It’s impressive how fast city engineers get to work in Vancouver once new infrastructure is approved. The ongoing transformation of Point Grey Road into a local access greenway is a recent example. Following closure of the intersection at MacDonald Street on Saturday, January 18th, all major concrete and painted medians were completed along Point Grey Road to Alma by the end of that weekend. Temporary Jersey barriers were also installed in anticipation of major curb realignments, such as at the north end of Trutch.
After a few walks and bike rides along the new seaside route, I find the changes very welcome. I once lived on 2nd Avenue near Blenheim, and took regular strolls to Jean Beatty Park in the afternoon or evening. Point Grey Road had no stop signs or signals until Alma, and motorists would often speed without stopping at designated crosswalks. I’ve now seen pedestrians of all ages and shapes amble along and across the road, without fear of being struck by an automobile on their way to the shoreline parks. The first weekend even brought a sense of shared wonderment among those who ventured to explore the repurposed public space. “Isn’t it amazing?” said one woman jogging by, timidly stepping onto the street. “You can walk right on the road!”
I don’t recall ever riding on Point Grey Road by bicycle before the changes, for the same reason I would never ride down Cambie Street: it was simply too dangerous a place for pedaled wheels. 3rd Avenue has been a workable bike route, but is narrow and obstructed by multiple stop signs leading to confusion with local traffic. Riding eastward on 3rd was a further muddle, as riders reach the hill after MacDonald and tend to weave north toward 1st or York in effort to avoid the steep grade. The fearless (and reckless) instead divert to Cornwall.
Only one point along the cycling route still gives me pause, just east from the intersection of Point Grey Road and Alma. A painted buffer separates the westbound bike lane from mixed eastbound traffic, now one-way. Cars often zip around the corner from the southbound straightaway along Alma into the eastbound lane, and I’ve been pressured as they approach rapidly from behind. Since parking has been retained along the south curbside, cars are unable to pass without driving into the westbound bike lane. Rather than wedge me between a moving vehicle and adjacent parked cars — and also endanger cyclists heading west on the painted bike lane — drivers tend to simply brake and tailgate. In this situation, one must divert toward the curb once past any parked cars to allow the approaching automobile to pass. Somehow this does not seem to be an issue further east from Alma, perhaps because of fewer cars, because they have more time to decelerate, or because they have more time to spot cyclists and keep a safe distance.
Given this is a narrow section of Point Grey Road, the options are understandably limited. Parking would have to be removed to accommodate a two-way bike lane, or to allow adequate eastbound passing room between cars and bicycles. The city pushed parking removal as far as politically possible, and this was likely the only available compromise. Given the width of the painted barrier, the installation of a separating curb and two-way bike lane appears possible, but I was told by a city staffer that this was rejected due to the number of driveways on the north side that would need to be accommodated.
See Gordon Price’s blog for a series of posts discussing the politics and realities of the Point Grey Road redesign and the overall Seaside Greenway changes.