COVID Place making
December 23, 2020

A Concrete Transformation of Beach Avenue

Curbs are being poured along Beach Avenue from Stanley Park to Hornby Street.

The City approved this permanent change from cones to concrete after a few months of consultation – albeit a ‘temporary’ permanent change, subject to the English Bay master plan currently under design by PFS Studio and Snøhetta.

 

These interventions also deal with some of the confusion and conflict resulting from this fast pandemic response in the spring when bikes were removed from the seawall.  Cyclists tended to ignore stop signals primarily designed for vehicle traffic – so now the crossings provide clarity, safety and a slowing down of two-wheelers.  (Hopefully eye-level signals for bikes will be installed where necessary.)

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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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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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Jeff Leigh from HUB, responding to the preceding post – Beach Bikeway Gets a Datapoint: 12,700

 

Jeff: 

Some comparisons from CoV data: Highest single-day bike counts on popular City of Vancouver cycling routes, over the past few years:

Burrard Bridge:                            8,676
Point Grey Rd at Stephens:         5,852
Seawall at David Lam Park:        7,785
Seawall at Science World:           9,428

12,700 on the Beach Avenue Bikeway signifies overwhelming success at encouraging people to cycle.  And recall that this is simply with plastic pylons, temporary signs, no pavement improvements, and so on.  Imagine what we could do with a permanent protected bikeway with better signage and markings, connected at both ends.

The Burrard Bridge bike lanes were regarded as the busiest in the City based on the counter data.  This blows that number out of the water.

And it wasn’t a one time occurrence.

Looking at the recent data along Beach, there were single weekend days in June with over 10,000.   There was a Thursday in June with 9,415.  A Monday with 9,294.  There were seven days in July with over 10,000 bike counts.

At the HUB Cycling tent last weekend there were 9,993 bikes that passed by – per the counter a few metres away (the hose didn’t get cut until the following day).

It is hard to imagine this number of people cycling on the current seawall path, especially past the restaurant under the Burrard Bridge, or in front of the restaurant at the foot of Denman, both of which are congested.

When the seawall is opened up to people on bikes again, the two routes will naturally balance each other, with slower and more leisurely riders on the water, and most using the Beach Avenue Bikeway.

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Beach Bikeway (no one’s calling it a flow way) is obviously and surprisingly high-volume.  Many cyclists, many different kinds of cyclists, for many hours, in a near-continuous flow.

Dale Bracewell’s tweet was the first time we saw a number.  And it was huge.

But how to translate 12,700 into something we can grasp and compare.  The data is out there.  Can it tell us what 12,700 signifies?

That’s your cue, PT commenters.

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Drop by a HUB Cycling tent this Sunday, Aug 9 until 3 pm on Beach Avenue at Broughton Street to sign your support.

This incredibly popular and scenic route provides a safe, direct and flat connection between Hornby Street and Stanley Park for people of all ages and abilities, for recreation and commuting – all day, every day. It is a great use of limited open public space in one of Vancouver’s most popular and densely-populated neighbourhoods.

The Beach Avenue Bikeway will also relieve pressure on the very busy seawall route when bikes are allowed back on it post-COVID distancing measures.

Sign here if you agree and HUB Cycling will keep you updated on the future of this valuable cycling bikeway.

 

 

 

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