters, may well prefer keeping cyclists off the seawall. My personal observation is that Sunset Beach is much more pleasant for pedestrians and kids and seniors now that all the cyclists are pushed up to Beach Ave.

    Speaking of Beach Avenue, has it really become the busiest bike route in North America? Data please.
    And if so is it reasonable to expect all those cyclists to fit back onto the sidewalk bikeway?

    Oh, and could certain councillors stop lumping all seniors into the disabled category? The majority of seniors are quite able to walk and ride bikes. Able-bodied seniors, myself and lots of my friends among them, like and enjoy the protected bike lane on the Stanley Park roadway. It is “easily accessible” to us. Do not purport to be speaking for us.
    We appreciate the safety of being protected from cars. Let’s talk about that!

    Just interested: when will we reach the point where the mainstream media default to cyclists’ view of the world, rather than car drivers’? Tell me it’s not about all that car advertising on private radio and TV stations and newspapers.

    1. “Just interested: when will we reach the point where the mainstream media default to cyclists’ view of the world, rather than car drivers’? Tell me it’s not about all that car advertising on private radio and TV stations and newspapers.”

      Of course it is. It can be divided into 50% for the click bait that drives the other 50% toward motordom advertising. The mainstream media will default to the cyclists view when bicycle related ad revenue exceeds automobile revenue. I don’t think that’s a cynical point of view. It’s the mainstream media more than any other cohort that continues to create the controversy on which they feed.

    2. It’s asking a lot, but I’d be very curious to see some study done on how much Causeway access/egress traffic stayed in Stanley Park, and how much was shortcutting.

      It’s long been my impression that North Shore drivers in Stanley Park are primarily using it to avoid Causeway congestion or short cut to English Bay. Over the last 25 years, most of my angry driver interactions in the Park have been from commuters speeding around the Drive.

      Frankly, I don’t think commuters should ever be a consideration when developing a Stanley Park traffic plan.

      1. I can tell you I only ever went through the park coming back from the North Shore as a short cut to get to my place in the West End, instead of going down the causeway and across Davie.

        Pretty much everybody I know who lives in the West End and has a car did the same thing and we all pretty much agree that we like the change. We’re okay with Beach Ave, even though it does make it harder to take the car out, but every single time we’re not in a car it’s a much more pleasant experience and that’s most of the time.

        Keep the off-ramps from the Causeway closed and I hope they also keep the Beach Ave.

  2. Some good questions, Peter. Here are a few thoughts:

    Can the southbound causeway slip road be reopened? It likely could be, but the numbers from the PB showed that 1/4 of the vehicles in the park were cutting through, and that is 1/4 of all vehicles in the park, not 1/4 of those using the slip roads. That suggests that a significant portion of the vehicles using the slip lane were rat running. Keeping the rat runners out seems like a good approach. It is unfortunate for those who are legitimately trying to access the park from the North Shore, but it seems that some drivers ruin it for all. I am used to people cycling regularly being told they are responsible for the actions of others cycling. Seems like here, using the same approach, drivers should do something about their fellow drivers.

    Lack of vehicle access to 3rd Beach. There have been photos posted of the sign pointing to that parking lot being uncovered, then covered. We don’t know if the re-closure was related to the large public events on the beach (drum circle), or whether it was ever officially opened (it may have been a guerrilla action) or whether this was simply a case of a disgruntled driver removing the sign and then it being put back by staff. Certainly some drivers have been removing the no entry signs at closed roads in the park regularly, causing staff to have to reset them each night, and also to have to stand up all the cones that have been knocked over. Some have posted that this is funny. I think it is ridiculous, and a waste of taxpayer funds.

    People on bikes being allowed in the left lane. Certainly they are. That is what the BC Motor Vehicle act says. The signs that are posted are guidance signs in the BC MoTI sign catalog. That publication lists a different sign if an authority wants to ban bikes, it states “No Cycling” and is posted on Hwy 1 in certain places, as an example.

    Opening the seawall to people on bikes. There are a number of factors here IMO. Certainly, the number of people walking near Lions Gate bridge is low, from anecdotal observations. However, the seawall path is continuous, and leads to the stretch at Sunset Beach. It is much busier there, as you note. It would be tough to enforce a partial opening, with people moving on to and off of the seawall path. There aren’t many good transfer connections. But the real issue IMO is that when Park Drive was closed to most vehicles, the number of people cycling in the park went way up. We saw the numbers on that. There were already crashes on the seawall path over the past years, and more so in busy times, even with the lower volumes of past years. There have been people injured, and lawsuits. The question is whether the number of people cycling in the park could be managed on the (often) narrow seawall path, whether there are people walking there or not. Years ago, the Park Board recognized the issues of safety on the Seawall for cycling, and did extensive public consultation, then wrote a plan, then wrote an implementation plan for those improvements, and then approved the plan, the implementation plan, and the budget. That was 8 years ago. We are still waiting for the bulk of those improvements to be delivered. Notably, only two commissioners voted against that plan. One was Commissioner Coupar. The other was Commissioner De Genova. It passed, due to the majority. However, implementation was never made a priority, even though the budget was available. That includes the term that Commissioner Coupar was chair of the park board. The sad thing is, if they had improved it, it would be easier to return the seawall to people cycling now. The commissioners well know the safety issues on the seawall bike path, as they would have been aware of past crashes and lawsuits.

