It’s taken a few months, but now we have some action.  This just out from the City of Vancouver – slowstreets@vancouver.ca

On May 22, we’ll start installing 12 km of Slow Streets signs and barriers. Other routes across the city will be added in the coming weeks.

Slow Streets – routes for walking, cycling, and rolling that make it easier to exercise and access businesses in your local neighbourhood.

  • Motor vehicle access is limited to local traffic only.
  • People walking may pass each other using the roadway.
  • Drive slowly and watch for people on the road.
  • On-street parking, access for emergency vehicles, and waste/recycling collection is maintained.

Have your say

In a few weeks, we’ll be asking the public for ideas and feedback on how to make these routes more comfortable for walking, cycling, and rolling. Using input from residents and businesses, we’ll make adjustments and improvements at key locations.

Questions? Email us at slowstreets@vancouver.ca

It appears that this choice of route – entirely through the east side and a diversity of neighbourhoods – was seen through an equity lens.  That’s council-speak to make sure the voices of their support are heard.

This Slow Street route builds on the already-established leg-and-wheel networks – notably 37th Avenue, the Ridgeway Greenway.  Not only did 37th Avenue get priority when greenways were first funded in the 1990s, it was given extra special treatment with a lot of small interventions – traffic calming, parklets, art, landscaping – with funding that might otherwise have gone to an extension of greenways through the West Side.  But some residents there were fearful of the idea – something bringing outsiders through their neighbourhood – and didn’t really see a need.  Most of their streets were already lush and green.

The City happily spent the money east of Granville.

But after the Beach Flow Way was done in the West End, the next one this time had to be east of Granville too.

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Why isn’t there a Kits Flow Way – an allocation of street space that both takes the pressure off the overcrowded mixed-use paths through Hadden and Kits Park, and provides a designated, separated space to accommodate the dramatically increased amount of bike traffic in these days of the pandemic?  In other other words, a Kits equivalent of the Beach Flow Way.  (More discussion here.)

The answer I heard from City Hall insiders is that there really isn’t a need to have a traffic-calmed reallocation on parts of the adjacent streets because, with the pandemic and the closure of the parking lots in Kits and Hadden, there isn’t much traffic anyway.

Well, guess what.

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Seaside Greenway: all the paths along the waterfront, from Coal Harbour to Spanish Banks.

One of the best continual waterfront pathways in the world. The result of a century and a half of political commitment and constant addition.

In the 1990s, separated routes were state-of-the-art design as the Seaside enveloped False Creek.  Vancouverism at its best.  (Examples in the video above.)

Certainly a new standard for active transportation.

David Lam Park Seaside Extension – 1998

Vancouver loved it.  A generation of cyclists, runners, walkers was raised on it, of every age and agility.

But the road-like design was not a standard some park board commissioners were comfortable with, reflecting the general anxiety Vancouverites feel when it  comes to paving paradise.  In Kitsilano Park, they stopped trying.

Nonetheless, Seaside was connecting up. More kilometres opened every year in the nineties, the region was building a network in the 2000s, the Bikeway Network was in full bloom. Add in downtown bike lanes, Burrard Bridge, Point Grey Road.  Growth was inevitable.

Like any attractive and free transportation option, it began to fill up.  But we weren’t anywhere near incoherent congestion.  Wheel and feet got along pretty well on Seaside – except in some of the parks.  And there was still room for tourists.

Then, March of 2020.  Overnight we found out what our very own latent demand was when Park Drive and Beach Avenue became Flow Ways*.

Vancouver immediately experienced the difference, and they liked it.

Best of all, it took the pressure off the seawall. If the Beach Flow Way didn’t exist, those bicycles would be back in places like this:

 

How could deliberately doing that be defended? It probably can’t.

Basically, there’s no status quo to return to.  Now we have to design successfully for the world we are believe we are in.

As the awareness of the future of Seaside is developing, the summer will progress. And it will be just us Vancouverites on Seaside  There are no tourists.

By fall, if we’re responsive and there’s a will for more change, we’ll have essentially designed the next stage of Seaside.

 

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PT: Originally published in April.  The video is one of the best so far, from the initial use of the Beach Flow Way (so-called since it allows cyclists to sort themselves out by speed and comfort) to the self-sorting that Vancouverites did on Sunset Beach, making it more than ever a Great Lawn. 

And more than ever it’s clear: Open Streets are a Thing – one of the lasting changes to come out of the pandemic.

Click here to download video: Beach reallocation

Whether cities like Oakland calls them ‘Flow Streets’ or ‘Slow Streets’, they’re part of a larger movement to reallocate street space for the priorities of a pandemic.

Initial reporting suggested Oakland was going to call these calmed avenues ‘Flow Streets’ – a nice name, but apparently not what was intended:

Oakland will slow down a whopping 74 miles of streets to vehicular traffic starting this weekend to give pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists more room for social distancing.

