Construction has started on the curb realignment at Yew Street and York Avenue, part of a broader suite of changes coming to York as it is refashioned into an east-west bike corridor. It wasn’t until I saw these changes in concrete that I realized the York Bikeway will be as much about enabling bicycles as calming traffic in the neighbourhood. Separated bike lanes will only run two blocks between Chestnut and Maple, but curbs will be modified as far west as Yew, and stop signs will be reversed along the full extent of York to Stephens Street.
These are welcome changes, as they further discourage driving shortcuts between 4th Avenue and Cornwall. The steep grade of the hill, which offers spectacular views over English Bay, also leads to rapidly descending vehicles throughout the north-of-fourth grid. Even prudent glances up the road can sometimes fail to reveal a fast-approaching automobile, a particular hazard at Yew Street where pedestrian traffic is high. I’ve used York as a bike route prior to these changes, mostly to avoid Cornwall at the shallowest grade, and find the intersection at Yew also troubling for its poor visibility of downhill traffic. These cars will now meet a four-way stop at York.
It is not clear whether curb realignments and stop sign reversals will be sufficient to deter shortcut driving of this kind. Certainly the changes are less extensive than traffic calming measures found in the West End, and the hellish turn from 4th Avenue to Burrard Bridge increasingly encourages use of local streets. Summer will ultimately test the new arrangement.
City documents of the York Bikeway can be found here: http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/point-grey-cornwall.aspx