Cycling
March 19, 2018

Kits Point and Bikes Lanes: What this is really about – 2

By Jeff Leigh
The Vancouver Sun has posted an editorial about the controversy regarding the proposed Kits Beach Park bike route, “Don’t Wreck Kits Beach Park with Unnecessary Bike Lane
Leaving aside the quip about chanting anti-car slogans (the advocacy group I work with has as a guiding principle respect for all transportation stakeholders – there aren’t winners and losers), there are numerous fallacies presented in the op-ed piece.  Starting with the title.  The proposal is for a low-speed path, not a bike lane.

Cyclists, on the hand, cannot safely ride through the throngs of pedestrians on the existing path — although many try — and want a route that allows them to complete a seaside circuit without interruption or the inconvenience of vehicular traffic.

We agree that riding through a throng of people walking on the existing shared path isn’t safe.  But diverting people on bikes (especially families with children) to a busy street and through a parking lot, particularly in summer, isn’t about inconvenience.  It is about safety.  It is about respecting the principles established in our city for movement, with people walking at the top of the pyramid, and people on bikes next.  Not last. And certainly not behind preserving all of the space for cars that is being championed here.
This is about park planning.  Note the photo the Vancouver Park Board use on their web site:

The matter was supposed to be decided at a Vancouver Park Board meeting this past Monday, but the board voted to refer it back to the engineering department for further study.

The construction of a bike route wasn’t supposed to be decided by Park Board Commissioners.  The recommendation by Park Board staff was simply for staff to work with City transportation engineering staff to advance designs, and develop budget cost estimates, in preparation for a full public consultation.  The Park Board Commissioners did not refer it back to Engineering, as Engineering isn’t a Park Board department.  They failed to refer it back.  They left it in limbo.  References were made in the meeting to next year’s Park Board commissioners dealing with it.

Considering that a bike lane through this park has been debated for five years or so, one might have thought that all the study would be done. But the total cost, the number of trees to be lost and other details are still unknown.

All the study was not done as Park Board staff did not start work on it until late in 2017, in response to community pressure to deal with a worsening problem.  That pressure came from the cycling community.  But also at the table with Park Board staff were local residents and representatives of various park user groups.  The costs and potential tree impacts are unknown because that work hasn’t been done yet.  The staff recommendation was for that work to be done. Park Board staff will struggle to do it without hiring outside expertise, or working collaboratively with Engineering staff, who had offered to help.

The route from Balsam Street and Cornwall Avenue in the west to Ogden Avenue and Maple Street in the northeast would result in the loss of about 930 square meters of green space, roughly the size of two basketball courts. Demonstrators before the meeting carried signs reading: “Is concrete the new green?”

There are many options that reduce that impact, and offsets that result in no net increase in paving if that is desired.  Those options are open to the Park Board. Utilizing existing pavement would be the first way to answer the concern.  That means dealing with the question of retaining all existing parking, designing a safe route down the existing service lane to the restaurant, and so on.
But if the goal is to remove paving, fine.  Should we start with the tennis courts, the basketball courts, or one or more of the three parking lots?  Or should we instead simply find a way not to encroach further. A basketball player and a tennis player holding signs saying “No Paving in the Park” may be inclined to opt for the latter.
Lowering the tone of the debate doesn’t help. Why is a safe path through the park called a cycling speedway?  Why the references to the Tour de France by path opponents?

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On the surface the conflict on Kits Point is about a continuation of the Seaside Route through and around park space. The Park Board has punted that decision.

