June 15, 2021

Which Way One-Way? A Fork in the Road for White Rock

Of all the COVID-created spaces in Metro, one of the smaller interventions has received a lot of the attention – a kilometre or so of Marine Drive in White Rock.

This May, the council voted 6-1 to make Marine Drive one way in order to allow for curbside patios, something commonly done by municipalities throughout the region last year.  But reapportioning asphalt can be like re-drawing tribal boundaries: lots of opposition, loudly expressed.  Sometimes it takes a war, sometimes a pandemic.

It’s already well into the summer, but White Rock, after an early June reconsideration, finally moved some concrete to make it real.  A few days ago it still felt a tad tentative, still awaiting the paperwork approval.

And the opposition is still making itself heard:

Council is still double-thinking it all:

Council added a new-proviso to the one-way, however – endorsing a motion from Manning that the lane be re-opened as soon as provincial health authorities allow full-capacity indoor dining again, which may happen as soon as July, dependent on COVID figures.

Really?  Undo it all, a week or so after the first customers have been seated?  Confident prediction: that will not happen.  The more interesting question is whether it will happen at all, even when the winter comes.

Consider what’s involved:

The City will have to move those Jersey barriers, store them, and then next year, if they want a return of summer patios, move them all out again.  Even for the City of Vancouver, this would be a logistically expensive proposition.

Likewise with the street marking, the signage, anything added, removed or changed.  It all has to go back to the way it was, and then be redone.

The lane markings that were scraped off and repainted – all redone, more scrapping, more painting, twice a year.

That’s just the physical stuff; there will also have to be yet another debate about social and economic impacts, potential and real accidents that might happen, congestion, lack of parking. Leading into an election.

White Rock is in too deep now.  They might as well make it permanent – a one-way Marine Drive with a lane for patios and pedestrians.

One big assumption of course: the traffic will adjust and there will be enough parking after all.  Yes, it will be crowded but not so congested that it, heh, heh, drives customers away.

My guess is that things will settle into something acceptable enough to be permanent, without having to be redone twice year – something that only irritates people and make accidents more likely.

But there’s another reason more of the heart than the wallet.  After transforming the beachfront, the pier, the parks, and after a year or so of patios spilling across the sidewalks, when all the decks, railings and overhead canopies will be permanently designed as outdoor urban rooms, and the City can get rid of barriers originally designed for the New Jersey Turnpike (it’s the brutalist architecture of road design) – .the people and even the critics will (1) get used to it, (2) get to like it, and (3) be amazed that anyone thought it should ever be otherwise.



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