April 29, 2021

Bike Lanes: Kits Point and the Coupar Strategy of Endless Delay

A few weeks ago, BC Cycling Coalition board member Peter Ladner got an op-ed in The Sun on that perennial bike-path irritant – Kitsilano Park.

What is it about cycling through Kits Park that triggers neighbourhood “uprisings,” talk-show vitriol, and a bully mob that scared the Park Board from making a decision in 2018? …

This westside flashpoint has somehow become a blinking red light slowing down cyclist safety in other parks. Fearful trepidation about creating a permanent bike lane through Stanley Park is just one echo of the Kits Park blockade, even as the evidence is screaming “these changes work.”

To be fair, the Vancouver Park Board is promising to build a safe cycling route through Kits Park a year from now, amid election jitters. That’s almost 10 years after earlier plans were shouted down by a group best described as the Hadden Park Defence Militia (officially the Kits Point Residents Association). Yet park board staff and elected park board officials — including the green-professing majority — are still terrified of this group, continuing to hold the city’s exploding numbers of pandemic-driven cyclists hostage to its anti-cycling demands. …

That provocative reference to the Kits Point Residents Association was guaranteed to provoke a response – and so it did.  But maybe not what was expected from a group with a notorious NIMBY reputation from years ago. They want to be on the record as ready to help ‘close the gap’:

… the Kits Point Residents’ Association (KPRA) Executive Team … share Peter Ladner’s frustration in the failure of the COV and Park Board to complete the Kits portion of the Seaside Greenway and are pleased to see the issue brought forward. …

In 2017, the Park Board worked with a group of stakeholders on a revised Seaside Greenway plan that included KPRA, HUB and other parties including the park user groups. KPRA sent the following written confirmation to the PB, “From the neighbourhood perspective we agree that a safe cycle route between Vanier Park and Balsam St to close the gap in the seaside cycle route is important and we are committed to work towards achievement of such a route immediately.” … (emphasis added).

And then KPRA nails what the problem is:

On March 6, 2018, Park Board staff, based on their deliberations with the group, tabled a conceptual alignment of a new separated cycling path through Kitsilano Beach Park …

… but before hearing from any of the parties registered to speak, the Park Commissioners referred the report back to staff to provide more detailed information on the proposed concept. To date, staff have yet to report back to the Commissioners or the public.

While there is actually a lot of goodwill to resolve this outstanding problem, resolution keeps running into a reluctance to do anything much more than promise future progress or a report back (a surefire way to put off ultimate approval and implementation.)  That way, some decision-makers (specifically NPA Commissioners Tricia Barker and now mayoral candidate John Coupar) try to avoid outright opposition to bike lanes while pursuing the ‘Fairness Finesse’ (most recent example – the Stanley Park bike lane) – a block on any improvement because it doesn’t satisfy every opponent.

Coupar more generally believes bike lanes should come to parks, not through parks – especially those that meet the standard of the City’s separated bikeway network – and he has been singularly successful on that account, as lack of proper lanes in Vanier, Hadden, Kits, Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks provide evidence.

Here’s how he did in Kits.  After many years of work to establish an improved path through Kits Beach Park, Park Board staff presented their recommendations to Commissioners in June 2018.  Staff recommended a conceptual alignment of a new path that moved it away from the waterfront along the beach, behind the concession stand, and most importantly, didn’t run through the parking lot.

They asked that Commissioners support the plan for staff to work with the City engineering department staff to prepare a design for approval; and that staff report back with that design and budget when public engagement was complete.  Coupar moved to defer that motion back to staff.  He wanted to see a budget. More details.  Public engagement (before engagement was authorized to begin).  Staff responded that they needed to do more work, and they were simply asking for permission to begin that work.  John’s motion to defer passed.   So, delay, delay, delay. Mission accomplished. Once again, nothing happened.

Several years passed. Now staff are preparing another proposal.  Will the Fairness Finesse work again?  Will it take a lawsuit after another injury, or perhaps a fatality, in the Kits Beach parking lot (where people on bikes are routed behind vehicles)?

Why do some elected officials see railing against active transportation improvements as a ticket to re-election?   Or has the great success of the Beach Ave Bikeway, and the very popular reallocated lane in Stanley Park, been sufficient to cause some to rethink their election strategies?