    Data on Beach Ave. I have seen the numbers up through mid August at multiple locations. Yes, it is very busy. Burrard was, in the past, referred to as the busiest bike route in North America. I don’t know if it still is the busiest; there has been a great increase in cycling everywhere. However, there are now more people cycling on Beach Ave than the same days on Burrard Bridge.

    I was amazed that the event this weekend at Hallelujah Point had only a few dozen people. We had closer to a thousand at our event on Beach Ave in support of keeping the temporary road reallocations.

  3. Another thought, this one on the politicization of the temporary road reallocation by some (2) PB commissioners.

    The original reallocation (essential vehicles only) was not done by commissioners, it was done by PB staff. That was entirely appropriate. Vancouver bylaws give the power to change road space allocations between various modes to the City Engineer, a staff position, and state that within Vancouver parks, that exact same power is given to the GM of the Park Board. That is for permanent reallocations, not just temporary ones. This change to allow staff to reallocate road space was done several years ago, following years of debate and politicization of every bike lane and sidewalk change proposed. The City Engineer (and PB GM) had always had the power to reallocate road space as long as it was in favour of motor vehicles, but never for sidewalks or bike lanes. That was changed, and it has led to far fewer extended council meetings about every bike lane proposal that comes along. Council (and commissioners) are still involved in the funding decisions, but not specifically in whether or not road space should be reallocated.

    When one lane in the park was reopened to all vehicles, instead of just essential vehicles, that was again staff. Again, rightly so.

    The two commissioners who tried to overturn the staff actions put forth a motion to “restore the park to pre COVID” in June. That motion was changed, during debate, to wording along the lines of “allow staff to carry on with their plan”. It was not political. The two political commissioners didn’t like that much. And they continue to attack elected commissioners who are simply allowing staff to manage according to the authority granted to them. Staff should be commended for this work, not insulted by elected officials.

    If a permanent change is proposed, it should be subject to public consultation, fully agree. And we have been told that will happen. But to insist on full public consultation on a temporary road space reallocation is nothing other than grandstanding and trying to delay. The real issue is that the opponents of more active transportation infrastructure in the park have seen how popular it has been, and are trying to have it removed before any more people find out how wonderful it has been. Too late. They know now.

  4. Another thought, on the seawall path.

    Certainly the seawall path can be reopened to people cycling, most likely when the numbers of people cycling drop as the weather changes. But that won’t change what should happen on Stanley Park Drive, where a permanent protected lane should be implemented.

    On Beach Ave (which is the on road route to manage congestion along the beach front seawall paths) the temporary no stopping signs all said “Until August 31st” That has recently been changed, and they now say “Until Dec 31st”. Sounds great. The January/February usage numbers will likely be low enough to allow people cycling back on the seawall paths safely. Not because of conflict with people walking, but more because of congestion involving other people cycling.

  5. I used to bike park drive (for fitness) and now I run the seawall.
    I just think once the seawall is open to bikes again there won’t be enough cyclists on park drive to warrant a separate lane. It always felt safe to cycle park drive IMO.
    I never cycled the seawall because it seemed dangerous (pinch points, poor signage, people not paying attention…).

    I’d prefer any time and $$ spent go to improving the seawall – essentially do the whole thing over to current standards – 2 parallel lanes all the way around at the proper widths.

    1. I think that Park Drive felt safe and comfortable for cycling (or not) depending on one’s comfort level with vehicle traffic. I was fine on it. I wouldn’t take our granddaughter on it without physical separation. She is 3, and is doing 8 km on a bike these days.

      Any improvements to the seawall will be very expensive, ten of millions. The idea years back was to build a cantilevered path where necessary for more space. But there are other complications. All of the park is subject to archaeological/historical restrictions, such that even signs are a challenge to erect. Also, anything involving the foreshore would be a Federal issue for permits and environmental impacts. It would take years just for design and permits. And the park board leadership changes every few years.

      One of the key recommendations from the 2012 Stanley Park Cycling Plan was to build a return route. A significant number of the people cycling at Siwash Rock (and a high percentage of those who are going quickly) are simply trying to get back to the park entrance. The solution is a return route on Pipeline Road. That hasn’t been built in the subsequent 8 years, and one of the issues is that a ramp would be required from the seawall at the north end of Pipeline Road, to access Pipeline. That 10 m ramp was too much of a challenge to design and construct. And it would have significantly improved conditions for all users (walking and cycling) on the west side, by reducing user volumes where there are the most pinch points.

    2. Owen wrote: “I never cycled the seawall because it seemed dangerous (pinch points, poor signage, people not paying attention…)”

      IMHO if you think the seawall bike route is unsafe then it probably means you’re trying to go too fast. It’s not a thoroughfare, it’s a recreational route that should be savoured, not rushed. If you take it at a leisurely speed with plenty of buffer space between you and the bike ahead then there’s nothing unsafe about it.

      1. In my experience, the seawall path is most unsafe when it is too congested. It doesn’t mean that I am going too fast, it sometimes means that someone else is going too fast for prevailing conditions, or not paying attention to others around them.

        I live on the seawall path in False Creek. I tend to cycle it mostly on weekdays. When it is busy, especially on weekends, I feel safer cycling on Pacific Blvd.

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