If you ever want to raise a Vancouverite’s ire, just say that you are going to impede seniors and stop them from driving or from being driven around Stanley Park. Last week Gordon Price wrote this article on “The Latest NPA Strategy” which appears to directly pit active transportation on Stanley Park roads against the right to motor around it. Mix in the word “seniors” and everyone had a Grandparent story about why Grandma needed a car in Stanley Park.
Lots more comment immediately came out of the woodwork after the rather unfortunate remarks of a park commissioner who sadly saw the greatest gift to seniors for the upcoming “BC Seniors Week” as the old style 20th century access to complete “open vehicular road” around the park.
Of course that sparked a whole lot of pretty fit seniors to get onto social media showing themselves biking and walking around the park.
The businesses in Stanley Park also piled on, telling the Daily Hive that the Prospect Point Cafe and restaurant and Stanley Park Pavilion relied on vehicular access. Their survey showed that 87 percent of customers to Prospect Point came by vehicle and surprise! 100 percent of special event guests used a car or a privately operated shuttle bus.
But here’s the strange part. The restaurants’ survey showed that only 33 percent of Prospect Point’s visitors were Vancouverites, with 53 percent from out of the country and 14 percent from the rest of the region. Given the fact the borders are closed, here’s the opportunity for Stanley Park businesses to retool for local trade and customers, as that’s the only dollar game in town for the foreseeable future. Studies from London show that public transit users,cyclists and pedestrians spend 40% more per month at businesses than car drivers, and visit more often.
As well no one is talking about what seniors and those with accessibility needs do in the park, where they stop, and what activities they are seeking. There’s an underlying idea that driving around the park is recreation, but it would be helpful to ask whether trail or seawall access or other factors are at play, and design for that.
At the next Park Board Commission meeting is simply a motion to conduct a feasibility study for a longer term plan to potentially reduce vehicular traffic around the park to one lane, allowing for cycling and other uses of the space. It’s a feasibility study. Commissioners need to accurately reflect to their constituents what is in their agenda package.
You can take a look at the whole motion below and also take a look at the agenda for the Park Board tonight.
The other takeaway of course is the fact that the Park Board is a remnant of a colonial past where parks warranted their own elected officials with their own exclusive staff. Think of it~there is a whole set of planners, architects, maintenance workers and staff that do no work other than within parks, report directly to Council, and have an annual budget of 136 million dollars.
The City of Vancouver’s Park Board is now the only one remaining in North America, and a study over a decade ago suggested abolishing it, and melding that work within the City of Vancouver as a whole.
That’s why you don’t see bicycle paths through parks as the Park Board can say no to such suggestions from the Engineering Department on their turf. On the upside, some see the position of Park Board commissioner as a training ground for future City Councillors.
You can take a look at the Vancouver Charter which outlines how the Park Board functions and what its mandate is. Hopefully the commissioners will understand the importance of refocusing the ability to get around the park in more of a 21st century way, in line with city policy. If you are a world class park it makes sense to encourage more space for walkers and cyclists, while still providing access for those who still rely on vehicular use.
It’s not one or the other.