Cycling
August 12, 2020

12,700 – Jeff Leigh explores the Beach Bikeway datapoint

Jeff Leigh from HUB, responding to the preceding post – Beach Bikeway Gets a Datapoint: 12,700

 

Jeff: 

Some comparisons from CoV data: Highest single-day bike counts on popular City of Vancouver cycling routes, over the past few years:

Burrard Bridge:                            8,676
Point Grey Rd at Stephens:         5,852
Seawall at David Lam Park:        7,785
Seawall at Science World:           9,428

12,700 on the Beach Avenue Bikeway signifies overwhelming success at encouraging people to cycle.  And recall that this is simply with plastic pylons, temporary signs, no pavement improvements, and so on.  Imagine what we could do with a permanent protected bikeway with better signage and markings, connected at both ends.

The Burrard Bridge bike lanes were regarded as the busiest in the City based on the counter data.  This blows that number out of the water.

And it wasn’t a one time occurrence.

Looking at the recent data along Beach, there were single weekend days in June with over 10,000.   There was a Thursday in June with 9,415.  A Monday with 9,294.  There were seven days in July with over 10,000 bike counts.

At the HUB Cycling tent last weekend there were 9,993 bikes that passed by – per the counter a few metres away (the hose didn’t get cut until the following day).

It is hard to imagine this number of people cycling on the current seawall path, especially past the restaurant under the Burrard Bridge, or in front of the restaurant at the foot of Denman, both of which are congested.

When the seawall is opened up to people on bikes again, the two routes will naturally balance each other, with slower and more leisurely riders on the water, and most using the Beach Avenue Bikeway.

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Beach Bikeway (no one’s calling it a flow way) is obviously and surprisingly high-volume.  Many cyclists, many different kinds of cyclists, for many hours, in a near-continuous flow.

Dale Bracewell’s tweet was the first time we saw a number.  And it was huge.

But how to translate 12,700 into something we can grasp and compare.  The data is out there.  Can it tell us what 12,700 signifies?

That’s your cue, PT commenters.

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Portland’s BLM protests may capture the news, but the Sightline Institute summarizes what their city council is likely to approve today: “the most pro-housing reform to low-density zones in US history.”

Portland’s new rules will also offer a “deeper affordability” option: four to six homes on any lot if at least half are available to low-income Portlanders at regulated, affordable prices. The measure will make it viable for nonprofits to intersperse below-market housing anywhere in the city for the first time in a century.

And among other things it will remove all parking mandates from three quarters of the city’s residential land, combining with a recent reform of apartment zones to essentially make home driveways optional citywide for the first time since 1973.

Portland’s reform will build on similar actions in Vancouver and Minneapolis, whose leaders voted in 2018 to re-legalize duplexes and triplexes, respectively; in Seattle, where a 2019 reform to accessory cottages resulted in something very close to citywide triplex legalization; and in Austin, whose council passed a very similar sixplex-with-affordability proposal in 2019.

But Portland’s changes are likely to gradually result in more actual homes than any of those milestone reforms.

Full story here.

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Drop by a HUB Cycling tent this Sunday, Aug 9 until 3 pm on Beach Avenue at Broughton Street to sign your support.

This incredibly popular and scenic route provides a safe, direct and flat connection between Hornby Street and Stanley Park for people of all ages and abilities, for recreation and commuting – all day, every day. It is a great use of limited open public space in one of Vancouver’s most popular and densely-populated neighbourhoods.

The Beach Avenue Bikeway will also relieve pressure on the very busy seawall route when bikes are allowed back on it post-COVID distancing measures.

Sign here if you agree and HUB Cycling will keep you updated on the future of this valuable cycling bikeway.

 

 

 

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PT: Ann McAfee was Co-Director of Planning for Vancouver from 1994 to 2006 at the time the extraordinary growth described in the post below was occurring.  This paper describes the immediate and possible future impacts of COVID-19 on planning in the Greater Vancouver area.  (Edited from the original here, with my emphasis added in bold.) It one of the best summaries of all the different forces and developments that will (or should) affect local and regional planning in the near future.

Despite the dispassionate tone of the paper, no doubt from years of writing planning documents, her summary is, if not radical, a challenge that will be profound for planners, politicians and leaders in community:

Local governments are challenged to reframe plans to respond, recover, restart, and rebuild in the context of limited funds and raised expectations. Post COVID plans need governments to understand economic distress and calls for social justice. Post COVID plans also need public understanding of fiscal limitations.

