The moderator skipped a beat, looked at the interrupting audience member, and then continued in monotone from slide three. “Why are we doing this? To provide a safe, convenient experience for cyclists of all ages and abilities…”
This, in brief, describes yesterday’s Point Grey Road – Cornwall Avenue open house, the last of three hosted by the City regarding proposed infrastructure changes along the corridor. Neighbourhood squeaky wheels crested against briefed staffers, while a silent majority seemed taken aback by the disorder. The Kitsilano Public Library basement was filled beyond capacity, leading the City to present in two shifts for overflow. Plan advocate Peter Ladner was there, as was former Point Grey MLA candidate Mel Lehan.
Given the high attendance and outward purpose — to solicit public opinion on proposed design options — I was surprised how little the City seemed to want feedback. This was first-hand evidence of a common Vancouver complaint: City Hall has already decided what it wants to do. They presented but did little in the way of distributing and collecting forms. Contrast with Translink, where community consultation is highly structured and at least feels sincere even if clear preferences lie behind the curtain.
I did learn a few things at the open house. For one, the greatest safety issue in our transportation system is pedestrian fatalities. Collisions involving pedestrians make up only 1% of all traffic accidents, but make up nearly half of all fatalities. My morning walk to the bus stop turns at Drake and Howe, just prior to the Granville Bridge onramp, where I worry about joining this statistic.
Second, counterflow bike lanes proposed on York, a first for Vancouver if implemented, make more sense than I initially appreciated. “They do this in New York,” informed one staffer, with no obvious reference to the street name. However, these lanes should be extended past Vine to Stephens if the City is to successfully attract cyclists off Cornwall. As it stands, the combination of grade and status quo along these four blocks of York will likely fail to prevent mixing with Cornwall traffic. Cyclists are roundly unsatisfied with the rejection of Cornwall itself in this draft plan — HUB has come out against the York route — and I doubt widespread use in the proposed form. It would be a great miscalculation for the City to spend money and claim the issue solved while cyclists continue to use the flattest, most direct, and most scenic route to Burrard Bridge.
To the west, opinion seems divided about the two options for Point Grey Road. I initially favoured a separated lane, maintaining westbound vehicle traffic, but now see that a preferred alignment to the north side is impractical. The alternative of closing the street to arterial traffic by extending Tatlow and Point Grey Road Parks, permitting cyclists to use a low-volume local roadway, may be preferable. Consider the lovely Central Valley Greenway ride just east of Victoria, a very similar arrangement.
To read the city documents and posters for the Point Grey – Cornwall Corridor, go here:
For more on City opacity in planning decisions, Frances Bula has just revisited the issue: