October 5, 2019

Safe Cars, safe bike routes and why the Parks Board doesn’t care


Dean A recommended this piece in the New York Times:

Among the safety measures proposed by car companies are encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists to use R.F.I.D. tags, which emit signals that cars can detect. This means it’s becoming the pedestrian’s responsibility to avoid getting hit. But if keeping people safe means putting the responsibility on them (or worse, criminalizing walking and biking), we need to think twice about the technology we’re developing. …


Peter Ladner was motivated to write this response with respect to our bike routes:

Got me thinking about son Brendan’s observation that our bike route rating system is bogus: widely-varying standards qualify as AAA, misleading those unfamiliar with the routes, misleading people looking at our city into believing we have a significant level of safe, separated routes. We actually don’t. Is there any other level? A-minus, B, D for still dangerous etc.?

How many parents would happily take their 4-year-old on all our so-called AAA routes?

And what’s with Google maps not knowing where the bike routes are when I ask for directions from Tinseltown to Lost Lagoon and punch the bike icon? It directs me to Hastings St., unsafe for riding.

Google Maps was aware of all the safe bike routes on a recent trip in Madrid, Vienna and Budapest.

Wazzup, Green Vancouver??! Or do our shared streets not qualify as “bike routes” by Google’s standards?


And that reminded me of this:


You may remember the post above, addressed to the Parks Board, regarding the misleading marking of the Seaside route through Kits and Jericho Parks as AAA.

I asked each Parks Board Commissioner a straight-forward question:

Should the AAA bike routes marked on the official City map above be removed?

I got only one response – from COPE Commissioner John Irwin:

 … I raised the possibility of a motion highlighting ‘through’ the parks policy as many of us do love to ride through parks recreationally (we do this very often with our kids). In response staff met with HUB representatives who now feel comfortable that things have improved on this front. As a result I have postponed a motion, but I would still be willing to put one on notice if things revert back to ‘to, not through’.

We’ll know more when staff brings VanPlay forward this fall/winter.

John didn’t answer directly whether he would remove the AAA status of the current route.  I would guess he, like the other commissioners, doesn’t want to say he would accept a less-than-inclusive bike-path standard for parks, but he probably doesn’t want to acknowledge the need to upgrade and design new routes to connect with the city-wide network that serves the need for safe transportation.

I heard an explanation for both Parks and City Council disinterest from a city-hall observer: “The Mayor’s office thinks bike routes are so associated with the discredited Vision Council that they don’t want to be seen as having cycling as a priority.”

So, like the Parks Board, they will avoid spending political capital to be supportive, and hope the issue can be massaged with the minimum commitment possible.

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  1. I got replies from two of them, for whatever reason.

    From Stuart Maackinnon:
    Thank you for your email. I have asked our senior management to bring forward the Kits park cycle plan as soon as possible. As I understand it, we are awaiting CoV Engineering’s report.

    From John Ir
    Hi Ian,

    I am hopeful that we can divide the Kits bike path process into two sections. One that deals with the part of the route that is solely on Park Board land (from Balsam Street to Arbutus Street) with an exit onto Arbutus where the most southerly exit from the parking lot is. This would enable us to deal with the much needed improvements you and others are raising, as this area is within the Board’s jurisdiction.

    The remaining section (north to Vanier Park) would be planned and improved by engineering with Parks Board collaboration.

    What do you all think about this idea?

    John Irwin Vancouver Park Board Commissioner

    1. (My original email)
      I’m writing to request that the Park Board change its apparently defacto policy of non-existent bike accommodation in parks. The recent painted bike markers running through the parking lot at Kits Beach are just the latest in a long line of examples of the Park Board specifically excluding bikes from parks. The non-alignment of the bike route from Point Grey Road to the park at Jericho is another glaring example, but there are of course more.

      For Kits beach, there are numerous maps showing the park as part of a AAA grade bike network, when in fact, it is not, and this latest example of expecting kids and parents to bike to the beach entirely in the blind spot of parked cars is totally unsafe.

      Especially with so many people driving large trucks, any child or adult is essentially invisible to someone in a car, and this completely defies logic to have even considered that having a bike route through the parking lot is a reasonable solution.

      There are so many ways the park could be made accessible to all. Lets please choose one of those, instead of specifically choosing ways to continue to make the parks inaccessible.

      Especially also with concerns for the environment, how is having a huge swathe of space devoted to car access reasonable? The greenest park is not the one with a parking lot on it.


    2. Stuart references awaiting a CoV engineering report. The motion that was in front of the Park Board commissioners last was to permit Park Board staff to work together with CoV engineering staff, to develop a design that would be brought back to Park Board commissioners for their review, together with a budget. Commissioners at the time voted not to pass that motion, they referred it back to Park Board staff. They couldn’t refer it to City staff, so it is still with PB staff.

      John refers to dividing the path into two sections. It is more than that. The first section could be along Cornwall, as mentioned, at least to Yew. That is likely the least contentious. The next section goes around the parking lot instead of through it, so either along Cornwall (as John mentions) to Arbutus, or over to the life guard station and washrooms, then down the lane to Arbutus. Going along Cornwall takes away more green space and would cost more (the other route is already paved). Also, going to Arbutus along Cornwall means passing across three busy parking lot entrances, and squeezing past the pump station. The third section could be along Arbutus, what John calls the second section. There is an opportunity there to explore using a portion of the road allowance. That gets us to McNicoll. The fourth section goes from that corner, to Ogden. Park Board staff recommended going through the park, not on the street, as did stakeholders invited to comment on the last staff report. The fifth section runs along Ogden, and is again an opportunity to explore using a portion of the road allowance. So there are two sections (Ogden and Arbutus) that could be led by engineering, and three sections that are more appropriately within Park Board jurisdiction. It requires a collaborative approach. Exactly what the commissioners decided not to vote on during the last go round.

  2. From the article: “I heard an explanation for both Parks and City Council disinterest from a city-hall observer: “The Mayor’s office thinks bike routes are so associated with the discredited Vision Council that they don’t want to be seen as having cycling as a priority.”
    So, like the Parks Board, they will avoid spending political capital to be supportive, and hope the issue can be massaged with the minimum commitment possible.”

    I have met with elected officials from each of the parties, and with mayor’s office staff, in the course of advocating for improvements for walking and cycling. I haven’t noticed a party alignment to support (or opposition) for active transportation infrastructure. The characteristic that stands out to me is that IMO there is interest in being seen to be different than the previous council, but this applies to all areas, not just active transportation.

    When we wrote to all newly elected council members, with congratulations and a request for a meeting, the first response back was from an NPA councillor. That didn’t use to happen. What we have is a less homogeneous council.

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