July 17, 2020

Astroturfing in the West End

This has all the marks of astroturfing*.  Seen in the West End on Bute at Harwood.

There has to be a backstory here.  Who’s behind it, what is their goal?  (It’s not just about bike lanes.)

For those who think the Beach Avenue Flow Way is too popular and too necessary, that we can’t go back to “just the way it was”, prepare for a fight.


*Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.



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  1. It would help their cause if they had a change.org petition address on the sign so we could all see the level of local support for this issue. De-astroturfing the position, if you will.

  2. Clearly the motorists who printed this are oblivious to the fact that bikes allow those of us without cars maintain social distancing by avoiding transit.

  3. Hmmm . . what group hates bikes, is non-stop pushing autos and has money for such signs?

    Oh yeah, and little compunction about using bogus arguements (“give us back our safety”). And demanding referenda.

    Beats me.

  4. The fact that portions of the seawall are closed to bikes allows more space for pedestrians and runners, which allows us to easily and safely social distance from each other. Closing Beach would make it nearly impossible to socially distance. But, hey why let facts get in the way.

  5. Sticking orange cones down the middle of a street is not a great permanent urban design solution. There are better ways to consider people’s mobility choices and needs, while creating a great place. It’s called urban design. It takes time, money, and talent, but also the willingness to engage all points of view, which is important as we all have our confirmation biases and are in need of peer review. Engaging all points of view leads to the best solutions. Outrage culture, conspiracy theories, and ‘preparing for fights’ does not. It only creates animosity between people.

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      Have you seen the bikeway on Richards? Looks like good urban design – the result of a half century (since the 1970s) of evolution. Fights occurred along the way. In fact, almost every significant jump – Hornby, Burrard, Point Grey – did not evolve just as a result of engagement – unless by engagement you mean the kind of culture-war disputes that are occurring again today. The signs are up.

      1. No, I wouldn’t call the kind-of culture wars disputes that are occurring today ‘engagement’. They’re the result of people not willing to engage all points of view and of not challenging their own confirmation biases. So the signs go up or the hats go on.

        It’s a nice bikeway, but a bikeway on its own is not urban design; it’s bikeway design. Urban design is about everything; streets, open spaces, built-form, workplaces, living places, retail, modal types, and how that all comes together to ensure socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable places. There are a lot of moving parts and many, many talented people and opinions are needed to come up with the best solutions.

        Some of the best urban design I’ve seen has been the result of design charrettes that successfully engaged stake-holders and professionals with a wide variety of concerns, interests, and skill-sets.

        And they were a lot more fun than a half a century of evolution and fights. ; )

    2. I don’t think any transportation design engineer or planner has proposed orange plastic cones as a permanent urban design solution. The lane reallocations are termed temporary by the City. The choice of orange cones had to do with the speed of deployment, the re-usability of the cones, and the ability to adjust on the fly, to fine tune the design. After the summer, when consideration is given to whether there should be more permanent lane reallocations as part of the West End Beaches transportation and access study, plastic pylons mounted on a base strip (as are used in several places around the city, including parts of the Cambie Bridge bike lane southbound) would be an option. They wouldn’t need to be re-positioned each night from drivers hitting them. They don’t take up as much room. They allow emergency vehicle access. And, aesthetically, they are an improvement. But in the meantime, the Beach Avenue lane is getting very high use, and we are collecting valuable data on how people use it. Too often, designs are built in a vacuum, and we have to trust that if we build it, they will come (although they usually do, for bike lanes in Vancouver). So having usage numbers is very valuable. It informs that discussion later on.

  6. I don’t see the protected bike lane on Beach being taken out soon.

    The real question local residents should be prepared to answer, when it comes to public consultation for the upcoming West End Beaches transportation and access plan, is whether they prefer bidirectional vehicle traffic on Beach, and street parking eliminated, or whether they prefer one way vehicle traffic, with curb side parking retained. That is called giving residents a say.

    Just wondering whether the horse drawn carriage will expand its route to include Beach.

  7. These signs remind me of the one the property owners put up along Point Grey road whining about the city enforcing the property line and removing their “privacy trees and brushes”.

    Though in this case I doubt very much it’s the locals.

  8. Astorturfing? Sort of like when hundreds of developer-backed YIMBYs send in form letters supporting spot rezoning?

  9. Since the late 90’s, three times City Council has endorsed the reallocation of lanes from private motor vehicles to space for people to enjoy a walk, cycling infrastructure and public transit – the late 90’s the City-wide Transportation Plan, a few years later the Downtown Transportation Plan and a few years ago Transportation 2040.

    Many times as a planner at an Open House or personally at a social gathering, I encountered angry arguments about bike lanes and sometimes even about a wider sidewalk from someone who’s thinking was centred on their experience behind the steering wheel of a car or truck. So the best I could do aside from sharing a list of rationales, was notice lane reallocation reflected several decades of public policy approved by three different civic parties (NPA, COPE/Vision and Vision).

    Yesterday, one of my friends who owns a car (I only have two friends who own a car) drove us around the Park Road and the majority of people on the road were riding bicycles – that was easy to observe. At the same time we live in a world where people’s assumptions about the primacy of the private vehicle are fed by car ads, TV shows and movies and friendship and family circles. The debate continues and I prefer living in a city where we have a debate, not just a resounding ‘of course.’ Having said that, I don’t see lane reallocation shifting to favour cars. The Covid pandemic has resulted in more reallocations.

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      Helpful perspective, Michael. I had forgotten how many times Councils have reiterated the same position.

      How was the vehicle traffic flow on your ride around SP. And what was the reaction of your drive friend?

  10. Thanks Gord…it was a busy late Saturday afternoon so not a typical day I guess on the Park Road. We did have slow pace in my friend’s car after the Aquarium parking lot until Brockton Point as we had the horses and carriage ahead of us. But it was a wonderful location to be ‘slow’ as we could take in the Coal Harbour view and continue our visit and chat. The horses stopped just before the Point and let us pass. There are a number of areas for cars to pass one another or the horses.

    I also noticed that there were so many people riding their bicycles in some locations the waterside lane of Park Road did not seem wide enough for them all. The plaza in front of the Ice Cream place above the Lion’s Gate Bridge was awash with bicycles and many many people of all ages enjoying their ice creams.