COVID Place making
January 6, 2021

Bad News, Bonnes Nouvelles

It’s not looking good in New York:

In Manhattan alone, new car registrations rose 76% and in Brooklyn, registrations climbed 45%.

D’autre part:

Then came the coronavirus and a national lockdown. With practically no traffic, even non-urbanists like me suddenly realized how much space we’d given over to cars, and we envisioned these same streets as quieter, cleaner public spaces that could contain something else.

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It’s all out in public now:

Updated Interim Design: Room to Move- Beach Avenue

Work starts soon on new features along Beach Avenue to improve access for people walking, taking transit and driving while maintaining the two-way protected bike path and increased walking space.

  • Improved pedestrian crossings at key locations
  • Eastbound travel restored for vehicles and transit between Denman St and Jervis St. following completion of other project elements
  • Replacing traffic cones with sturdier and harder-to-move concrete barriers
  • Working with the Park Board to provide accessible parking in the waterfront parking lot near Bute St
  • Retention of the two-way protected bike path

Construction starts in December.

Notice the difference between the City and the Park Board.  No theatrics.  Interim but satisfactory.  Another step forward.

Jeff Leigh went to take a look:

Very happy to see the confirmation that it will remain to Park Lane, with one way westbound vehicles, so the rat running through Park Drive from the causeway will not dump onto Beach.

Inspected the site work today, and the widths look reasonable.  Not always as wide as it is now, but not cramped down – except at some crossings, where the median islands (safer crossings for those walking) mean potential pinch points for people cycle.  We will watch that one as they proceed.

 

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Do you see what NPA Park Commissioner Tricia Barker is doing here?

From a Province op-ed:

In Vancouver, the civic government has a “transportation hierarchy” list. I propose we put compromised seniors and people with disabilities at the top of this list and give them first priority. …

For too long we’ve put seniors and people with disabilities last. The city’s “hierarchy of transportation modes” says it will consider the needs and safety of each group of road users in the following order of priority: 1st walking; 2nd cycling; 3rd transit and taxi/shared vehicles, and 4th private auto (Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 condensed plan, Page 13). Seniors and persons with disabilities aren’t even mentioned.

Of course seniors and the disabled aren’t mentioned.  They’re people, not modes of transportation.

Seniors and disabled people* can be walkers, cyclists, transit and vehicle users.  What Barker implies without having to say explicitly is that they’re all dependent car users.  So in order to give them top priority, motordom must be maintained.

On that she is explicit:

As we move forward, let’s make a promise to never take away something that has already been given. … Let’s enact a policy where you can’t take away a necessity because it’s convenient or others may like it.

What are these necessities that can’t be taken away?  Parking.  Road space.  Motordom: the city designed for the car, which, by her argument, seniors and the disabled see as essential.  Hence, any diminishment of motordom is a sign of disrespect.  Their right to easy access everywhere by automobile must be maintained as a first priority – something to be encoded in policy to be used as the basis for planning.

It’s kind of a brilliant strategy: use the disabled to disable progress towards active transportation, towards progress on climate change, towards safer cities and greater choice – all the policies you don’t want to publicly oppose but can frustrate by out-woking the progressives.

Here’s another example:

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Everyone knows someone who has been “doored”. That’s the awful mishap that happens when you are riding a bike along a line of parked cars and someone opens a driver’s door and the bike and you make contact with the door. There have been many serious injuries and fatalities that have resulted from this awful, and very avoidable experience. Drivers are simply not trained to look behind before opening the driver door of vehicles when exiting.

Last month the Province of British Columbia increased the fines for opening the door of a parked car when it is not safe to do so to $368, four times the current fine of $81. But the second part, teaching a good method to ensure that drivers specifically checked behind their parked cars before exiting, was not addressed.

Of course the Dutch have already thought about this and have developed the “Dutch Reach”.

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This is a big deal:

Kevin Griffin at The Sun reports on the Parks Board approval of a $2.56 million contract to develop a master plan for the parks and streets from Stanley Park to Burrard Bridge for the next thirty years. Kenneth Chan at The Daily Hive describes the area and issues:

The design firms chosen are impressive: PFS Studio is of Vancouver – known for many years as Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg – partnered with Snøhetta, based in Oslo, well known for their architecture (like Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre).  But unlike that Danish starchitect Bjorke Ingels, they’re also known for a better integration of building with public space.

This promises the production of a masterplan of international caliber, which given the location and opportunity, is to be expected.  Indeed, the challenge (for the Park Board in particular) is to imagine a rethinking of this city/waterfront interface beyond its aesthetic and recreational opportunities for the neighbourhood.  This is city-building, writ big and historic.