“Limited funds” and “fiscal limitations” are realities that will be imposed on us by the pandemic, and it won’t be pleasant.  Perhaps that’s why they have so far been largely undiscussed as society and governments cope with more urgent demands.   Ann is calling for planners to step up to the challenge.

 

Ann McAfee:

Three Programs Caught in COVID

Prior to COVID, three agencies launched strategic plan updates. The plans are aspirational; all seek to manage growth to address sustainability, resiliency, and equity.

In 2019, Vancouver’s City Plan and Transport 2050 invited people to share ideas. The intent was to listen to those with lived experience of the city and regional transportation system. Initial responses were not fettered by cost considerations. Subsequent steps proposed public discussion of scenario choices and tradeoffs.

In April 2019, Metro and TransLink staff compiled Regional Growth and Transportation Scenarios. Potential ‘Big Disruptors’ were seen to be climate change, shifting global economy, and new technologies. A pandemic and recession were not listed. …

 

Blurring the Distinction between Home and Work

Early indicators of increased numbers of employees working from home are mixed with two additional factors: an increase in office vacancies as employees work from home, and some businesses seeking larger workspaces to improve physical distancing. These work-from-home patterns could continue as an estimated 46% of the metro labor force are in jobs which could be performed, at least part-time, from home.

As people shop from home, the trend toward e-commerce is accelerating. Concern about future supply chains may reverse industrial job losses by encouraging manufacturing and food production to locate closer to markets.

Pressure to rezone business lands for residential and commerce could intensify. Vancouver’s experience with rezoning for these purposes is that the resulting increase in land value prices out production and service uses.

The value of ‘home’ is reflected in metro residential sales patterns and prices. May 2020 sales were 54% below the 10-year monthly sales average. By June, the market was rebounding. The June 2020 benchmark price for a detached home ($1.46 million) showed a 3.6% increase from June 2019. This likely reflects a desire to shelter-in-place in a single-family home.

 

Intensifying Local Business Trends

Prior to COVID, communities were experiencing a loss of mom and pop shops. The impact of COVID has varied in this regard. Food shops, remaining open as essential services, have increased sales. For other businesses, COVID closures are accelerating financial challenges.

To help local businesses reopen with physical distancing, cities are permitting private uses in public spaces. Examples include sidewalk patios and temporary use of parking lanes for queueing. Vancouver has approved longer term COVID responsive public space initiatives.


The desire for a region-wide response to economic recovery has increased calls from the business sector for the 21 regional municipalities to merge.

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Let’s make the Beach Avenue Bikeway (connecting Stanley Park to False Creek North) permanent.

This incredibly popular and scenic route provides a safe, direct and flat connection between Hornby Street and Stanley Park for people of all ages and abilities, for recreation and commuting – all day, every day. It is a great use of limited open public space in one of Vancouver’s most popular and densely-populated neighbourhoods.

The Beach Avenue Bikeway will also relieve pressure on the very busy seawall route when bikes are allowed back on it post-COVID distancing measures.

Sign here if you agree and HUB Cycling will keep you updated on the future of this valuable cycling bikeway.

Drop by a HUB Cycling tent this Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, Aug 9 between 9 am and 3 pm on Beach Avenue at Broughton Street to sign your support.

Read more »

Further to this post below, the ever-visual Jens von Bergmann (@vb_jens) shows graphically what growth on the downtown peninsula looked like between the 1986 and 2016 censuses.

But perhaps even more startling than the thousand-percent growth on the peninsula is the drop in population density in a large part of Vancouver – as seen here:

The change-in-people per hectare from 1971 to 2016 is, as expected, predominantly on the west side.  But also note the purple in the neighbourhoods from the Downtown East Side to Grandview.

This data is so contrary to the popular memes that it really isn’t part of the conversation about density and growth in the city. Often, when something doesn’t fit the narrative, it just doesn’t get acknowledged.

As well, both right and left use different rationales to achieve the same outcome: a near zero rate of change   The former argues for maintaining character and heritage: the latter opposes the gentrification impact new development might bring   Both argue that bigger issues must first be addressed.

And that’s why Colleen Hardwick and Jean Swanson have the closest voting records on rezonings for more housing.

 

 

 

Jens adds further comment:

In my mind it’s the disparity on where growth is allocated that is under-appreciated. And how not adding dwellings means we are losing population.

As people get richer, they tend to consume more housing: larger places, smaller households, more spare bedroom.  That’s not a bad thing in principle, but if we don’t add housing to make up for it, it leads not just to a change in neighourhood demographics but even to an overall drop in population.

