September 8, 2015

Slow Streets: “Is Hastings Street a Stroad?”

The latest from Darren Proulx’s ‘Slow Streets’:


Is the Heights’ Hastings Street a Stroad?


Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 7.59.42 PMThe purpose of Is Hastings Streets a “Stroad’?’ is to provide information on the quality of the sidewalk experience along Hastings Street in Burnaby, called “The Heights” neighborhood. Over the years, there have been calls from business owners on Hastings street for traffic calming measures. In particular, the upcoming Evergreen Rapid Transit Line is being seen as catalyst for change. …

Burnaby Heights features many of the urban design elements that support a vibrant and economically viable street, yet the potential is eroded by over 33,000 vehicles that travel down Hastings Street through the Heights everyday. This is demonstrated by the 234 people walking per hour volumes, which is significantly lower than other similar retail streets (64% lower than Commercial Drive).


Burnaby Heights 2015 peak change


Slow Streets observations and an intercept survey conducted by the Heights Merchants Association (86 respondents) both show that the majority (69%) of people arrive at the Heights by walking, cycling and transit. This goes against the common belief that only prioritizing vehicles is vital for the success of the retail street, even in what would be considered a suburban municipality. This is further shown when 43% of the survey respondents stated that traffic related issues made their visit uncomfortable in some way during the survey date. …

Therefore to maximize the economic viability of streets with fine grained retail uses, the priority should be to provide access for automobiles, not to move them through quickly. Slow Streets recommends a suite of solutions. Implementing a lower speed limit on Hastings St. and restoring permanent parking are solutions that could be implemented relatively quickly with minimal cost and immediate improvements for safety and comfort.


Details and link to report here.

Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. I wonder if retail suffers for similar reasons on Marine Drive in North Vancouver. It is not a street I would chose to walk and shop with all the traffic noise and exhaust from cars and buses. There are even benches on one of the new wide sidewalks, right next to traffic. I wonder who the planners thought would sit there. A lot of the ‘retail’ in the new buildings are banks with blinds in the windows, physiotherapists etc. The side streets and back lanes would be much more pleasant for retail and walking, but it’s mostly commercial businesses or garbage containers.

  2. It would be more useful if the ‘”non-Peak” was measured outside of the lunchtime rush.

    The “fine print” reads that the “non-peak” was measured during prime lunch time hours of 12 noon-1:00 pm and the “peak” was measured 4:00-5:00 pm (which seems quite early for rush hour).

    It might be more useful if they tracked 10-11:00 am and 2:00-3:00 pm as “non-peak” and 5-6:00 pm as “peak”. Note that many people take lunch early at 11:00 am or late at 1:00 pm too.

    I think you’d see similar “drops” in pedestrian traffic on any downtown Vancouver sidewalk between lunch hour and other times of day.

  3. I’m glad to see there is yet another value in curbside parking – sense of noise mitigation for pedestrians. This is in addition to business/shopping convenience, traffic buffering, traffic calming, etc. Restoring parking in peak periods rather than stripping it is the cheapest and most effective way to help pedestrianize a stroad. Just contrast Marine Drive in Ambleside (not stripped) versus Marine Drive in North Vancouver (parking never permitted). Night and day.

    1. Marine Drive is the main east-west transit corridor on the North Shore. It is also a designated bike route, although only in theory in the District of North Van and West Van. I am all for retail and traffic calming but I wonder if there aren’t better ways than trying to put everything into one street – major retail, major arterial, frequent network bus route, bike route. In the end nothing really works. Cycling on Marine is dangerous, a little better in the City though, and as a result people can’t get to the shops by bike. Driving and bussing on Marine is painfully slow during rush hour and even on weekends. Walking is unpleasant.

  4. I’m just curious but won’t any decrease in driving on Barnet and Hasting due to people taking the Evergreen line (a de facto increase in capacity on the stroad) just be filled by more drivers taking advantage of emptier stroad?

    1. That probably depends on what the drivers will be greeted with when they arrive in Vancouver. The viaducts will probably be gone, so drivers may have to tranverse the “go slow” zone through the downtown eastside.

  5. Without a subway below any concept to reduce traffic volume on Hastings or Marine Drive in W-Van and N-Van is a mute point. Get alternatives first, then reduce car traffic and improve pedestrian / shopping experience.

    btw: neither of these streets had a subway in the now failed MetroVan transit plan. Buses are not viable alternatives for people used to cars due to their discomfort, slow speed and wobbliness. Only rail based systems, below ground in dense areas, are acceptable due to speed, volume and comfort. The sooner city planners and politicians realize it the better.

