March 26, 2016

Making Commercial Drive Safer to Shop: 5 Strategies @CommercialD @Streets4Every1 #bikeyvr

Did you really think I was going to skip this topic?
The Grandview-Woodlands Community Plan – including the Transportation component – is likely to go to Vancouver City Council in April for approval. Within it are some interesting percentages. Out of about 550 respondents, 75% support adding pedestrian space and improving the public realm (page 18). 70% of respondents support making cycling more comfortable and convenient (page 24). These responses refer to the area as a whole, though, not specifically Commercial Drive.
There are also questions about retail areas: 39% support retaining or improving on-street vehicle parking in retail areas. 54% support “limit(ing) or possibly reduc(ing) on-street parking to provide opportunity for enhanced pedestrian, bicycle, and/or transit infrastructure”(page 37).
You call that a survey?
Even How to construct a bogus survey doesn’t suggest being as blatant as the Commercial Drive Business Society (BIA) was with their rant plus fear-based questions they call a survey. I’m disappointed with Kenneth Chan‘s coverage of it in Vancity Buzz as if it is a good survey. Alone, it doesn’t deserve the attention. Don’t encourage him by looking it up.
A better account is this earlier story by CKNW showing both sides. They included the photos that Bandidas Taqueria, in support of safety improvements on The Drive, generously posted of their completed Commercial Drive Society “survey” before sending it in. Check it out if you’re curious about the “survey” wording. With the questions so geared against safety improvements such as wider sidewalks and bike lanes on The Drive, Bandidas’ answers seem absurd, amusing, and brave.
What next? Here are some strategies for how to move forward.

A) Carrot

An urban planner suggested luring some of the reluctant, long-time business owners by highlighting the culture of the neighbourhood: evoking a plan of a Euro chic, romantic scene fit for Little Italy. He envisions renderings of electric bikes (today’s version of the 1960s Vespa) parked in a row in front of pizza parlours (in lieu of car parking) like our memories of a lifestyle we yearned for while watching films like La Dolce Vita or Roman Holiday.


Row of motor scooters parked on a street in Rome, Italy.

B) Stick

An aware and involved citizen muttered to me that banquet halls catering to private parties with considerable drinking and lots of space to park your car don’t mix well in the public’s eye. He thinks the best strategy is to heighten the public’s awareness of those businesses’ encouragement to drive and get MADD involved.
From Federico’s website (with no mention of how to arrive via transit or bicycle and no suggestion to take a taxi home):
“Ample Parking is available in the area
*Il Mercato underground parking
(NW corner of 1st and Commercial)
*Royal Bank during non-banking hours
(located across the street)
*Street and meter parking”

PT whiskey keys

One for the road?

C) Collect and Share Data

In North American cities, businesses consistently grossly overestimate how many of their customers arrive by car. Data-driven decision making should count more than an emotional fear of change. For example, this annotated, chart-filled review of 12 studies from around the world.
City of Vancouver staff plan to conduct intercept surveys (real ones) on Commercial Drive, measuring the modes of customers before and after the upgrades so Vancouver finally has its first All Ages and Abilities (AAA) corridor on a high street and first valuable data to show the effects on business.

D) Carry On

Make the changes, with public consultation. Do it because you were elected on the platform to do so.

E) All of the Above

Speaking of everything, please see this PT post about Slow Streets’ The Case for a Complete Street on The Drive.

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  1. I brought this up with MADD 6-8 years ago and got the cold shoulder. They should be a key ally in the fight against minimum parking requirements, but the fellow I emailed with seemed to think all that parking was for DDs and staff and that spillover of that parking was by far more important. Sigh.
    You’d think there’d’ve been a legal challenge against minimum parking requirements for licensed establishments by now, or at least enough of a risk to get municipalities to give this another look…

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      Desmond, the first time I read your first 2 sentences I thought DD meant Drunk Drivers – even though I know it’s commonly used to mean Designated Drivers. I assumed MADD was even more against parking for drunks than you were. Then I realized what you actually said.
      Thank you for taking the time to approach MADD on this serious issue. Of course a whole org can’t be judged based on 1 convo w/a staff person/volunteer. I wonder if their view has changed at all (either officially or individually within staff/board) with trends in urbanism.

    1. Except that by definition, reliance on DD’s at least halves the parking requirements … If not more (1 car instead of 2) … So a drastic reduction isn’t exactly uncalled for.

      1. It depends on how full the parking is now. I always find Commercial one of the most difficult high streets to find parking on or even nearby.

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          Bob. Can I call you Bob? Did you see the link in the article at “lots of space to park your car” to a look at parking by Slow Streets? If the population is going to grow, how will more people get to The Drive? What should we do?

  2. That “survey” is so bogus. Some of the ideas they have such as suggesting that the cycle routes on Woodland and Victoria are sufficient shows that they either have a poor understanding of what bike lanes on Commercial are intended for, or they’re intentionally trying to mislead.
    Very telling that they refer to protection as “barricades”. It’s good to see what the “survey” states in it’s preamble. The list called “Negative Local Impact” contains so many lies it isn’t even funny.
    One thing missing from the list of negatives is actually possible and that’s gentrification. I would hate it if these improvements ended up just attracting too much money and it became a tourist destination with the usual chain stores and not the genuine retail stretch that it is now. The way to prevent that though is to just have bike lanes and wider sidewalks at many other retail strips.
    This minority “cabal” on the BIA that is behind this really needs to be brought down by the the business owners on The Drive. If they aren’t able to, are they able to start their own BIA?

      1. I’m using the term because there appears, from all accounts, to be a small group of individuals who are trying to lead the BIA membership away from what they might truly want or need.