April 22, 2018

Arbutus Greenway Thoughts


What it was:  an abandoned railroad

A few ideas came to me while checking out the Arbutus Greenway plans yesterday and chatting with project staff.
Click to enlarge
You can see the plans and quiz staff — see HERE — two sessions yet to come.  Deliver your opinions online too, if that suits you better.
First — there’s been a big payoff from the brilliant plan to put in a widely accessible temporary surface, with several different configurations in different places — and just let it be, while monitoring people counts, and doing on-site interviews.  All sorts of people were able to get onto the Greenway, experience it, and form rich opinions as to what it is, what it isn’t and what it could be.
Second:  the most-often-heard issue with the temporary Greenway was, apparently, that people on bikes and people on foot were too close to each other.  Or — the shared path was too narrow (take your pick). And the bark mulch path got very little use.  From my reading of the new plan, mode separation is now a metre in most places, with clear demarcation by various means such as surface treatment, planters, trees and constructed wetlands (water control / raingarden).
Third:  this plan totally blows up the perception that the Greenway will be solely a get-me-there corridor for people on foot and on bikes, with perhaps too much perceived emphasis on bikes.  Now, the Greenway clearly has major elements of destination and community facility (plazas, seating, gardens, picnic areas, public art, places to play, places to exercise).  You get the picture. Oh yes, and an observation tower.  The completed Arbutus Greenway will be an enduring attraction for tourists and for people from all over the metro Vancouver region.  And a way to travel.
Problems:  in most places, the bike lane is 3.5 metres (11.5 ft) wide, when 5m (16 ft) is preferred.  It’s a tough call, when lanes, mode separation and streetcar provisions need all to be shoehorned into a relatively narrow corridor, all the while trying to accommodate predicted volume by mode type. In other places, some pillars and some amenities like picnic tables back onto the bike lane — potential safety issues for the next round of design.
Final:  this plan is a triumph of clear vision, patient listening and thoughtful design. The old overgrown abandoned CP railroad will be turned into a genuine people-oriented jewel, making life richer and happier for all the people of Vancouver for decades to come.

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  1. I really like the concept of different themed zones (even if I cringe at the names chosen for said zones). I hope they don’t cheap out on the fixtures, which would be a totally Vancouver thing to do. Penny wise, pound foolish.

  2. Overall I like the design they came up with. I agree that the cycle path is too narrow in places.
    Some weird names there too. A perfectly straight section is called a meander. Electric Alley sends me the message that it’ll be a disco. (And which section shall we nickname “de la Crème”?)
    The observation tower is cool. The areas being different from each other is cool too. So much of the world is becoming all the same nowadays, it’s nice to have other places to go where things are different.
    The best part of all this is the process where people were brought together to hash out a plan. That was so smart. There was a time there when there were stupid online fights involving conspiracy theories and fears of pelotons and it looked like that was going to set the stage. It was nice to have people brought together to understand each other’s needs and wants and work together for something that all can share. It sounds sappy but it’s much nicer than the competitive divisive approach.

  3. I love it, but I think they should just build the final design with streetcar track space set aside right from the start. The designs before and after streetcar are radically different and there will be resistance to change when the time comes, not to mention a great deal of expensive re-construction.

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