It will also be the third major transformation for this stretch of English Bay – first the summer grounds of the coastal peoples; then, from the 1890s on, houses and apartments (left) all along the beachfront, cutting off everything except the sands of English Bay.  For over most of the 20th century, the City purchased and demolished these buildings, even the Crystal Pool, until the by the 1990s there was unbroken green, sand and active-transportation asphalt from Stanley Park to False Creek.

But it was all on the other side of Beach Avenue, a busy arterial that served as the bypass for traffic around the West End – the legacy of the original West End survey in the service of motordom.  For some this will be seen as unchangable.  As the reaction to the Park Board changes this summer on Park Drive revealed, even a modest reallocation of road space diminishing ‘easy’ access for vehicles and the parking to serve them is upsetting to those who associate motordom design with their needs, special and otherwise.

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The Park Board has justified the removal of the bike lane in Stanley Park because “The data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns.”  Now the question is whether the Beach Avenue bikeway will be removed for the same reason: winter is coming, so we’ll go back to the conventional pattern.

What our leaders do will tell us what kind of city we aspire to be.  Imagine the slogan: “Vancouver, the Conventional City.”  

Ian Austen who writes the Canada Letter for New York Times sees another kind of opportunity:

 

By late spring, it was becoming nearly impossible to buy a bike anywhere in the world. That was a reflection both of the unexpected surge in demand and a supply chain that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most bikes, aside from high-end, customized offerings, are churned out by a small number of companies based in Taiwan that have extensive operations in China. My colleague Raymond Zhong recently profiled the biggest of those companies, the aptly named Giant, and its chairwoman, Bonnie Tu. (Article here.)

In Ottawa, Canada’s bicycle boom has exhibited itself in an unusual way. The morning and afternoon bicycle rush hour didn’t return. But when I’m out doing errands by bike, it’s now often a struggle to find a parking space outside stores. And on weekends, when I’m on rides measured in hours, it’s increasingly common to see people on very inexpensive bicycles, who are not wearing fancy cycling clothes, cycling well outside the city.

Many cities have responded. Cars have been temporarily barred from some lanes or entire roads in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere. In addition to closing streets, Halifax has moved to slow motor traffic on some streets and limit vehicles to residents.

The question now is, will this enthusiasm for cycling survive winter and the post-pandemic period?

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A blunt announcement from the Park Board:

This is what the Park Board is essentially saying to cyclists who still use Park Drive:

“The data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns” – and we’re all about sticking with the conventional.  So we’re throwing you back in with the vehicles now, where you can fight it out for the same space.  But be careful, motorists may now see you in the way and assume you should be back on the seawall – where you can fight it out with pedestrians given the inadequate space and your vastly increased numbers (which we assume will drop down to the, um, conventional).

You really shouldn’t be surprised, given that we have repeatedly demonstrated in Kits and Jericho Parks that we don’t intend to find reasonable accommodation, and will relegate you to dirt paths and parking lots, regardless of conflicts and accidents.  And even though we have plans and budgets for improved facilities for cycling in Stanley Park, we haven’t spent it and don’t have immediate plans to do so.

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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.

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Peter Ladner reports:

The Stanley Park Hill Klimb (SPHK) now exists. It’s a thing. (The K is for one kilometre long but I challenge someone to prove me wrong.)

It has a Start Line and a Finish Line and piece of chalk at the top to write down if you’ve made a new record time.

So far I have the record time: 3:52. Timing for other people begins now.

Tell your friends. Do the SPHK loop in your costume on your way to the Beach Avenue Bikefest #beachavebikefest Sunday 3-4 pm, where you can win a costume prize! Share your time with your friends. Dare them to beat it, or to just come out and enjoy the ride. Remember: five-yr-old-kids can ride up it.

Be the first to set up the SPHK on Strava.

Do with it what you want. Maybe come and add some of your own art (sidewalk chalk is sold at most dollar stores). This story could just be getting started.

This will wash away in a few weeks, but perhaps some visions will be permanently chalked in.

Here’s part of a longer story by Peter Ladner on how the Stanley Park Hill Klimb has the potential to be an accessible in-town Grouse Grind. It was written as a friendly open letter to Prospect Point Cafe owner Nancy Stibbard:

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Dianna reports on the need for safe space and respect:

(Note: unconfirmed incident.  Update welcome.)

I just picked this off the Escape Velocity bike club Facebook page. Happened a couple of days ago apparently. Sounds like a hit and run.

Does anyone have news on the condition of the group of roadies that were slammed into by the BMW SUV when descending Prospect Point last week?

My friend was riding his MTB back home at the same time and got wiped out to with major road rash and broken bones on his right hand. I hope no one suffered any worse.

The account I heard was at a group of roadies were descending and, in the absence of vehicles, moved over into the left lane to safely overtake a family of four. The BMW laid on his horn and accelerated up to the group. Group moved back once past the family and the driver drove through the cones into the bike lane and the group!

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