January 18, 2017

Arbutus Greenway Consultation

The Arbutus Greenway is a 9-km long corridor, stretching across the city, with the opportunity to develop something magical out of a disused railway right-of-way. The next step is upon us, and another chance for us all to get involved.

The background is that the City of Vancouver wants to create a high-quality public space for walking, cycling and wheeling, with a streetcar line in the longer-term plan. Previous planning material is HERE (14-page PDF), including several reference designs from other places like Atlanta, Minneapolis and Chicago (with costs).
For those new to the idea, here’s a definition:  Transportation greenways are linear public corridors  for pedestrians and cyclists that connect parks, nature reserves, cultural features, historic sites, neighbourhoods  and retail areas.
You’ll get lots of chances to see what’s up, and to put your thoughts on the table.  Free hot chocolate, too.
Online survey HERE until Feb 15.
Open Houses

Pop-up Hot Chocolate Kiosk

  • Feb 1,  8:00am – 10:00am
    at Arbutus Street and Broadway Street by the Arbutus Greenway and eastbound B-line stop
  • Feb 1, 11:30am – 1:00pm
    at West 41st Avenue and West Boulevard
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From the Editors of Price Tags:
The Arbutus Greenway project is a small study in tactics.
The first tactic is the classic process argument over lack of consultation. Often equated with lack of veto power, this argument can go on forever: there are enough high-level concepts, choices and details to debate until all the participants (elected officials, engineers and opposition alike) have expired, retired or moved to Kelowna.
Secondly, and related, is the attempt to redefine the very meaning of the term “greenway” – not as a transportation corridor that favours people over motor vehicles (a rare commodity in North America) but as a nature walk, a forest trail, a haven for blackberry bushes and able-bodied walkers. And few others.
Despite decades during which greenways have been defined via major planning documents, the opposition hopes to spark a process of re-definition that will take months, years and (best case) decades, and achieve the opposition’s goals by default. Delay equals victory.
But there’s something else going on: an almost unspoken assumption about the intended users of this corridor. A few, or everyone?
Those opposing the temporary surface paving of the Arbutus Corridor were quick to identify (and hopefully defuse) a term that has been associated with the adjacent West Side neighbourhoods for over a decade now: the Crème de la Crème.
The term became popular as a short-hand for that west-side sense of entitlement over the Arbutus Corridor:
As reported in Vancouver Metro, the term was first used in a heated discussion in Council.

The millennium was still young when, during a debate over the future of CP Rail’s Arbutus Corridor, Kerrisdale resident Pamela Sauder stood up at a meeting and uttered the following breathtaking landmark of arrogance and entitlement.
“We are the people who live in your neighbourhood. We are dentists, doctors, lawyers, professionals, CEOs of companies. We are the crème de la crème in Vancouver. We live in a very expensive neighbourhood and we’re well educated and well informed. And that’s what we intend to be.”

If the Arbutus Corridor, purchased by all the citizens of Vancouver for $55 million, is to be limited in its access and designed primarily for the benefit of those in the adjacent neighbourhoods, then the use of the term Crème de la Crème is exactly correct.
The dilemma, on the other hand, for those who argue Arbutus should be developed according to the long-term vision for a network of greenways, and be truly accessible in the interim until that final plan is developed, is” What should that look like?” How can accessibility, safety and a respectful recognition of values be accommodated in the short term? How can the right of the many for access be respected as well as the rights of the few to delay?
But if there is a decision to keep the greenway in stasis until some indeterminate process is completed, then that become a decision of exclusion. And most likely, it will be the basis for all future fights to keep the status quo and prevent a rail/tram line from being constructed – the very reason the corridor was purchased in the first place.
Bottom line: will the City agree to allow all residents access to this important transportation and recreation corridor in the city so everyone can think about the final design. Or will the Crème de la Crème delay and win the day for exclusion and exclusivity.
We’ll find out as the Arbutus Consultation process on the temporary pathway rolls out over the next few weeks.

