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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