COVID Place making
July 17, 2020

Astroturfing in the West End

This has all the marks of astroturfing*.  Seen in the West End on Bute at Harwood.

There has to be a backstory here.  Who’s behind it, what is their goal?  (It’s not just about bike lanes.)

For those who think the Beach Avenue Flow Way is too popular and too necessary, that we can’t go back to “just the way it was”, prepare for a fight.


*Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.



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As someone who has been doing presentations on the physical form of Vancouver and how it has changed, I’ll admit I’m guilty of misrepresentation.  A statistical sample of my images would show the city as seen on its sunny days, which, I think we might all agree, would not reflect its meteorological reality.

So here’s some balance: two views of the Beach Flow Way, one from June 5, the other from June 13, from the same view over Sunset Beach, with appropriate soundtracks from Bach.

A lot less bikes on rainy days (duh).  But the same may be true here for cars.

Thanks to PT music director, Andrew Walsh. 

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On Wednesday afternoon, I had a fun and enjoyable conversation with John Irwin, the COPE member of the Park Board.  I’ve known John since I was an NPA councillor and he was, sometimes, a sparring partner (though we agreed on cycling).  The fun when debating with John is, between him and me, who gets to finish their thoughts before being overtaken by the other.

John is on the ever-well-meaning Left – a COPE guy of long standing.  In elected office, his is the politics of conversation, consultation and collaboration – a strategy of re-action, always hoping for togetherness.  Great when it works.  Puts action off when it doesn’t.

Exhibit A: Providing for mobility in Kitsilano and Hadden Parks.

But this is the time of the virus – a moment when the previously un-doable gets done very quickly.  Exhibit B: the Beach Avenue flow way.

The necessity for change in Kits and Hadden Parks is inarguable: It’s unsafe because different users don’t have space to share, and they can’t social distance without it.  So each pisses the other off.

What, John, I asked, can be done this month to provide enough space for all the different users to walk, run and cycle while respecting each other?   While the Park Board has placed ‘champions for social distancing’ along the seawall and in parks, it hasn’t provided the space to do it properly.

Except along on Park Drive and Beach Avenue.  The Park Board, I’m told, took the initiative to both close Stanley Park to most vehicles and to provide connected space on Beach.  When I got a ‘process’ answer on the problem in Kitsilano (“We need to work with the City …” blah, blah), I pressed him on Beach: Will you turn it all back to the way it was before the virus?  Will the Beach flow way disappear and cyclists return to the seawall, in some cases jammed together like they are in Kits Park?

Finally, John was unequivocal:

“I will oppose, I will fight to prevent the removal of the lanes on Beach Avenue.”

After a summer or more of use, I doubt John will be alone in a fight to retain the flow way in some form.  My guess is that most Vancouverites, having accustomed themselves to a pleasant walking and cycling experience along Seaside (and hopefully other greenways in the city), will be supportive, even demanding, of this street-use reallocation.  Even on Kits Point.


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