SkyCycle: Would it Fly in Vancouver?

Riding along elevated bicycle highways passing over busy roads without having to stop. Imagine the Dunsmuir Viaduct without any motor vehicle traffic. A SkyCycle in Vancouver would be really wonderful. For the most part though, unlike London, there is typically space available near rail lines here making elevated paths on top of them unnecessary. Still, there are a few spots where elevated structures would make cycling a lot better.

Central Valley Greenway

A 750m elevated walking and cycling path from Grandview Hwy North and Clark to near the Home Depot over the False Creek rail yards was seriously considered a decade ago as part of the Central Valley Greenway. Unfortunately, it was killed for budget reasons leaving cyclists to contend with the 13% grade up to Clark by VCC and forcing them to cross two legs of the busy Clark and 6th intersection.

Since it follows the railway, the Central Valley Greenway has a lot fewer stop lights than parallel roads like Broadway and Lougheed Hwy. Last time I used it, I didn’t hit a red light between Caribou Road and Rupert Street. Little would be gained elevating this section. On the narrow section between Lillooet and Boundary, the SkyTrain is elevated leaving space on the ground for the Central Valley Greenway.

Portside Greenway

With the completion of the Powell Street Overpass this summer, the section of Powell Street between Clark Drive and Wall Street will be the only missing link in the Portside Greenway. An elevated path over the railyard in the Port is certainly one possible option. A less expensive solution would be to reallocate a lane of traffic on Powell Street to create a separated bike path.

Low Level Road

The new Low Level Road currently under construction in North Vancouver will include painted bike lanes on both sides of the road. However, with high vehicle speeds and lots of trucks, it will not be a great cycling route for people of all ages and abilities. On the north side, cyclists will be sandwiched between the traffic and a tall concrete retaining wall. Yikes! The Spirit Trail is the alternate route. Unfortunately it is much longer, very hilly and is further from the water.

A bicycle and pedestrian path over the rail yard would be a much better option. Hopefully they will built it soon once they realize that people really want bicycle paths separated from traffic that are flat and by the water.

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Cornwall Separated Bike Lanes – Balsam to Arbutus

The City is doing a fantastic job improving Point Grey Road west of Trafalgar and the Burrard Cornwall intersection making them much safer and more comfortable for people of all ages to cycle on. These great facilities have the potential to encourage many people of all ages to cycle if there was a safe obvious direct connection between them. York may work well for commuters but it does not connect to Kits Beach nor will it appeal to people wanting to  enjoy the view.

The separated bike lanes on Burrard Bridge and Hornby Street are well designed and have the capacity to handle thousands more bicycle trips per day. Connecting them to the vastly improved cycling facilities along Point Grey Road with separated bike lanes along Cornwall is the best solution for ensuring the safe access to the Seaside Greenway west of Trafalgar.

According to ICBC collision reports, this is the most dangerous section of Cornwall. The staff presentation on the Seaside Greenway states that 28 of the 51 reported collisions (including dooring)  from 2008 to 2012 involving motor vehicles along Cornwall/Point Grey occurred on Cornwall East. Of the collisions on Cornwall East, the vast majority of them occurred from Balsam to Arbutus with the most dangerous intersection being Vine. As cycling traffic will likely increase on this section of Cornwall, the number of collisions will likely increase unless improvements are made even if some of the bicycle traffic is diverted to York. As bicycles can pick up some speed on this downhill stretch, it is especially important to provide separate paths for the safety of people walking and cycling.

With the plans for a bike path in the Kits Beach Park not looking good at all, now is the time to look for alternatives. With Point Grey Road down to two lanes of traffic further west, it is likely that four lanes of traffic are not needed between Balsam and Arbutus.

A two way separated bike lane could be created on the north side of the street by reallocating a lane of traffic on Cornwall from Balsam to Arbutus. In addition, the curb lane on the south side of the road could be made a bit wider perhaps reducing the risk of dooring. No trees would be lost and no green space in the park would be affected although some grass in the Cornwall right-of-way would be lost mainly to create parking bays.

Cornwall - Balsam to Yew - Tree

As there would still be three lanes of traffic, off-peak parking could still be maintained on the south side of the street. By allowing off-peak or 24 hour parking on the north side between Yew and Arbutus, the total number of parking spaces would be increased (9 more is a rough estimate) more than compensating for ones that are lost between Balsam and Yew.

Cornwall - Balsam to Yew - Parking

All the bus stops could be maintained so there would be minimal impact on transit users. By encouraging more people to cycle on the bike lane instead of the road and by enabling more people to cycle instead of drive, bus travel times could even be slightly improved.

Completing this badly needed connection will help ensure that lots of people will enjoy cycling along this route for both transportation and recreation. Without this connection, the number of people cycling along Point Grey will likely be significantly lower. There will also likely be more sidewalk cycling, people cycling in the road along Cornwall and more people cycling on the narrow shared paths in Kits Beach Park creating conflicts with pedestrians and motorists increasing the chances of pedestrians and cyclists being injured.

The section of Cornwall from Arbutus to Cypress is more challenging. Some options will be discussed in the next issue of WeCycle.

Please write City Council mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca thanking them for the improvements to Point Grey Road and the Burrard Cornwall intersection and encouraging them to make further improvements along Cornwall.

Kits Beach for All

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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 mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca and Park Board PBcommissioners
@vancouver.ca
 encouraging them to find a solution.

