COVID Place making
December 4, 2020

The New (Interim) Design for Beach Avenue

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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