It’s part of an emergency measure called “Oakland Slow Streets,” an effort to give residents more space to walk, run, and cycle safely through neighborhoods as shelter-in-place orders remain in effect. …

Note: This won’t be a total closure to cars, according to East Bay Times, but instead a way to “publicize roads to be especially alert of cyclists and pedestrians.” Local traffic and emergency vehicles will still be allowed on the roads.

It really is important to emphasize that these streets are not ‘closed,’ and never were intended to stop all vehicle traffic.  But even in Vancouver, the Beach Avenue reallocation is being termed by some as ‘closed’ – as though any restriction on cars is all that matters.  It’s a bias we’ll see a lot more in the fight to defund and eliminate any City progress for bikeways, greenways, safe streets, traffic calming, road diets – call it what you will.  For opponents, It comes down to the same thing: streets are for cars, and the rest are dispensable frills.

In the meantime, the move to flow or slow streets is, ahem, picking up speed.  From the New York Times:

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Reopening Vancouver: People, Streets, Food & Cars

How do we maintain safe physical distancing practices when enjoying the city?

On a typical commercial street’s 3.5-metre-wide sidewalk, two pedestrians can safely pass each other with two metres between them. However, couples must go single file when passing to maintain a safe distance.

Some suggest that this space can be found beyond the curb, in the parking lane. Perhaps we could create more curbside parklets, now seen in front of a few restaurants and coffee houses. Parking spaces could become umbrella-sheltered restaurant patios – think of a trattoria in Italy.

One of the earliest examples of space reallocation and pedestrian use of a parking lane: the hundred-block Lonsdale in the City of North Vancouver

Perhaps we could create more curbside parklets, now seen in front of a few restaurants and coffee houses. Parking spaces could become umbrella-sheltered restaurant patios – think of a trattoria in Italy.

Cities from Oakland to Paris are turning hundreds of kilometres of these streets into “slow streets,” with signs limiting cars, letting pedestrians, cyclists and people who use mobility aids use the street to move and get physical activity safely. Could we do the same with Vancouver’s greenway network?

 

Presenters include

 

Wednesday, May 20

12:00 pm

Hosted online.  Registration required  (currently full),  

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Finally – over a hundred days into the covid era – a city leader has articulated an initiative for “Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use during Pandemic”.   Lisa Dominato but forward the following notice of motion, bumped to May 12 for discussion.

WHEREAS

  1. The City of Vancouver declared a local state of emergency on March 19, 2020 in response to the global COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The Province has recommended physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) to prevent the spread of COVID19;
  1. The Province has also recommended the public continue to safely enjoy the outdoors, including local parks and public spaces;
  1. The Provincial health officer has commented publicly in recent weeks that partial street closures and one way travel/routing can be an effective way to enable physical exercise and safe distancing during the pandemic;
  1. Cities across Canada and around the world are undertaking measures to reallocate street space and roadways for pedestrians to safely exercise, access businesses and employment, while maintaining a safe distance due to the current pandemic;
  1. Vancouver City Council has previously endorsed motions to support slower residential streets and encourage safer shared use;
  1. The City of Vancouver and Park Board recently identified congestion in and around Stanley Park, and subsequently closed the Stanley Park roadway to cars and one lane along Beach Avenue to enable safe physical distancing during the COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The City of Vancouver has initiated a street reallocation initiative that focuses on Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move during the COVID19 pandemic;
  1. The ongoing pandemic necessitates that the City reallocate road space on an urgent basis now and develop plans for mobility and space use as part of our post-COVID-19 recovery and new economy.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to expedite efforts to identify and implement appropriate reallocations of road space, such as high use greenways and streets adjacent to parks where space could be reallocated temporarily to enable safe shared use (pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicles) and support safe physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic response, and

FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to communicate information to the public and businesses regarding the suite of street measures available to the City for reallocating space to support access to local businesses, to support loading and curbside pick-up, and to support physical activity and distancing in neighbourhoods across the city, and

FURTHER THAT Council direct staff to report back to Council in fall 2020 on refined options for mobility and public realm use us as part of the post COVID19 recovery and new economy.

Note No. 8 in the Whereas’s.  Had any readers heard of a City of Vancouver street reallocation initiative that focuses on “Room to Queue, Room to Load, and Room to Move”?  Nothing was sent to Price Tags (perhaps too low below the horizon) – nor has much been said of note from the City’s leaders, particularly the Mayor. 

What a lost opportunity to reinforce other initiatives promoted by the City: reallocation as a health response, a climate-emergency response, a local-neighbourhood planning response, an active-transportation response – all of the above at a time when the difficult-to-do has become the necessary-to-do.  (Speaking of which, one would hardly think it necessary to direct staff “to communicate information to the public and businesses regarding the suite of street measures available …”)

Lisa’s motion more importantly goes beyond the immediate pandemic: she sees reallocation as important to a recovery- and new-economy response.

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