COVID Place making
June 19, 2020

One More Futile Round: Fighting Change on Park Drive

 

How many times will we go through this?

Hornby Bike Lane.  Burrard Bridge Bike Lanes (three times).  Point Grey Road.

Same arguments – Carmageddon and business catastrophe confidently predicted – and the same results: no serious negative consequences and a better, healthier city.  And once the temporary bike lanes are in, as Commissioner John Coupar noted, we don’t go back.

There’s an obvious reason for that which, oddly, he didn’t articulate: they worked.  They helped build the city we said we wanted.   (Which, if John has his way, will stop at the borders of our parks.)

Last night before the Board of Parks and Recreation Board, it was the same old debate with a twist.  For those who want to return to the way it was, it’s a fight now on the side of the marginalized, the people who, they say, need most of the asphalt in the park to provide access and parking – meaning by default full Motordom for all, forever.  Definitely what Lord Stanley had in mind.

But here’s the one piece of new information that came out that really is important, by way of Park Commissioner Dave Demers: Park Board staff estimate visitation within Stanley Park is up by 50 percent since May 1.  They have counted 350,000 cyclists over the last 67-day period, compared to about 60,000 vehicle trips in the same period last year, a quarter of which were thought to be using Park Drive as a shortcut to bypass the Causeway. Motor vehicles, in other words, were 17 percent of all trips with something involving wheels.

That increase is extraordinary.  And that’s without tourists in the mix.

But what those opposed to providing a separate lane on the drive seem to ignore is this, at least if they presume much of that increase can be accommodated on the seawall:

A shot from the late 1990s prior to the construction of the Seaside Greenway’s separated lanes and still the condition of some parts of the seawall around Stanley Park.

Inducing congestion on the seawall by trying to avoid vehicle congestion on the drive is going to have some unpleasant consequences.

I was wondering whether the NPA commissioners would have anything positive to say about the need to accommodate this desired growth in walking and cycling in a harmonious way.  But no.  The NPA has made a calculated decision to appeal for the support of people who work up a lather in condemnation of taking space from vehicles – people like Nigel Malkin, quoted here in a CBC story:

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“He is not anti-bike, he said.”

That’s NPA Park Commissioner John Coupar in today’s Sun. 

Problem is, he’s not pro-bike either.  And as a commissioner for the Board of Parks and Recreation, he’s been an effective opponent, now along with the other NPA park commissioner and the NPA board, of any change to the status quo, circa 1990, when the City (under an NPA Council) began to make this a more cycling-friendly city by building separated bikeways.  (Best example: the Seaside Bikeway).

For John, perhaps angling for another mayoral run, he’s leading a fight of his own manufacture: “the logical thing to do is to open up (Park Drive) just the way it was. If you are going to make changes in the future take your time, talk to everybody, make it public.” (Emphasis added, if ‘just the way it was’ was Stanley Park circa 1990.)

Consultation and process have served John and the Parks Board well in ensuring that no significant improvement in cycling in any of the parks has occurred since, well, 1990.  PT has documented that extensively.

For the NPA as a whole, an anti-bike-lane agenda, whether explicitly stated or dog-whistled, has not actually served them well; they haven’t won a mayoral election since 2008.  But even today, as they redrink their bathwater, the NPA board itself, not just the NPA park commissioners, has clearly decided the Park Drive closure to vehicles is the issue they want to brand themselves with.

This letter was circulated to their presumed supporters from the board president:

Dear Supporter,

We know Vancouverites are extremely proud of Stanley Park. However, access to the park for all is under attack! We are emerging from this pandemic and it is time to re-open Stanley Park for everyone.

That’s why the NPA has called for an emergency meeting on Thursday, June 18th at 6:30 pm to re-open the park in time for this Father’s Day weekend and for the first weekend of summer.

This is where we need you to come in. If you believe that Stanley Park must be reopened to vehicle traffic immediately please sign up to speak at the meeting here. The meeting is online via the Zoom video conference. We know that the Greens and COPE will have their vocal activists show up, so please consider joining us in fighting for access and inclusiveness for all in the park.

