April 23, 2020

Park Commissioner John Irwin: Committed to keeping a flow way on Beach

On Wednesday afternoon, I had a fun and enjoyable conversation with John Irwin, the COPE member of the Park Board.  I’ve known John since I was an NPA councillor and he was, sometimes, a sparring partner (though we agreed on cycling).  The fun when debating with John is, between him and me, who gets to finish their thoughts before being overtaken by the other.

John is on the ever-well-meaning Left – a COPE guy of long standing.  In elected office, his is the politics of conversation, consultation and collaboration – a strategy of re-action, always hoping for togetherness.  Great when it works.  Puts action off when it doesn’t.

Exhibit A: Providing for mobility in Kitsilano and Hadden Parks.

But this is the time of the virus – a moment when the previously un-doable gets done very quickly.  Exhibit B: the Beach Avenue flow way.

The necessity for change in Kits and Hadden Parks is inarguable: It’s unsafe because different users don’t have space to share, and they can’t social distance without it.  So each pisses the other off.

What, John, I asked, can be done this month to provide enough space for all the different users to walk, run and cycle while respecting each other?   While the Park Board has placed ‘champions for social distancing’ along the seawall and in parks, it hasn’t provided the space to do it properly.

Except along on Park Drive and Beach Avenue.  The Park Board, I’m told, took the initiative to both close Stanley Park to most vehicles and to provide connected space on Beach.  When I got a ‘process’ answer on the problem in Kitsilano (“We need to work with the City …” blah, blah), I pressed him on Beach: Will you turn it all back to the way it was before the virus?  Will the Beach flow way disappear and cyclists return to the seawall, in some cases jammed together like they are in Kits Park?

Finally, John was unequivocal:

“I will oppose, I will fight to prevent the removal of the lanes on Beach Avenue.”

After a summer or more of use, I doubt John will be alone in a fight to retain the flow way in some form.  My guess is that most Vancouverites, having accustomed themselves to a pleasant walking and cycling experience along Seaside (and hopefully other greenways in the city), will be supportive, even demanding, of this street-use reallocation.  Even on Kits Point.


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  1. Nothing like a little more confusion to add to the fun: the Parks people in the photograph are demonstrating 6 foot or 2 metre social distancing by standing about 12 feet or 3.6 metres apart. Now what?

  2. This Bloomberg article suggests that the last thign we should be doing is removign road space:

    …..The auto industry is already seeing a couple of positive signs in this regard. In the first two weeks of April, Cars.com’s unique visitors bounced back from late-March doldrums. According to a recent survey by the vehicle-shopping website, 20% of people searching for a car said they don’t own one and had been using public transit or ride hailing. They might buy a set of wheels to be safer from a pandemic that could linger well into the year, Cars.com Chief Executive Officer Alex Vetter said.

    “Covid has pushed more people who don’t own a car to consider purchasing one,” Vetter said by phone. “The primary reason given was to avoid public transit and because of a lack of trust in ride sharing.”…

  3. I rode Point Grey Road and the bike route from Alma to Burrard Marina Tuesday around 1100. No cars moving on the roads I used in Kits Point. It would be great to see Arbutus north of Cornwall and the streets along the north border of the park closed to all but local traffic and electric vehicles going to the charging station. How about it Councillors?

    This would help keep the number of people in the park under control to make physical distancing easy.

    Do your part for Kits Park.

  4. But the real main reason is bored people sitting at home with nothing to do – checking out online everything. This too will pass.

    Read the article. If you do you will see there is an abundance of wishful thinking and not a single increase in car sales to be had.

    No doubt there are those who can currently pick up a cheap used car and commute with cheap gas on empty highways because so few others are doing the same. The latter is the trend, not the former. As we climb out of the inevitable recession, inasmuch as things might return to some sort of “normal”, the trends toward urbanization, higher density mixed-use and a broader understanding of the looming catastrophe of climate change, among many other things, will dominate the trend that was already occurring – a reduction in VKT and less need to own one’s own car. Cheap debt had funded housing speculation and car ownership even when it made less and less sense.

    As we recover from enormous debt and a struggling economy, wasteful and inefficient lifestyles don’t seem a likely future trend. And if you think otherwise, Bob, lay your bets on the fossil and automotive industries and step back and prove me wrong. Put your money down.

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