June 20, 2020

Virus Pastorale Before the Return of the Cars

Friday, June 9th – just up from the Rowing Club on Park Drive.  Mid-afternoon.

This was what it was like, and won’t be anymore.  That’s okay, everything is changing in these times.

No matter how it turns out, the Spring of the Virus will be remembered as a mix of bliss and dread.  Understandably there’s a desire to return to normality – but at what price and how much of the bliss?

Like this:


On the afternoon of June 19th, the cars return, blinkers flashing, as they start to mix with cyclists who variously occupy the asphalt from curb to curb. The parking lots are not yet open.

Here’s a video a moment in the transition: Park Drive at Lumberman’s Arch – June 19th

The signs are up:

Cars rarely drive at 15 km.  Nor do a lot of cyclists when they’re pacing themselves around Park Drive.  Both want to go faster.  Cars like driving at 30 K or more.  Cyclists like a comfortable speed from 15 to 20 K, and more when racing.

Will the expected speed for cars stay at 15, when it probably won’t be for cyclists?   Will the Park Board have to enforce a differential speed limit for users on either side of the barrier?

By the end of June, there will be a new sensibility on Park Drive as the bikes all move over into one lane and the vehicles another – each with less space than they’re used to.  Meanwhile, down on the seawall, the same questions arise: accessibility for whom, and how?

I hope we’ll still see moments like this – a short video of Park Drive at Lumberman’s Arch, as a diverse group of road users wheel by.  Diverse not in ethnicity but in the various ways they wheel.









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  1. I rode the Park and Lagoon Drive loop last Tuesday between 7 and 8pm, and was surprised by the large number and range of cyclists that I saw the whole way round; there was quite a crowd taking a break at Prospect Point, fewer at the Teahouse and Third Beach. A couple times both lanes were being used to accomplish passing, with up to five cyclists side by side. I don’t have a video camera but I found a couple videos on YouTube; both show a few less people than I saw, the first one covers the full loop (from the Lions Gate) plus a detour to English bay, shot on a Wednesay in May “Cycling Around Stanley Park Under Covid Lockdown” at https://youtu.be/U9SjGuQTYmI . The second one, on a Thursday in June ends at Prospect Point https://youtu.be/tQrZd-j98UU .

  2. I rode a few laps tonight. Most of the cones are placed 1-3 feet into the bike lane, giving the cars lots of room but squeezing the bikes into less than a lane. Passing or getting passed if riding single file is marginally safe, but the scenes from the last few months where friends and families could ride side by side is unfortunately over.

  3. I rode Stanley Park today and after reading all this turmoil online about it, it was so nice to see so many people who didn’t seem to even know that this was controversial. All they seemed to know was that it was good and they love it.
    It’ll be interesting to see how this evolves, not just the temporary (which could be a year) COVID purposes but also how the things tried out in this time influence future permanent designs.

  4. I rode Park Drive late this afternoon and being a so-so day I was surprised how many people were out. My first impression was one lane isn’t anywhere near enough for cyclists. It was the norm that faster riders had to get in the ‘car’ (not yet available to them) lanes. What happens when there are cars there?

    So let’s see how crowded the car lane(s) get. If really busy all the time I’m willing to talk about splitting the difference. But if opening the road to more cars has a negative impact on the number of cyclists I think we, as a society, have to keep in mind all the societal benefits of cycling in a way that has been too limited by legitimate discussion of universal access. UA is fundamental to a caring society but it can’t, and shouldn’t, guarantee unfettered access to all all the time. Not more than anybody has fair access.

    For the record, I believe everybody in the region should have reasonably easy access to this great park. I can’t support that reasonable access being defined as an expectation of easy car access.

    It’s easy to proclaim that granny or somebody with limited mobility can’t get to such and such a place. But 9/10(?) of the same people would be horrified at building roads through Siwash Rock or Beaver Lake. So they understand that there are differences. We draw lines in different places. I’d like to draw them in better places.

    On a deeper level I don’t think the people of the West End (for example) are more entitled to Stanley Park than somebody from Uzbekistan or Guam. It’s all about the reasonable means of access in context. Nobody on this blog can take credit for Stanley Park. What makes somebody from Vancouver, Surrey or Moose Jaw more entitled to driving the park at the expense of its nature that is degraded by that activity than anybody else who does the same? No matter where they’re from.

    1. I don’t see an issue with faster people riding bikes using the vehicle (left) lane if the right lane is congested. Not to purposely hold up vehicles, but simply to be safer by spreading out the people riding.

      I don’t expect people driving are necessarily going to like this, however.

      It is going to be interesting to see the numbers of users of all modes over the coming months.

      1. Part of my thinking is strategizing for the longer term. it’s easy to cross cones. If this evolves to a permanent configuration there needs to be consideration for the cross-over. A continuous curb (for example) might be cleaner but also more limiting. But cones can’t be a long term solution. What else?

      2. If there is a poured curb then there can be some more separation than just the curb, such as a narrow median.

        Concrete sections (gravity barriers) were not successful on SW Marine, they were continually pushed by vehicles creating a narrowed bike lane and maintenance costs to put them back. There were also crashes from vehicles riding up them.