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I’m promoting a comment, left anonymously this morning by “robotboy44” on the post “Arbutus Greenway:  What’s Up?”.  The writer questions the definition of “Greenway”, and argues that Vancouver has a choice on the Arbutus Corridor between a “bike freeway” and a “nature based stroll”, sort of like Pacific Spirit Park, but nevertheless reminiscent of “. . . the way it was.”
Personally, I feel that we need to ensure that a broad cross-section of the public has the opportunity to visit, ride, stroll or wheel along the corridor before we set a specific concept in …  er… ah…  cement (as it were).

robotboy44 writes:
This is very clearly a partisan space in support of the “bike freeway” position on all things path related, so pardon me for sharing another view, but I will.
It’s a cheap and baseless dig to characterize opposition to the paving as the “creme de la creme”. That kind of comment speaks more to your prejudice than it does a desire for thoughtful discussion and appreciation for a point of view which is not your own, so how about we try here to avoid these kind of assertions and instead discuss the issues.
People were upset about the paving because it seemed wholly inconsistent with the promise to discuss and listen to the people about how to treat the “greenway”. It was called a greenway and references were made to the NY Highline, which is not paved and not a fast bike route, but a leisurely stroll with amazing views. The Arbutus Greenway will never be the Highline because it’s not in NY, it runs along Arbutus. Very different experience, although I should think that does not need to be said. The term “greenway” even implies a more rustic, nature based experience. At least to me.
The previous use of the AB was more rustic and characterful. The feeling from many was that some of that character would be retained in creating the new user experience. Perhaps a kind of Pacific Spirit Park approach with green and a natural feel. On the other hand, biking proponents feel that the logical approach is to make it as clean and efficient a bike path as possible, so that means asphalt. No time for dirt getting on tires or gears.
Other bikers, like myself, really enjoy the more leisurely pace of a path much like the one at Kits Point or Jericho Beach or Pacific Spirit Park. If your goal is to make an active transportation corridor to get from A to B, then clearly asphalt is the way to go, but it’s clear that there are many who did not see the “greenway” in those terms.
So why the upset about the asphalt, which was called “temporary”? Because it felt like a very surprising move given the plan to consult and listen. Also, given the cities spotty reputation with listening, it felt like a decision had been made. In my opinion, people were rightly offended by this move.
I have my views about how the greenway should look and feel, but honestly, If there is true, broad consultation and it is felt that it should be primarily a bike commuter path rather than a more nature based stroll more reminiscent of the way it was, then so be it, but it seems reasonable to hear from the public before paving it. And in the mean time, I hope we can avoid characterizing people with baseless insults about their interests, financial well being or proximity to Arbutus.

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We’ll eventually finish the consultation over temporary surfaces to be applied to the temporary paths on the Arbutus Greenway. Hopefully, the result will be that all the public, all ages and all abilities, will have a chance to get onto the paths and check out all 9 km and all 42 acres of the old railroad corridor.  We’ll end up with much more design input.
And then we’ll get going on the major discussion over the final design. In anticipation, it has occurred to me that we are not starting from scratch here.
Aren’t there several places in metro Vancouver where people of all ages and abilities travel on foot, two wheels, three and four wheels along relatively narrow corridors?  Such as the seawalls in Vancouver, Railway Avenue in Richmond, North Shore’s Spirit Trail.  Aren’t these handy sources to mine for a decade or more experience?
So let’s think about these:   what do we like and don’t like; what has worked and not worked; what’s great, what’s lousy. Then let’s go on from there.
It seems to me that the biggest difference to these seawall designs (pix below)is that the Arbutus Greenway will cross several high-speed high-volume motor vehicle arterials.  Intersection designs, as always, will be a major consideration.  (Underpasses, anyone?)

[Ed:  we ask commenters on this post to please limit their comments to 3 per day]

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