Sincerely,

David Mawhinney, President, Non-Partisan Association

I do have to admire their strategy to use the language of wokiness – ableism, ageism – to frame the fight as one on behalf of the disabled and seniors against the activists and Lycra-clad.  (Or people like me, for whom Stanley Park is our front yard.  Talk about privileged!)

It’s evident that this a political strategy – and a rather tacky one: proclaim your opponents in favour of something they are not (closure of the park to cars) and then double down on the exaggeration by not correcting the mis-statement when called on it.

Here’s Jeff Leigh, a spokesperson for HUB Cycling:

I have been talking to the media for several weeks now, telling them that I am happy to have a lane allocated for cycling in the park, and for automobiles and delivery vehicles to have a lane, and for people walking to have space to move on the seawall in these times of physical distancing. It is about space for all. Nothing selfish about it.

And their response is typically to post a headline that says something like “cyclists want vehicles banned from Stanley Park permanently” even when the article or interview that follows doesn’t call for that at all. It is tiring.

I’m sure the NPA know their motion won’t pass; it isn’t intended to.  It’s positioning, and it allows them, when staff report back with the modified reallocation (likely opening the park to cars in one lane) to proclaim victory, implying that the inevitable occurred only because of their opposition to something that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

They will appear relevant to their base, but only at the price of reaffirming their backward-looking commitment to a status quo that disappeared utterly when Vancouverites found that cycling was a perfect response to the pandemic: outdoors,

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I’m trying to figure out what NPA Parks Commissioners Barker and Coupar have in mind.

They want to “take immediate steps to reopen Stanley Park to its pre COVID19 transportation and access plan…”  And do it now, before next week.

Who knew there was a plan to keep Stanley Park in 1960s-style traffic design?  You know, Motordom.

I’m trying to figure out whether they actually intend the cyclists to go back to the seawall and the shared paths.  Since, not wanting to fight it out with the cars and buses on a shared Park Drive, many will be back on the seawall, sharing what had been used only for walking and running while all the bikes were up on the road.

So, is all the return to “sharing” really the outcome the NPA Commissioners want?  Given the likelihood of immediate conflict.

 

There have been months and months of flow-way style cycling in the park.   The peoples of Vancouver found a collective play space.  And this video is what it looked like last week:

Park Drive

 

Imagine a portion of those cyclists back on what have been walk-only paths.   Isn’t this a set-up for immediate conflict?

I doubt that’s really what the NPA commissioners want.

So what is?

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How can we create a post-pandemic Vancouver that is just, equitable, decolonized, and inclusive for all?

The Vancouver City Planning Commission (VCPC), with the support of SFU Public Square invites you to join a panel of current and past Commissioners who will discuss how the pandemic is impacting their communities, and what potential policy changes and opportunities they see in creating a post-pandemic Vancouver that is just, equitable, decolonized and inclusive for all.

To achieve a safe and inclusive city for residents of all cultures, incomes, ages, abilities, genders, and perspectives, issues of equity and the history of systematic exclusion of many communities and identities need to be addressed. Tangible action that goes beyond engagement and consultation to take action on the feedback already heard from Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, youth and other equity-seeking groups is now needed.

  • Sierra Tasi Baker is the lead cultural and design consultant at Sky Spirit Consulting.
  • Veronika Bylicki is an engagement innovator, community builder and sustainability strategist. She is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of CityHive.
  • Leslie Shieh has worked as a consultant in community economic development, working alongside communities and local organizations in Canada, United States, China and Taiwan.
  • Amina Yasin works as an urban planner with a focus on accessibility and equity in planning.

7 pm via Zoom

Register here.

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As someone who has been doing presentations on the physical form of Vancouver and how it has changed, I’ll admit I’m guilty of misrepresentation.  A statistical sample of my images would show the city as seen on its sunny days, which, I think we might all agree, would not reflect its meteorological reality.

So here’s some balance: two views of the Beach Flow Way, one from June 5, the other from June 13, from the same view over Sunset Beach, with appropriate soundtracks from Bach.

A lot less bikes on rainy days (duh).  But the same may be true here for cars.

Thanks to PT music director, Andrew Walsh. 