        What has worked well is the design of plastic pylons used on the Cambie Bridge, which have a base attached to the pavement. They can be more or less close together, from almost continuous to spaced out; they have worked better than the ones on a spring which get knocked down and then have to be replaced. And there can be spacing for crossing over.

  5. Oh, to have an endless pot of money to redo the whole thing – seawall, ring road and highway 99 through the park.
    Large parts are beautiful and functional but big chunks have been hobbled together in a ‘it’ll have to do/it’s all we can afford for now’ fashion.

  6. I ride my bike around Stanley Park several times a week, but I’m not sure that this is a hill to die on. I suspect that the high numbers of cyclists on Park Drive is a result not of the lack of cars but of the closure of the seawall to bikes. Park Drive is a big hill and most of the punters avoid the hill. As for me, I’m a seawall person for most of the year and a Park Drive rider in the summer when I’m feeling fitter and the seawall is extremely congested.

    Actually, I’ve never noticed a problem with cars on the drive. They may not drive as slowly as they are supposed to, but they are the still the sweetest drivers in all of metro Vancouver. The fastest users of the road of the very fit cyclists using the hill as a workout, but they don’t cause me any trouble either. I realize that I am an experienced cyclist, it’s my primary mode, so I’m more comfortable with cars, but there are way worse areas in the city that keep newbie cyclists off their bikes.

    When the seawall is opened to bikes again, whenever that may be, most of the cyclists using the road are going to return to the gloriously flat seawall. With or without cars on the drive.

    It seems to me that a reasonable rebuilding of the road would include one car lane and one bike lane, maybe with the bike lane on the left or with the bike lane on the right and the parking on the left. Also important is that the road be rebuilt into a proper park drive. It should look good and add to the appreciation of the park. There is an old photo of the Lions Gate Bridge that shows the art deco touches even extended to the curb cuts:


    These have been obliterated along with many other of the details that previously adorned the drive. The entrance to the park also used to display a civic art which has also been neglected:


    There are plenty of bike route improvements that are worth fighting for. South Granville is plagued by a big hill, but also heavy traffic, on-street parking and busy parallel streets. That area would hugely benefit from a separated bike lane. A route along the harbourfront along the CPR tracks or Powell from Brighton Park to Canada Place is another obvious improvement that would attract both recreational cyclists and commuters as well. Commercial Drive up to the diversion to Victoria Drive would open that important shopping street to cyclists and also connect it better to the Skytrain bike route that currently has a steep and awkward section through Trout Lake Park. And, let me dream here, a route across the False Creek Flats and through the Grandview Cut to the Millennium Line bike trail would avoid the steep hill at Clark Drive and some awkward road crossings too. That would be a hugely popular bike route and really open up the Renfrew Rupert area to downtown cycle traffic. If there is political capital to be spent, these seem like the places to spend them.

    1. “If there is political capital to be spent, these seem like the places to spend them.”

      Different political capital though. This is really a battle with (some of) the parks board, not so much the city. Though we’ll see how much appetite will there be in the coming years. In general under Stuart it seems the leadership has been missing from city hall on a wide range of topics.

  7. OK to close one lane for cars and allow (fast) bikes only for Park Drive loop. But the seawall is flat, far more scenic and also ought to open for bikes, or ought to be widened.

    The hill is quite long and steep and has no view. It’s a band-aide.

    1. This is about inclusion. The separated lane around Park Drive isn’t just for people cycling quickly, it is for all people cycling. If some people on training rides want to ride more quickly, moving with traffic, they are able to use the vehicle lane, it isn’t exclusive. It is easy to cross over and back to overtake leisure cyclists.

      The seawall took 63 years to complete. It isn’t going to be widened any time soon, especially along the challenging sections around Siwash Rock, partly due to the cost and partly due to the environmental impact.

      The seawall path is planned to be reopened to people on bikes when we get through the current physical distancing issues. This is a temporary traffic management plan, nothing more. It will allow us to learn how the road loop works, and what would need to be improved for it to remain.

      There is an obvious way to bypass the hill to Prospect Point. Pipeline Road is the cutoff, with much less elevation gain, and it was identified in the Stanley Park Cycle plan as a preferred alternate return route in 2012. Putting a separated bike lane on it would be very straightforward, and would have no impact on motor vehicle access, as two lanes could remain. Those who wanted a longer ride could do two laps of the short loop. And even when the seawall path is reopened to people on bikes, a return route will reduce congestion on the path on the west side (near Siwash Rock).

      1. A long windy hill is about inclusion?

        Kids on a training bike on a long hill? Hardly.

        Are ebikes formally allowed now in Stanley Park, btw? Or merely tolerated?

        1. They’d be allowed on the road.

          I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many casual riders, including young children, have been out there to tackle the route including the big hill. I’d guess about 5 to 10% walk at least part of it. So? That’s how you get better.

          We’ve grown up in a society that is so coddled and convenient, so lacking in physical activity that five to ten minutes of slightly elevated physical effort is something to be questioned? It is getting better. But go to Europe and see the 4 to 85s riding like it’s just a normal thing to do.

        2. The Park Board doesn’t permit electric assist bikes on park bike paths, so not sure how they will treat the temporary bike lane. An electric assist bike would definitely be permitted on the vehicle side of the divided Park Drive.

          A throttled ebike (no pedaling required) is not legal. It may or may not be tolerated.

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