June 30, 2016

More Steps In the Transportation Revolution

From a year ago, but worth repeating, Peter Ladner in BIV looks at another big change in how we think about how we get around our city.  This time, feet, and the pedestrian.
The issues:  reducing deaths and injury, reducing congestion, improving health.

Streets designed exclusively for the most efficient through-flow of car traffic may turn out to be a temporary blip in urban design, now that the full costs and limited capacity of automobile mobility are coming into focus. . . .
. . .  As more people decide to walk, the city’s Transportation 2040 goal – “Make walking safe, convenient, comfortable and delightful” – is getting new legs. Some Point Grey Road homeowners are about to lose their front yards so the city can widen the sidewalks and sweeten the walking experience on the Seaside Greenway.
Cities now have enough good reasons to cater to pedestrians that they are starting to get a lot more serious about it.


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  1. Couldn’t agree more with Peter. He was on Council when it adopted the “pedestrians first” policy, which supposedly has guided street design and active transportation decisions ever since. I say supposedly, as any long term resident of our fair city can attest, walking is getting more challenging rather than more convenient and comfortable, what with more people, bikers, boarders, strollers, walkers, sign boards, patios, along with trees, poles and fire hydrants, bus stops, etc., all sharing that very narrow space of about 10-12 feet. And that share of the road space is not growing for walkers.
    BTW, I think the city might have missed an opportunity on Commercial Drive. Perhaps they could have tried to enhance (i.e., widen) the walking, sitting and shopping experience there for pedestrians FIRST, rather than trying to fit in a contentious bike lane right off the top. Just a thought about messaging, marketing and optics.

    1. In this and in many other projects they often are doing non-cycling things and the media presents it as a cycling only project. Even projects that are neutral to cycling and are beneficial to driving, the media still frames it as a cycling only project.

  2. That share of the road space is growing for walkers along the Seaside Greenway on Point Grey Road. We are going in the right direction at least, if not quickly enough.
    I don’t think the City has put plans out for Commercial Drive yet. The drawings I have seen are from Streets for Everyone, who are promoting complete streets that meet the needs of all users. That means improved walking, sitting, etc, not just bike lanes.

    1. if you look at most downtown streets most of the time, there are more people squeezed onto narrow cluttered sidewalks then there are in motor vehicles on the wide swath of road. Many downtown roads are amazingly empty much of the day and not even that congested during the rush hours.
      Yet there has been no moves to widen sidewalks into road spaces. They seem to be relying on the century-long project of clawing back property frontages to widen sidewalks.
      Look at how long it has taken and how controversial it is to close one (1!) block of Robson.
      Pedestrians first has been in name only.

    2. When homeowners purchased properties on Point Grey Road prior to 2013, they purchased all that went with the commuter arterial; little did they know that it would turn into a local, residential road and bike route. For those who bought on Point Grey Road after the Vote in 2013, they purchased the property, lifestyle, existing landscaping, existing road and sidewalk space of a normalized local, residential road; little did they know that it would be turned into a Stanley Park seawall in 2016-2017. Indeed, they were told by their City specifically that this would NOT happen. For homeowners who have lived on the road through all those changes to one 9-block road, compensation is now due for all the hardships and misrepresentation by the same City Council that authorized the radical transformations of one road at the exclusion of all others. Taxpayers beware.

    3. Any purchaser after July 2013 should have been aware of the plans for the road.
      A portion of the motion that Council passed:
      THAT Council approve a two-phase implementation plan for the completion of the Seaside Greenway and creation of the York Bikeway as described in the Administrative Report dated July 16, 2013, entitled “Active Transportation Corridor: Seaside Greenway Completion and York Bikeway (Phase 1 of Point Grey-Cornwall Active Transportation Corridor)”:
      i. Phase 1, consisting of most of the walking and cycling corridor improvements from Jericho Beach Park to the Burrard Bridge, be constructed in 2013 and 2014, with incremental traffic-calming and traffic-reduction measures;
      ii. Phase 2, consisting of sidewalk widening on the north side of Point Grey Road between Alma and Macdonald Streets, final lighting upgrades, pedestrian amenities, and additional traffic calming as needed, be constructed as part of the 2015-2017 Capital Plan in coordination with utility construction.
      If purchasers thought they were purchasing existing landscaping that was situated on public property, then they need better real estate advice.
      So now it is about compensation? What happened to safety?

      1. Jeff,
        Phase 2 does NOT state ANYTHING about HOW WIDE the sidewalk on the Northside was going to be or that there would be use of the existing setbacks or that the road would be narrowed by 12-15 feet. Indeed, Jeffy Dobrovolny (City Engineer for the project) stated unequivocally in 2013 that “NO” the City would NOT be taking back the setbacks and would NOT be tearing out any landscaping or infrastructure because it would be too “DRAMMATIC,” “TOO EXPENSIVE” and too “CHALLENGING” to try to solve the safety problems of the “STEEP GRADE DRIVEWAYS” that would involve reconfiguring the “DRAINAGE” and “MOVEMENT OF UTILITIES,” as well as “THE VECTOR DEFLECTIONS” of the roadway (video stream, city council, July 25, 2013, Vancouver.ca). Councillor Heather Deal confirmed this FACT of no takeback of the right of way in her July 29, 2013 interview (Global TV) when she said that it was “TOO EXPENSIVE” because of the adjustments needed “FOR THE CURVATURE OF THE ROAD” and the difficulties involved in “NEGOTIATING WITH INDIVIDUAL HOMEOWNERS” regarding driveways, “INFRASTRUCTURE” changes and safety concerns.
        Fact: homeowners bought property on the basis of City-drawn plans that show parking spaces allotted in the right of way. Why would the City show parking as part of the property if it was not part of the property? Now, in 2016, the City wants to ignore its own renderings. The City is going to have to do some fancy dancing to wiggle their way out of that FACT.