While bike lanes may be catnip for the NPA, Coupar is only the most egregious example.  He still needs support from others sitting around the table, including the Green commissioners.  But given the support for a resolution by almost everyone, including the KPRA, has time run out for more delay?


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  1. What I don’t get about the routing through the parking lot is that just before you reach the parking lot there is an access road used by the Park staff to actually access the beach / tennis courts. They could have opened that up (remove the gate) years ago and at least it would have taken that problem away. But I am starting to think for Coupar et. al. the more unsafe it is to ride a bike, the better.

    As for the Beach upgrade recently, some noise is already been made against it (again). See the Daily Hive from two days ago.

  2. The service road from Arbutus to the concession makes the most sense for a portion of the route. We got PB staff to include it as an option, but they didn’t make it their preferred option in 2018. The primary opposition to using that route came from the restaurant operator, who was aligned with Commissioner Coupar. The restaurant is the subject of some debate about whether they are in compliance with their operating permit. They are not to be parking there, for example, and they used parking as a reason to not allow people cycling. When they fill the space with parked vehicles, delivery trucks can’t turn around and so must reverse either up or down the service road. Removing illegally parked vehicles would allow delivery vehicles to drive in and turn around, exactly the same as they do in Coal Harbour, where a portion of the Seaside Greenway is used to access the restaurant there.

    If the preferred PB staff option was chosen (along Cornwall and Arbutus, at the edge of the park) then people wanting to access the beach, washrooms, concession, and pool would need access, and so the access road would need to be used in any case. PB staff said at the time that anyone on a bike should be prepared to lock it up at the corner of Cornwall and Arbutus, and walk from there. They wanted to allow cars into the park, but not bikes. We have hopefully moved on from that approach in the upcoming design proposal iteration. Certainly, current commissioners have been supportive of planning for people cycling within the park, and in fact have passed the long term park development strategy (Van Play), with a commitment to promote cycling “to and through” City parks.

  3. That March 2018 meeting was so well-attended that the main chamber couldn’t hold everyone. The overflow filled the building anteroom.

    The plan presented about half a dozen options for cycling route improvements, each of which would support varying degrees of safety and accessibility for *everyone* moving through and enjoying the park. But opponents of the plan either believed, or felt it was in their best interests to position it as, some sort of elitist and subversive cycling indoctrination strategy, as has been the case for years. They yelled, cheered and booed throughout the staff presentation and commissioner debate. It was embarrassing, mortifying, and sad.

    But this is exactly what the NPA wanted – divisiveness and polarization, and using transportation as the wedge. It’s anti-bike for the sake of self interest, a convenient way to pander for votes in future elections (how else could it be explained?). It’s politics, of course, and that’s the way it’s done. But on parks? And transportation? Vancouver gets no benefit from this arrangement, just one (big) reason why no other city in Canada has ever chosen to spin off a parks board as an independent, elected body.

    Further, Coupar’s motion to defer the staff report was just a motion. He’s not the only self-interested, politics-first kind of person. The motion needed support, and that came from his 2 NPA colleagues (one of whom is today a sitting city councillor), plus one independent commissioner originally elected as an NPA caucus member.

    To clarify, the independence of Vancouver’s Park Board is not the issue so much as the personal politics and motivations that are inseparable from it. And that’s the NPA’s stock in trade – a party driven more by privilege and protectionist ideologues over the past decade than at any other time since the 1960s and Tom Campbell’s tempestuous relationship with a city that he could not keep from changing under his feet. Sound familiar?

    I’m reminded of former NPA councillor George Affleck, similarly out of touch and now out of office, beating the anti-bike drum one rainy morning in early 2014. With city staff on-hand at Macdonald and Cornwall to welcome the start of road work for the Point Grey Road traffic calming and diversion measures, George strode up and down Macdonald St, bullhorn in hand, trying his best to draw in the TV cameras to listen to his ranting against cycling, against Mayor Robertson, again the Vision party.

    Of course, today Point Grey Road is an essential part of the Vancouver cycling and walking network, a safe and beautiful stretch of road for public use by all ages. Despite Affleck and the NPA, you can now rather safely cycle from UBC at the top of Northwest Marine Drive at Chancellor Boulevard all the way to (and into) Kits Beach Park, at about Yew Street. Then the parking lot, and Arbutus, neither suitable for almost anyone.

    For that, you can thank Coupar and his other (now former) NPA colleagues. The question is where they all go from here. It’s a long way to October 2022.

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