January 20, 2014

What’s New: Changes on Cornwall / Point Grey Road

More shots taken over the weekend, this time by me.


While all the attention and controversy are focused on Point Grey Road, it could be argued that the transformation of the Burrard/Cornwall intersection at the south end of the Burrard Bridge is more consequential.  (Map here.)  Essentially, a complex web of lanes and turns is being normalized into a typical, squared-up intersection.



It was an idea put forward by the Planning Department a decade or so ago, at the time Council was trying to deal with congestion.  I honestly can’t remember how I voted on the idea, but there was considerable skepticism that such an old-fashioned concept could serve contemporary traffic demand.  And fear that we might upset motorists. Now that concept, ressurected, is being implemented.

Not only will the configuration encourage traffic to head south to feed the east-west arterials (taking more pressure off Cornwall and MacDonald) but pedestrians will have only two crosswalks to navigate, and cyclists will be in less conflict with their own separated route to the bikeway on York Street.

The visual impact will be dramatic.  Huge new swaths of green space have suddenly become available, simply by reducing the amount of unneeded asphalt.  Here’s what it looks like now, a few weeks away from transformation:


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A little further down Cornwall and the reconfiguration is also evident:


From left to right: sidewalk, separated bikeway, traffic lanes, and space for another separated bikeway and sidewalk: the complete street, serving all modes, more safely with less friction.  Here’s a prediction: within a few weeks after completion, people will wonder how we could have put up with the previous arrangement for all these years.


A  shot of Point Grey Road a few hours after the initial closure:


The cyclists are tentatively moving off the too-narrow sidewalk and onto the street.  The parks on either side will be connected.  Ken Ohrn described below how it looked – and sounded.  Liberating, I think, is the word.



At the west end of Point Grey at Alma, the cones show where the separation of bikes and cars will occur.  This was one of the most uncomfortable pieces of roadway in the city, with too many users squeezed in too small a space.  A complete lose-lose, turned into a win-win.

Yes, I’ve heard the argument that the road will now be only for the rich, only for the cyclists, only for the able-bodied.  As though, if we accept that argument, we would continue Point Grey Road through Jericho Park.

I would suggest to those who intend to run in the next civic election, after listening to the deeply felt anger of those who opposed the scheme and felt it was arrogantly imposed, to be cautious about promising to restore the road to through traffic.

Wait, at least, to see what happens, especially as spring and summer progress. Wait until you see how many Vancouverites and visitors use it, and discover for themselves the connections to the beaches and parks of Point Grey.  Wait until you’ve experienced for yourself how this space feels and how it works.   Wait until you feel that joy and liberation – and the emotions and anger you might unleash if you promise to take it away.

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  1. Certainly, the re-engineering of Cornwall Ave. and Pt. Grey Rd. will make the area far more pleasant to bicycle on. I view the Burrard/Cornwall interchange and Cornwall Ave. changes to be a great compromise between cycling, transit, and car transportation. I have yet to be convinced that the changes west of MacDonald on Pt. Grey Rd. are a good idea:

    -The route is not a true “seaside” pathway like an extension of the seawall would have been
    -There is a bike lane three blocks away on 3rd Avenue.
    -Plan was seen as both catering to the very wealthy and undemocratic.

    Pt. Grey Rd. will be soon be a pleasant place to travel by bike and on foot, but it will have minimal impact on those in the area who commute by bike. As a commuter cyclist, I know there are much better opportunities for cycling infrastructure improvement that would have had far more impact. To think that so much political (and financial) capital was put into this project is disheartening.

    Thanks for your posts Mr. Price – very interesting and often thought provoking.

  2. Steps in the right direction, but not far enough. Cars need to be off the road to McDonald, too. It is still far too car centric. Cornwall/Point Grey road need to be a series of one way streets or cul de sacs every two or three blocks. Furthermore, the goal needs to be to eliminate cars from 50% of all residential streets. Step 1 would be to raise parking fees substantially. Free parking, on a road you don’t own, needs to be a thing of the past. $250/month or so would be fair market value. Where is the vision in Vision Vancouver ? This is green ?

    Cornwall traffic calming is a step in the right direction, but far too tepid. By far.

    1. I get a kick out of people that claim that Vancouver (and Vision) is being taken over by bike lanes.

      Anybody take a look at Seville recently? Buenos Aires? New York City? Vancouver is being very timid in its implementation.

      It’s going to be embarrassing when Calgary has more separated bike lanes than Vancouver.

  3. Exactly. Where is the vision in Vision Vancouver ? Edmonton has better recycling than Vancouver and Calgary more dedicated bike lanes. Vancouver just thinks it is green. it is a very very car oriented city. Changing that will take gutsy leadership or failing that, 3-9 decades !

  4. Just to deal with one issue: 3rd Avenue is a lousy bike route. It is too narrow for a car and a bike to pass safely — especially when both sides of the road (2/3 of it) are filled with parked cars. The good news is two-fold. Since 3rd Avenue is a neighbourhood street, not an arterial, the number of cars and trucks is low, and generally the drivers do not feel compelled to race n’ rage. Generally, as well, drivers are courteous, but there is always lingering fear when being approached by a multi-thousand pound vehicle driven at 30+ kmh.

    1. Many other bikeways are similarly too narrow, including 8th between Vine and Alma and 10th between Commercial and Main. The small percentage of people who drive at more than 50 km/h are just one problem with these streets. The limited sight lines at intersections and the overuse of roundabouts force people riding bikes to speed up and slow down every block.

      Parking should be removed from one side of narrow bikeways, which means any street where cars can’t easily pass each other. Roundabouts should be replaced with safer forms of traffic calming, like traffic diverters, and not like the dangerous slalom course on Cypress (the street, of course).

    2. exactly. It is essentially a free parking lot. That has to change. Let’s close every second street in areas like Kits and make it a pathway/green street. After initial grumbling prices will rise 20% and people want to live on a street with no car as it makes their front porch so much more useful.

      Roads are not car parking lots or car moving lanes primarily. Make it primarily pedestrian friendly green space, with bike’s second and cars a distant third.

  5. Win-win is right. The raceway that was Point Grey Road was a nightmare for anyone who tried to use it, including the residents of the road, who are unfairly being targeted because they just happen to live there. I assure you that the South side residents are not “wealthy,” and it is a fact that it was the South side residents, not the North side residents, who pushed for the closure of Point Grey Road for safety, including collecting signatures of the neighbourhood one by one by going door to door. If you are going to comment regarding this matter, get your facts straight because otherwise you just appear foolish and are blowing smoke. If you visited Point Grey Road this past weekend after it was closed to through vehicular traffic, you would have enjoyed a hub of pedestrians, runners, cyclists, and local drivers, who were residents and visitors to the area finally being able to use the road, parks and beach safely. I am thoroughly sick and tired of naysayers spouting off when they know nothing of what they speak. Expect to put evidence where your criticisms are. In the meantime try enjoying safe Point Grey Road; you may just find you like it.