June 5, 2020

The Latest NPA Strategy: Seniors versus Cyclists

No matter how many times the NPA lose elections when they include anti-cycling dog whistling, they just can’t stop themselves.  Here’s the latest from NPA Park Commissioner Tricia Barker:

It’s not hard to figure out the underlying assumptions:

  • Seniors don’t cycle.
  • Seniors are so effectively disabled, they are reliant on (and can afford) cars.
  • Seniors need to have Stanley Park returned to its car-dominant allocation of space – “For ALL TIME!”

The implications follow:

  • The interests of cyclists and seniors are opposed.
  • NPA Commissioners will justify their anti-cycling strategy as pro-senior.
  • Cyclists and walkers who reject a return to the status-quo are anti-senior.

The NPA have been successful at least in one respect: keeping any new cycling infrastructure built to the City standard out of parks. Other than those places (like the South Shore of False Creek) where the City shares jurisdiction and will design and pay for bikeway-standard improvements, there has been no other significant upgrades within parks.  As a result, the park experience has been worsening for everyone, particularly in the case of Kits and Jericho.

Here’s a Jericho Video which illustrates the lack of adequate space for walkers, cyclists and runners, squeezed together on an unpleasant surface, without separation or signage.

In the three months into the pandemic, the Park Board has done essentially one thing for cycling: limiting vehicle traffic in Stanley Park.  They have done nothing to address crowding in parks elsewhere, leaving it up to the City (thanks to NPA Councillor Lisa Dominato’s Open Streets motion) to do the heavy lifting.

But they have moved fast to open up the parking lots, and now seem determined to get Park Drive in Stanley Park returned to wide-open car use as soon as possible, presumably so that cars and bikes can fight it out for road space. Or even worse, try to squeeze the extraordinary increase in cycling back on to the seawall, making the experience worse for everyone.

But here’s the thing: no cycling advocate that I have heard has suggested that Park Drive not accommodate those with more limited mobility.  Indeed, it’s in the remarks from HUB Cycling member Jeff Leigh:

The public response to increasing active transportation routes, for walking and cycling to and through Stanley Park, has been very positive.  It would be a shame to simply go back to how it was, with drivers having two wide lanes all around the park, and people walking and cycling squeezed onto a Seawall path that is in places narrow and unsafe.

We can do better, and we at HUB Cycling support the motion before Park Board to start a conversation on transportation within Stanley Park.

This is not a call to ban motor vehicles.  Many families with children, seniors, and those with mobility challenges, need safe and comfortable access, whatever mode they choose.  

One option to consider is creating a protected cycle lane around the park, with a return route on Pipeline Road, retaining a full lane for vehicle access.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t fit the NPA strategy.  But it does seem to be the intent of the two Green and one COPE commissioners, who have moved a motion to be considered at next week’s Park Board meeting.

Exploring Options to Reduce Motor Vehicle Traffic in Stanley Park

MOVERS: Commissioners Irwin & Mackinnon
SECONDER: Commissioner Giesbrech

A. THAT Vancouver Park Board staff explore the long term feasibility of reducing motor vehicle traffic in Stanley Park, including but not restricted to, reducing roadways to single lanes while maintaining access to the park;
B. FURTHER THAT consultation include the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group, as well as park partners, stakeholders, and the community at large; and
C. THAT Park Board staff explore green transportation options, to and throughout the park, to support equitable access for all park users, including those with mobility challenges.

It’s hard to believe that the NPA Park Commissioners would not support this – after a dog-whistle or two.

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  1. Exact same thing Wai Young tried to do during the last civic election, it didn’t work. During the lead up to that election, I was stopped at an intersection, with six other cyclists. I decided to do a little experiment, “who here is over sixty”, I asked. Five of us put our hands up. Maybe we need better and safer cycling infrastructure just for all the senior cyclists?

  2. I attended an sfu seminar a few months ago about possible changes to langara golf couse, where tricia barker spoke. She stated that she was speaking on behalf of herself and not the parks board.

    She said that she was a physiotherapist, and that she worked with a lot of seniors who used the walking trail at langara golf course.

    For that reason, she was opposed to any changes that reduced the size if the golf course.

    I thought that it was a very politically canny presentation.

  3. I can’t be the only retired person to have discovered that cycling is a wonderful use of some of that extra leisure time. I bought a bike and for the first week I had a huge grin on my face every time I rode because it made me feel like I was a teenager again…

    1. Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk is over 50. Debbie Harry (lead singer of Blondie oh so long ago) is 74. Carbon dating on Keith Richards remains inconclusive.

      One stratifies by age at their own risk in modern times. It is a surefire path to irrelevance in the long run.

  4. Thanks for this Gord. We at HUB Cycling have not called for a ban on vehicles in Stanley Park, but you wouldn’t know it from some of the media headlines over the past while.

    With the joint Green and COPE motion, hopefully the NPA commissioners position to not even consider alternatives to the status quo will be out voted..