Delay and indecision is pretty much the Park Board strategy everywhere within their jurisdiction.  See Jericho:

But the way some of the Kits Point residents (the most successfully parochial community in the city) have framed the debate, it’s also about a larger policy issue.  Is cycling for all an activity to be accommodated and encouraged in parks?
Two Park Board commissioners (John Coupar and Sarah Kirby-Young, NPA) used concerns over lack of details – no route, no costing – to avoid a decision to proceed.  That no doubt surprised the staff who must have been instructed to prepare a report without those details in order not to inflame the community with the impression of a foregone decision.
So the Park Board failed to affirm or reject the position of the opponents, which (without quite saying it) is that cycling should be kept out of their park.  Quote: “ ‘I’m happy with that. It’s a reprieve for the moment,’ said Peter Labrie, a Kits Point resident who believes a bike lane through the park is unnecessary.”
If the Park Board refuses to make a decision on a properly designed bike route to connect and continue the Seaside, they would be affirming that position.  Their position by default would be that an activity which promotes healthy recreation, is necessary for active transportation and advances the city’s sustainability goals is not something to be encouraged in their parks.  (You can see why they don’t want to have to say that.)
This protest is also about an even larger agenda, as articulated by Howard Kelsey of the Kitsilano Beach Coalition.

(Kelsey) suggested the decision represented a broader win against cycling advocates he believes had held sway over the city’s agenda.”
“The cycling agenda was just put on hold,” he told supporters. “They are not driving the agenda anymore.

 
Conclusion: Many Kits Point residents and allies want to discourage cycling in the city by preventing the funding and construction of safe cycling routes for all.  And they have come very close to saying that.
The question now is whether those running for office will also support or reject that de facto position.  Or will they pursue the NPA strategy of never saying no but never articulating a positive alternative, and where possible never voting for anything decisive.  Cycling will simply be suffocated.

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Recent development that was designed to face the Arbutus corridor, even when it was unused, decrepit, weed-strewn and rusting, was the right decision. Offices and suites facing the greenway will be the most valuable.

The temporary path is not complete. Jersey barriers block the way at the cross-streets; signs say pedestrians and cyclists should not do the obvious thing and cross the arterials at mid-block.  Instead, jog down to the signaled intersections.  Which they don’t.

They do the obvious thing.

Arbutus has been transformed once already.

And there’s lots more to come.

 

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The new paved pathway of the Arbutus Greenway pushes beyond Burrard, into the near-nameless neighbourhood north of Broadway. (Burrard Slopes, I think, but so bland.)


You can already see how the greenway is becoming the organizing open space for this neighbourhood, particularly with the new kid’s park on the curve, just before the Fir Street off-ramp of the Granville Bridge.

At this point, the pavement ends at Fir:

Beyond is the critical link that extends the greenway to Granville Island and Seaside (see dotted line on map above).  When completed, the AB then becomes the Kitsilano and west-side active-transportation connector to False Creek – and the network effect will balloon the use of the corridor.  Like any manifestation of induced demand, this is not to be under-estimated.

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Discovering the new Arbutus asphalt path – almost road-width – is like revisiting the 1990s in Vancouver, when the City was opening stretches of new seawall, particularly along North False Creek and Coal Harbour.  A time of discovery – new routes, more connections, an expanding network for alternative transportation.
The first extension of the seawall was also a temporary path, just asphalt and a chain-link fence, strung along the shoreline of the Expo site prior to its sale, laid down around 1990.  It stayed that way until the development of David Lam Park – when we experienced the new standard of active-transportation planning: a separated cycle track.
More kilometres of the now-named Seaside route followed, connecting False Creek to Coal Harbour – all built to the highest standards then devised.
Arbutus is in that tradition.  The finished design will come, and it will likely be terrific.  But in the meantime … immediate access, and a new mental map of our city and its neighbourhoods.


I discovered the latest expansion of the Arbutus pathway north from Broadway when cycling uphill on up Burrard past 4th on the separated lane snuck in by the engineers – and there it was.  Fresh asphalt!  The shock of the new. So perfect in its unflawed inky blackness.
Not even technically open, it’s too enticing not to be explored.

The new will fade, softened by nature, cultivated by the gardeners who are already colonizing the verges.

The future of the greenway as a cross-city corridor is settled.  The Arbutus Greenway isn’t going to become just extensions of the surrounding neighbourhoods, limited in use and accessibility.  Other people from other places, all part of a connected network of greenways, will be flowing through, on their way to other places.

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Don’t you love a city where people care so passionately about public improvements.

