Cycling is one of the most popular forms of recreation enjoyed by residents and visitors of all ages. By Science World, over 5,000 people cycle past on a nice day. As with all the paths by the water, many people cycle along Kits Beach with their children. Sadly, with even neighbourhood streets having fast moving traffic, these paths are the only places many feel safe cycling with their families.
With the Seaside Greenway improvements further west along Point Grey Road due to be finished soon, most likely many more people will want to cycle and walk along Kits Beach making the path even more crowded. The rough path worn in the grass is a clear sign more space is needed.
Sharing the narrow path along the beach and through Haddon Park is not great for people walking or cycling. When passing, riders should let walkers know by ringing their bell or with their voice. But when there are so many people walking and cycling, the constant bell ringing and “on your lefts” can be very annoying for everyone. People also like to walk side by side chatting in groups of 3 or 4. That just is not feasible sharing a narrow path.
A separate bike path will make the park more enjoyable and safe for many people. Two decades ago, a separate bike path was build by Sunset Beach and English Bay. This is a solution that we know works.
It is people that make an urban park. Many of those people enjoy activities on paved and cement surfaces. Yes, grass would look nicer than the tennis or basketball courts but without the tennis and basketball players Kits would not be the same. It would lose part of what makes it exciting, vibrant and attracted; people.
The survey of people using the park, found that 42% of people cycle in the park and 93% thought that separated cycling and walking paths would be a good idea. The planned cycling path will only occupy around 3% of the total park space. As so many people cycle and walk in the park, this seems like a good use of this space.
The City’s Physical Activity Survey found that 20% of adults cycled on a regular basis, 5% played tennis. Basketball did not make the top 18. For children, biking was at 10% while basketball was at 16%. Tennis did not make the top 21. Surely if space can be made for these activities, the same can be done for cycling.
I’m one of the lucky ones who live near the beach walking down there pretty much everyday. Most people are not so fortunately. Given that only so much parking near Kits Beach, cycling is one of the only options that many people can realistically use to get to the beach. Judging by the large number of bikes at the beach, many people do just that. More people cycling instead of also decreases the impact on the neighbourhood and the chances of people driving, walking or cycling getting injured in a crash.
There are many options to significantly or reduce the net amount of grass lost in the park. Part of the path could be placed on Cornwall or Arbutus Streets. Parking space in the park can be reclaimed. Some of the existing paths can be narrowed or reclaimed as greenspace.
Over at Sunset Beach, more and more of the parking lot gets reclaimed for other activities as time goes by. Part of the Kits north parking lot would make a great picnic area. It is nice and flat and close to the beach. Maybe it is possible to redesign the larger south parking lot to fit the same number of cars in less space.
While sadly, it is impossible to be sure how Harvey Haddon, the philanthropist who generously donated the park to the people of Vancouver, would have felt about the bike path. The deed does state that improvements can be made for people to enjoy recreational activities safely while keeping it as close to a natural state as possible. Who knows for sure but it is indeed possible if he could witness all the families cycling along the water around, that he would approve such a path.
So, instead of lawsuits, it would be great if everyone including Park Board, the City of Vancouver, beach user groups and area residents sat down to work on solutions. Lets make Kits Beach great for everyone walking, cycling, jogging, playing tennis, shooting hoops, picnicking, swinging, climbing or just enjoying the view.
Please write City Council firstname.lastname@example.org and Park Board PBcommissioners
@vancouver.ca encouraging them to find a solution.