  6. Last week I had to go to Hastings at Clark, then to SFU. Obviously I drove, particularly since I was coming from North Vancouver at the time. So I went east on Hastings and on up to SFU. It was, sort of, interesting as the traffic limped along Hastings. Some guys were zipping down the inside lane, even though it was a bus lane towards the end but the overall thing was that we were all stopping at almost every traffic signal. Others were taking a chance in the outside lane, hoping nobody would be turning left, then, if someone was they’d have to try and cut into the middle lane or give up and just wait, stuck behind a left turning blockage. It does give you a chance to look around and see the quaint architecture of so many of the buildings. as well as see how the Asian influence gives way to quite a strong Italian influence. I was also thinking that if left-turns were not permitted and those wanting to just went right, then right again to cross Hastings and go north (same thing south), there’d be much less pollution, frustration and GHGs. Waiting for everyone to walk, take transit, or get on a bike is a long way off, way past our time here.

    As Thomas says, an underground subway is the answer.

    Funny how the supporters of the TransLink money grab don’t blame the guy that fired Ian Jarvis and blew the whole thing up. You know. Moon…

    1. Re left turns: Nearly every arterial (including most retail streets) in Montreal bans left turns from 7h-22h, and that’s with some long long blocks. Works fine; it reduces congestion due to waiting for left turners and, this is a big benefit, it takes out the most complicated driving manoeuvre that is most likely to end in tragedy for pedestrians (shoppers/diners/customers enjoying a retail street!) in the crosswalk. Something any merchant group should be pushing for IMO.

  7. Best to think of ‘stroads’ as parking lots: lanes providing access to the parallel parking spots on either side (superior to the non-parallel parking arrangement in most parking lots). This mandates speed limits about 15-20 km/h, which allows cyclists to be in the main flow, rather than wedged against the driver side of cars — or finding extra space for a protected cycling on each side. BTW, parallel parking provides a sanctuary for vulnerable car occupants (the sidewalk).

  8. I live in Brentwood Park. The Heights is a pleasant 15 minute walk north of here, with wonderful neighbourhood institutions like Cioffi’s and the Red Apple, with McGill Library, Confederation Park and Eileen Daily pool just in behind. But I seldom make the trip on foot, nor do I like to spend time walking along the streets when I do. When my wife and I do walk there, we often talk about how the street is changing and our hopes that some day it might be better for pedestrians.

    The newer low-rise mixed developments have wide sidewalks, but the older sidewalks (where many of the best shops are, consistent with Jane Jacobs point about the importance of old buildings) are narrow, noisy and unpleasant even when shielded by parked cars. I do drive up there, but with plenty of side-street parking I usually don’t bother with trying to park on Hastings itself. Though losing the bus lanes would surely have an impact on nasty rush-hour traffic (which is far worse than a decade ago), taking the parking lanes away (and narrowing the street or adding corner bulges so it feels comfortable to cross) would make the street so much better.

    About 15 years ago, Burnaby planned to widen Willingdon and add bus lanes from Brentwood Town Centre to Hastings. The city has since had a welcome change of heart: next year, they will use that space instead to start building Willingdon Linear Park, complete with bike path. The distance from Brentwood is perfect for cycling. (I’m looking forward to finally buying a bike once there is a reason to own one.) It would make so much sense to connect to bicycle lanes on Hastings. (There is a bike route two blocks away on Frances, but it’s for passing through, not visiting the shops, and I am not inclined to take my 9-year old son along a street shared with cars.)

      1. There would have to be some concessions and space allocated by the owners of Brentwood Mall, otherwise there would be a problematic constriction south of Brentlawn.

        The same applies to Hastings x Willingdon. A public square would be great where there is now only mediocre and run down corner retail that joins with the now open but undeveloped east boulevard to the south.

  9. This would seem to be contradicted by South Granville between 16th and Broadway which is a popular pedestrian street, despite the high traffic count.

    1. I don’t think that stretch is anywhere near as popular as it could be. We go there, but would go much more often if it wasn’t so uncomfortable for walking and cycling. The BIA in that area has posted previously that their customers arrive by car, so pedestrians (and cyclists) appear to take a back seat. I think that the pedestrian mall at the airport will be their new competition.

    2. S-Granville is terrible to shop due to narrow sidewalks and far too much traffic. it is however popular because there are many (wealthy) Jews, Asians and old money in the area, close to Shawnessy. A better solution would be a tunnel for the cars and a pedestrian mall. The tunnel would start at the exit of Granville bridge at the incline, around 6th Ave all the way to 16th Ave. It would then be THE area to shop in Vancouver. Another no-brainer (besides subways under Broadway, Hastings and Marine Drive in N-Van).

      Perhaps a future cohert of politicians on the MetroVan, city and provincial level will realize this potential of urban renewal with more expensive car choices, more subways and more pedestrian friendly / traffic calmed areas.