That’s the polite way of putting it.  Once again the culture/political war is being waged on Point Grey Road – as demonstrated over at The Tyee, where the comments to Patrick Condon’s column on a “Lighter Shade of Green” for PGR are closing in on 200.  Mostly unpleasant.
But has Ken Ohrn noted in previous posts, there is a charming little construction that says something nicer about this neighbourhood.  If you’re not careful, you might cycle by it without noticing:

It’s the ‘bricks and mortar’ version of an online ‘gifting, sharing and trading’ platform – afeatherway.com.

Leave a gift, take a gift – just nothing broken, dangerous or illegal.
The book titles alone tell you that you’re in Kitsilano:

So do the sticky-post sentiments:

 
Once the PGR is completed, people will, as usual, wonder what all the yelling was about, and why a few in this spoiled place could be so short-sighted about something that makes it so much better.
We can only hope as that as we deal with the problems of our own success, and the inequity that has resulted, we won’t lose the qualities that made a community free store possible.

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“Every time we go through this, it seems to be the same pattern. There’s predictions there’s going to be ‘Carmageddon,’” Price said. “Every time it doesn’t happen. And then we go on to the next one, and have to go through the whole cycle again.”

– Gordon Price, SFU City Program, in The Province

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Today in Metro:

A year and half after the city raised an uproar by shutting a stretch of Point Grey Road to vehicles to make way for a bike lane, travel time for buses and cars is almost identical to what it was before the closure, according to data released Monday.

The city monitored how re-routing extra cars to Macdonald Street would affect the 22 bus re-route using “extremely detailed” GPS data and found travel times to be “so similar it’s hard to say whether there’s a change,” said Lon LaClaire, Vancouver’s acting director of transportation. “

“It’s pretty much the same,” LaClaire said. “There’s no real interesting story there.”

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But of course the interesting story here is that there’s no interesting story.  Imagine if the delay had been even 5 minutes.  Carmageddon!

It’s so frustrating when confident predictions of bad things don’t happen, but it’s important to acknowledge for the next proposal of a greenway or bike lane.  Let’s see if we get any.

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Lisa Moffatt writes:

A friend of mine was involved in a bike-on-bike collision where the two-way cycling facility turns onto the hard packed gravel path at Jericho Beach.

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She was cycling eastbound when a westbound cyclist, travelling too fast to make the turn in his lane, hit her head on (literally, they bashed heads) in her lane.  I’ve sent a note to Dale Bracewell at the City.  Dale has requested staff look into the design.

I have often thought the design of the lanes were too narrow at that intersection, but have yet to do anything about it. You can see how tight the facility gets where the yellow line directs the turn.

It would be interesting to see what folks would suggest for improvement. One thing I’d suggest would be to cut back the bushes on the east side of the sidewalk.

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This is a problem of split jurisdiction: Engineering on streets, Park Board in Jericho.  And it’s typically the Park Board that is not following through – not only here but in Stanley and Kits Parks.

Too often the Board’s solution is to do the minimal – typically to tell you what not to do.  Here’s the generic, all-purpose Park Board signage:

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This, however, is egregious:

A change of jurisdictions: from City Engineering to Park Board.

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You know those little parks that line Cornwall and Point Grey Road, now nicely accessible by small children on bicycles?  Also to a guy named vancouverjoe – who is singlehandedly keeping alive the spirit of ’70s Kitsilano.

Here he is yesterday evening in Margaret Piggott Park as the sun set over English Bay:

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Before we move on to Brent Toderian’s observations on the New Point Grey Road, here is one from Ken Ohrn:

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We’re all used to the MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra), and the new Point Grey Road gets its share of these.  But unlike any other bike route that I travel on, the new PGR attracts lots of families, with children in trailers or on their own two-wheelers.

My (totally groundless) speculation is that the new PGR is safe, flat, moderate length and has a terrific family destination at the western end — namely Jericho and the other beaches and parks.  Perfect for getting out with the kids for a fun ride.   Whatever the reasons, it’s wonderful to see.

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