Curbs are being poured along Beach Avenue from Stanley Park to Hornby Street.
The City approved this permanent change from cones to concrete after a few months of consultation – albeit a ‘temporary’ permanent change, subject to the English Bay master plan currently under design by PFS Studio and Snøhetta.
These interventions also deal with some of the confusion and conflict resulting from this fast pandemic response in the spring when bikes were removed from the seawall. Cyclists tended to ignore stop signals primarily designed for vehicle traffic – so now the crossings provide clarity, safety and a slowing down of two-wheelers. (Hopefully eye-level signals for bikes will be installed where necessary.)
The most convoluted section is where Beach, Denman, Davie and Morton Streets blend, complicated even more with heavy pedestrian traffic to and from the beach, as well as a service bay for the Cactus Club. The key to good design is providing intuitive direction without the need for excessive signage so everyone has a sense of where to go as they’re moving – and here the need to separate the bike flows makes it especially challenging.
So far, it’s looking good – even as two-way traffic and transit is restored to Beach east of Denman.
Best of all, the City engineers have not narrowed the space allocated to bikes (in fact, they may have increased it along Beach west of Denman) which means that there are still passing lanes for what would normally be just two lanes of cyclists, one in each direction. Now the fast-moving athletic and transportation cyclists can maintain speed in the centre lane without intimidating those on either side. It’s the next generation of bikeway design.
Yes, some will bemoan the loss of the cycling lane along the seawall, but in truth, the quality of the pedestrian experience has so improved, the trade-off seems justified. When the daily count of cyclists gets over 10,000 regularly (the volumes more typical of northern European cities), something had to give.
This design seems ultimately win-win-win-win. The seawall is better for those on foot, Beach is better for those on wheels, two-way traffic is restored for vehicles and transit, and Vancouver as a whole moves closer to its planning and climate goals.
Kudos to the engineers, and the Council that gave them their back.