In some low-density areas (parts of the east side) we have managed to at least stem the loss by adding laneway homes and maybe some suites (hard to measure), but that hasn’t been enough in all neighbourhoods.  The west side has not seen much uptake on laneways and suites (despite ample construction, mostly 1:1 replacements of SFH).

Grandview-Woodlands, Strathcona and the surrounding area has seen the fastest growth in family income in the city, and we have not added enough housing units to make up for that. So the result is predictably a drop in population. And also an overall shift in neighbourhood demographics that the entire east side has been experiencing.

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Here’s why the Spinning Chandelier as an accessible work of public art will be one of the most loved in the city – rather like “A-mazing Laughter” at English Bay.

Sure, “most loved” does not mean “best,” depending on your criteria, but those who dismiss it because of how it signifies class, or is an obscene expenditure when we have so many other priorities, or is just a marketing device, etc, will only annoy themselves when seeing how people engage with it.

Like this:

Nominations open for any more engaging works in the city.

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The guys at Changing Vancouver have one of their ‘big picture’ views of the city this week:

This is all the way back to 1987, and the ‘after’ shot was taken in 2018 from the Global TV helicopter by Trish Jewison.

Thirty three years ago Downtown South (to the east of Granville Street) was still all low-rise, mostly commercial buildings, that had replaced the residential neighbourhood that developed from the early 1900s. We’ve seen many posts that show how that area has been transformed in recent years.

In the 1986 census, just before the photo was taken, there were 37,000 people living in the West End (to the west of Burrard and south of Georgia), and only 5,910 in the whole of the rest of the Downtown peninsula (all the way to Main Street on the right hand edge of the picture).

In 2016, in the last census, the West End population had gone up to 47,200, adding 10,000 in 30 years. What was a forest of towers in 1987 had become a slightly thicker forest in 2018. The rest of Downtown had seen over a 1000% increase in 30 years – there were 62,030 people living there. Both areas will have seen more growth since 2016, and the 2021 census should show several thousand more people in both the West End and Downtown.

Gord Price – The 1987 shot really resonates for me: it was my first year on City Council.  In the following 15 years, NPA councils would approve rezonings for seven megaprojects (four on the peninsula) and, notably, Downtown South – the area on the peninsula that has seen the biggest change (and continues to do so).

The ‘Living First’ strategy that came out of the 1980s (generally termed ‘Vancouverism’) was a ‘Grand Bargain’ for its time: we would take pressure off the existing residential areas, primarily the West End, through a 1989 de-facto downzoning (following the one that occurred in the early-1970s that resulted in an end to outright approvals for highrises), and concentrate growth east of Granville and north of Robson.  In return for stability in the existing residential area, growth would be accelerated in the rezoned commercial/industrial parts of the map. Highrises would be back, now marketed as condos, in a big way. That’s the ‘bargain’ – illustrated so vividly above.

I suspect everyone on Council and at City Hall would have nonetheless been amazed at the prospect of a thousand percent increase occurring so quickly.  And yet, it did the job: the West End remained a lower-middle-income neighbourhood, where rents were above the regional average and incomes of the renters (over 80 percent of the residents) were below.  (Most made up the difference by not having cars.)

There was effectively no change in the character of the community.  Even today, one can walk most of the streets in the interior of the West End and have difficulty finding any buildings constructed after 2000.  It is still the arrival city for immigrants and students (that’s why the Robson/Denman area is a ‘Little Korea’ of restaurants) and lower-middle-income renters.  It is still able to accommodate new highrises on West Davie and a few other blocks under the recent West End plan without affecting the stability, physical or economic, of most of the district.

Of course, some people will still be under the impression that growth is ‘out of control’ and rents unaffordable, especially when noting the development proposals for the peripheral blocks between Thurlow and Burrard, and Robson and Georgia.  Likewise with the rents in new buildings.

‘New’, by definition, is more expensive than depreciated ‘old.’  However, the argument that new development should be rejected because of gentrification could have been used in the 1960s to prevent the development of the West End as we know it today, arguably now an urban miracle of affordable housing, given its location.  That anti-growth argument was in fact used in the 1970s – filtered through Jane Jacobs’s writing – to successfully end the highrise era in Kitsilano.  Seven of the last them can be seen on the slopes below 4th. In fact, no residential highrises would be built in anywhere in Vancouver from the early 70s to the late 80s, save for a handful of super-expensive ones along the waterfront.

Today,

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