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?