  5. Having ridden Stanley Park Drive more than ten times since the opening to active transport, I can say the age range of people enjoying this space is between 5 – 75. With a few on either side. Lots and lots of seniors, many first timers in the park of all ages and more families than I see on the seawall. It’s one of the best forms of recreation & exercise available to almost everyone, at such a low cost.

    But the drive is not totally closed to cars, even right now. On Wednesday night, a vehicle with one person inside drove up behind a group and accelerated to pass. There was no room, they actively had to avoid her. She was driving at more than double the current speed limit (I had my gps device on). Then she passed me, in the same lane, far too close and far too fast. She didn’t take the final exit for vehicles and instead drove thru a rather large group heading up the switchback — not sure how she navigated down the other side with the traffic controls. She didn’t care and nothing prevented her from doing this again.

  6. With everything happening in the world you’d think the NPA would get the message that people are sick of the style of politics that tries to divide people (Not to mention what it can lead to.)
    Guess not.

    And what of the, now quite old, Stanley Park Cycling Plan that’s collecting dust on a shelf somewhere? Could they now look at that again and finally implement some or all of the routes they agreed on (and set aside money for)?

  7. The seniors argument is unecessary. Stanley Park belongs to all Canadians, not just those within cycling distance. Re-open it now.

    1. Please explain how it belongs to all Canadians. It is a City of Vancouver park with all costs borne by Vancouver taxpayers as far as I know. We are happy to share.

      There are buses to and into the park. There are walkways and cycling paths. As social distancing requirements ease up we’d be happy to open a lane for people who have little choice but to drive until the City/Parks Board and/or TransLink get a convenient and reliable transit service throughout the park so nobody has an excuse to be so utterly car-dependent. Car access to every nook and cranny is not a human right.

      1. The land is owned by the Crown and leased by the city.

        Lord Stanley’s dedication was “To the use and enjoyment of people of all colours and creeds and customs for all time”. Not just to those within cycling distance.

        1. I don’t see a single word about cars or motorists. Everybody *is* welcome to enjoy.

          Meanwhile, so long as the city has the lease it is the city’s decision how to operate it.

    2. Post

      Pretty much the same argument:

      Most Canadian don’t cycle.
      Most Canadians are reliant on (and can afford) cars.
      Most Canadians need to have Stanley Park returned to its car-dominant allocation of space.

    3. Bob said: “Stanley Park belongs to all Canadians, not just those within cycling distance. Re-open it now.”

      It IS open. They’ve just those areas of the park where cars aren’t prohibited from perhaps 95% to closer to 100%.

    4. Great suggestion bob. I’m one of those Lycra clad speed cyclists. What I’ve noticed in Stanley park is all kinds of people who appear to be trying biking. Families, kids, old people, inexperienced riders. Let’s get cars back on the road, the Lycra folks can have the main road back. And all those pesky beginners back to the sea wall where there’s no separation from pedestrians and people have actually been seriously hurt.

  8. I remember back around 2000/2001 going to a Park Board meeting about widening the causeway.
    A few trees had to be taken down to accomplish this so to make amends the Park Board committed to removing private vehicle traffic in the park within 30 yrs (which at the time seemed like a hollow commitment).
    Only 10 yrs to go.
    My take from that statement was it applied to the ring road and not Highway 99 which would be way beyond their powers.

    1. It applied to the causeway, but the agreement between the Province, Park Board, City of Vancouver and Translink was also contingent on the Province building a new crossing for vehicles. Not likely, IMO.

      The widening of the Causeway as part of that agreement did not include any provisions for cycling, so MOTI had to go back years later and do another project to improve walking and cycling.

      1. Well that’s too bad.
        I did finally find some Park Board meeting minutes from Jan 31 2000 and they do back up what you say.
        My memory is of a councillor stating near the end of the meeting that they would endeavor to remove traffic from Stanley Park within 30 yrs.
        The way she stated it at that time gave me a different impression.
        Either I heard it wrong or she was just tired of hearing everybody complain about the widening and gave a quick version 🙂

  9. The ebike revolution will blow their minds when seniors on bikes for fun ask why there’s no safe place for them…

    1. It isn’t just about safe spaces for e bikes. In Vancouver parks e bikes are specifically banned from all bike paths. Electric assist bikes (not electric motorcycles) should be permitted, for seniors and anyone else who can ride more with an assist.

    2. It is indeed astounding how few people use e-bikes in Vancouver. Are they still not allowed on seawall (although widely ignored incl yours truly) ?

      Surely the park ring road can accommodate bikes and cars, by painting a few lines. If you want to go slow, use the seawall. if you want to go fast, use the ring road.

      1. Ebikes are permitted on the portions of the Seawall bike path not passing through a park.

        Painting a few lines on Park Drive won’t cut it. To encourage people off the Seawall path it will need to be a protected lane. Less than that is replicating what was there pre pandemic, when people could mix with cars on Park Drive if they were confident.

        If we refer back to the Stanley Park cycling plan approved years ago by commissioners, what is additionally required is a return route For people on bikes.. A protected bidirectional lane could be implemented on Pipeline Road, and another on North Lagoon Drive, Those two key links would greatly improve park access, while reducing congestion on the Seawall itself.

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