      2. There is going to have to have to be a lot of compensation now and in the never-ending future due to the safety hazards that Phase 2 will create.

      3. FACT: There are 2,500 km of roads in Vancouver. The mild breeze occurring on that little snippet of PGR is just not on everyone’s radar.

  3. Agree that the City needs to do more.
    It is instructive to look at the opposition. Three years of consultation and work on expanding sidewalks along our newest greenway (Seaside), with all of the latest push back simply about the improvements for walking. Posters are suggesting that the sidewalks are fine, since two people can pass each other. No thought to encouraging walking, or that maybe two people would be walking together, or that some people use strollers or walkers, or that some are challenged by the uneven pavement. No thought to the fact that this route connects our beaches and seawalls, just that it is a residential street and more people are not to be here.
    The next battle will be the Arbutus Greenway.
    But we do need much more improvement downtown, and throughout the City.
    Some may find the upcoming Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference in Vancouver to be of interest, if they want to advocate for these types of improvements.

        1. Once the cost of construction followed by the lawsuits and personal injury cases stack up, you’ll wonder why you didn’t “fuss” enough.

  4. An organizer of the original petitions to close Point Grey Road to arterial through traffic says that it is “not a greenway”
    Seems like revisionist history
    Point Grey Road was designated as part of the Seaside Greenway in 2013. See the Council minutes.

  5. Jeff,
    How something is designed has nothing to do with what it actually IS. Calling it a “greenway” does not make it one, in FACT.

  6. Jeff,
    As you well know, residents organized and signed petitions to close Point Grey Road at Macdonald for traffic-calming SAFETY (to remove 10,000+ speeding commuter motorists off the road), not to make it a greenway. Look at the Petitions from 2013, 2015 and 2016. There is no resident support for a greenway; resident support for SAFETY just happened to coincide with the Vision Council’s desire to install a bike route and extend the seaside greenway (despite Point Grey Road not being “seaside.”) FACT.

  7. Pretty please keep your conversation about that one small section of that one small road in that one city to the several threads dedicated to it?
    Also, Susan, capitalizing words does not make what you’re saying more relevant, accurate, true or important. It just makes you seem desperate and ranty.

    1. That seems a very reasonable request. There is a thread going with Peter Ladner’s comments, and another starting off with elephants. I will use those two. This one should be about walking.

  8. Petition 2013: “The City of Vancouver has agreed as part of its Transportation 20140 Plan to begin traffic safety improvements for the Point Grey Road – Cornwall Corridor this coming Fall. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the plan this summer. Option (2a): Point Grey Road would be redesigned from a Secondary Arterial to a Local Street with car traffic diversions a Macdonald Street and Blenheim Street. These diversions would be extensions of the current park spaces across Point Grey Road. Pedestrian and cyclist traffic would not be diverted. Existing parking would remain on the South side of Point Grey Road. There would be a significant reduction of car traffic on Point Grey Road to local users only, and without the through traffic, car speeds would be substantially reduced. If you are in support of Option (2a) — Making Point Grey Road a Local Street — please show your support be signing below.”

  9. Post

    Ed: I’d like to suggest that this discussion is veering off topic for this post on walking. I would prefer that discussions on Point Grey Road Phase 2 be confined to a more appropriate post.

  10. A city is a complex object. To get around many modes are available and all have to be accommodated in some form: trucks, buses, bikes, strollers, roller blades, feet, Segways, mopeds, scooters, motorbikes .. and cars.
    The trick is to strike a proper balance. Not every road needs to have the same emphasis. Some need more car, truck or bus emphasis, others more bike emphasis and yet others mainly pedestrians.
    The (North-American) notion that you have to drive within 10m of your house or shopping destination is ridiculous. That is where we have to start. Europe’s dense townhouse complexes, for example, do not have the garage at the townhouse, but perhaps 50-200 m away in a clustered garage complex, to save space. That design, for example, is not at all common in Canada to my knowledge.
    Ditto with shopping. Why is Robson Street, for example, not one linear park / pedestrian zone with parking a block or 3 away ?
    If we start with that we can redesign existing transit corridors for all modes.
    In addition, every transportation corridor has THREE levels: surface, below and above. We tend to use only surface, which is a shame in expensive areas like Vancouver. We need more capacity below (read subways or tunnels) or above (read quiet gondolas or s.th. like this new http://www.skytran.com ). For example, S-Granville from about 6th to 16th Ave could be a premier shopping and pedestrian zone if we put the 4-6 lane through-traffic below ground, like they did in Düsseldorf, Germany 20+ years ago with the Rhine promenade. Google Düsseldorf Rhinepromende tunnel or click here http://www.publicspace.org/en/works/w013-rheinufer-promenade

  11. Nobody is “losing their front yard”. Some incredibly rich people who have appropriated city property as their own will lose some of the space currently used to park cars and grow plants that block the view of drivers attempting to move said cars. The space will instead be used for a broad public sidewalk and green buffer between that sidewalk and the roadway. As a result walking in the area will be more pleasant and safer.
    Sure sounds like a good thing to me.

    1. David,
      Use of the right-of-way by residents is pervasive City-wide. “Some incredibly rich people” on Point Grey Road is irrelevant to the issue.

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