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Until a few years ago, space beyond the curb was for parking, picking stuff up, getting on a bus and dropping stuff off.

Curb space was for accessibility by vehicle.   Very valuable space.

So logically, there was no place for uses that reduced accessibility – especially when the intent was just the opposite, to get people to linger.

Photo by Cal

Because of the pandemic, we’ve quickly made space for Non-Motordom users who need more space.   But now there is less parking and vehicle accessibility.

Is that a fair trade-off?  Only if there’s no alternative for those with no alternative.

And there is: the space beyond the patio.  As part of a slow street, double-parking and double-sitting is the expected way.  If on slow streets, pedestrians can walk down the middle of the street, cars can stop and linger for a bit too.

This way of thinking about a street violates the understanding we have had of Motordom, where the vehicle retains dominance.  Those who wish to maintain Motordom are using marginalization – ableism, ageism – as a defense, assuming that the needs of seniors and the disabled can only be respected with the full apparatus of a 20th-century road system.

Where the space beyond the curb is for cars.  And that’s so not so.

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As the debate heats up and polarizes on how Stanley Park should allocate road space while accommodating everyone in a time of pandemic, here’s the bigger question:

Does access for the disabled and seniors require ‘Full Motordom’ – the default 20th-century road-and-parking design that gave us auto-dependence?

Here are several examples of Motordom design from the park, including this one:

The roads are designed almost exclusively for driving – banked and angled curves, no stop signs, unaligned crosswalks, limited sidewalks.  Of course, no bike lanes.

Some park commissioners and supporters have a new line of defense to prevent change: Motordom is necessary to provide access for the disabled and seniors (who are presumed to be car-dependent), while at the same time implying or accusing those who desire a more balanced approach of demanding a car-fee Stanley Park.  They’re not and it isn’t.

 

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One of the so-sad consequences of the pandemic is the loss of momentum immediately experienced by TransLink.  And not just with the reverse of the quite stunning increase in passengers. (Said CEO Kevin Desmand in September of 2019: ““If this trend continues … then over the four-year period from 2016 to 2019, we would have seen a 20% growth in overall ridership. It is pretty astonishing.”)

By March, an 80 percent drop.

But it’s not just in ridership where the momentum has been lost.  TransLink was in the process of delivering on its 10-year Plan, with significant increases in rolling stock, frequency, new routes and upgrades in its facilities. (Like this PT report on Joyce-Collingwood Station.)  Much is still going ahead, like the rolling out of the Rapidbus routes. But, on the North Shore, the R2 line literally started just as we all went into lock-down.  I took it shortly after it started – one of only two passengers for a good part of the trip (right).

Progress continues.  And one of the places where changes will be the most welcome is one of the most dismal transit exchanges in the system.  Dark, dank and polluted from diesel, it sits under the ICBC headquarters adjacent to Seabus at Lonsdale Quay.  Convenient but unpleasant.

Well, that’s changing – as these pictures from CNV Councillor Tony Valente reveal:

 

As Daily Scot would point out – a lot of grey.  But alleviated by LED lighting overhead:

Tony tells us that there’s more to come.  All it will need is a lot more passengers.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pandemic & Climate Change
Can COVID-19 get us to respond to the climate crisis?

City Conversations continues in a live online format while we continue physically distancing!

The international response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that humans can react quickly when their health is threatened. Another great threat to humanity–and to the planet–is climate change. But unlike COVID-19’s immediate threat, most people and governments have been unwilling to take action against a threat whose current impacts may be less apparent. So, is it time to rethink and reframe climate change as a threat to public health?

At this online event, we’ll hear from urbanist and former Vancouver City Councillor Gord Price and economist/entrepreneur Michael Brown, who both contributed to the 1990 report Clouds of Change, one of the earliest civic studies of global warming. Representing a newer generation of climate activists, we’ll also hear from Adriana Laurent-Seibt of UBC Climate Hub and Rebecca Hamilton of Sustainabiliteens.

This event will be hosted online. After you register, you will receive instructions for logging into the online event via email.

 

Wednesday, June 17

12:00 PM

Hosted online.
Free event | Registration required

 

 

 

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