Seaside Greenway Well Under Way

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Even with the construction not complete, lots of people are enjoying cycling, walking and jogging along Point Grey Road giving us a small glimpse of what it will be like this summer once the separated bike lane is completed along Point Grey Road between Trafalger and Macdonald. As was the case with Burrard Bridge, Hornby Street and Dunsmuir, the traffic chaos that some predicted just did not happen.

The Burrard Cornwall intersection cycling and walking improvements are almost completed with only the bike path on the west side of Burrard left to pave. The York Bikeway is under construction and construction on the separated bike lane along Point Grey east of Macdonald should begin soon. Be careful if you check it out as there is active construction.

Without the speeding traffic, the birds, bikes and joggers now are just so noisy now!

A good idea to send a quick thank you to city council mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca thanking them and staff for the improvements to the Seaside Greenway.

Kits Beach Bike Path Safer for Everyone

Cycling is very popular. A recent BCCC poll found that 70% of adults cycle at least once a year. Bicycle paths along water and through parks are attractive places to cycle with 66% saying such paths  would encourage them to cycle more often. Separated paths are even more important for parents with children. A 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.

Anyone who has cycled or walked along Kits Beach on a sunny summer day should realize that the current narrow shared path leaves much to be desired. Heading downhill from the Maritime Museum onto a path covered with sand dunes crowded with people more interested in looking at other people than lookout out for bikes can be quite dicy. Judging by the bicycles parked all over the place at Kits, many people already bike to the beach, pool, tennis courts and the basketball courts. The soon to be completed Seaside Greenway improvements west of Kits Beach will likely result in more people cycling on the Kits Beach path increasing conflicts if no action is taken.

With this in mind, the plans for the Seaside Greenway presented to the public earlier this year included bike paths through Kits Beach and Haddon Parks. After the parts of the Greenway on city streets were approved by council back in July, Park Board staff consulted the people using the parks on improvements for people walking and cycling. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority thought that separate paths for cycling and walking would improve safety.

Realizing that the path along the beach is very busy and a lot of people walk across it or stand and chat in it, the bike path was routed way from the beach, the basketball court and the playground to near Arbutus Street.

Some have suggested that people on bikes should use the road instead. While this might be fine for experienced adult cyclists, clearly this is not an good option for children and less experienced adults. In the summer, the roads near the beach are crowded with cars. Drivers are more focused on looking for parking or at the pretty people walking than children on bikes.

Separate bike paths along the water have been very successful in Vancouver at reducing conflicts between people cycling and walking including fifteen years ago along English Bay and Sunset Beach. Fifteen years from now, people will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Some opponents try to paint this bike path as a high-speed highway where speeding cyclists will endanger other park users. The reality is that the path will be mostly used by residents and visitors cycling responsibly with their families enjoying the spectacular scenery. The vast majority of people on bikes are careful not wanting risk injury to themselves or other people. Those who want to ride fast will continue to ride on the road. Yes, like with any form of transportation, a few people on bikes behave recklessly but it really unfair to punish everyone else on bikes for the actions of a few.

There are bike paths in parks around Vancouver and the world that pass by playgrounds and picnic areas without any major safety issues that I am aware of. The path will be further away from the playground than the current path that cycling is allowed on. It is hard to see how this path in anyway will endanger children or anyone else in the park.

The bike path will also take the long route around the hill creating a more gradual downhill slope helping to minimizing the speed of bicycles further improving safety for everyone.

Fortunately, on October 7, Park Board approved the bike path and pedestrian improvement to Kitsilano and Haddon Parks. Commissioners Constance Barnes, Sarah Blyth Aaron Jasper and Trevor Loke voted in favour of the bike path. Commissioners John Coupar and Melissa De Genova voted against the bike path. Commissioner Niki Sharma was not present.

Take Action

A good idea to send a quick thank you to Park Board, PBcommissioners@vancouver.ca in support of the cycling and walking improvements in Kitsilano and Haddon Parks.

More Info

Seaside Greenway Improvements – Park Board Report

In the Media

Park board chair says bike path painted at Kits Beach is made up | Georgia Straight

Bike lane at Kits Beach won’t destroy the world | Georgia Straight

Kits bike path route not yet finalized – Commissioner says path might be tweaked

Park board chair responds to Kitsilano Beach Park bike path controversy | Georgia Straight

Committee will address rumours over Kits Beach bike lane – Misconceptions include trees being cut down

Pete McMartin: Over-the-top reaction to Kitsilano bike lane marks disturbing trend

SEEN IN VANCOUVER #471 | Bike Lanes, Or The Fascist Nightmare Destroying Kitsilano : Scout Magazine

Kudos and Kvetches: Kits Bike Lanes and Other Important Complaints

POLL: Do you support the new bike and pedestrian path linking Hadden and Kits Beach parks?

Over the Top Anti-Bike Rhetoric Done Well

Taking two-wheeled demons and the hellions who ride them to task – Blogs – Vancouver Courier

The Classic! Video – Death by Bicycle — Dorothy Rabinowitz on New York City’s new bike-share program

York Bikeway Approved

Along with the Seaside Greenway along Point Grey Road, city council also approved the York Bikeway as an option for commuter cyclists to access Point Grey Road from the Burrard Bridge.

York Bikeway and Seaside Greenway - City of Van

York Bikeway and Seaside Greenway – City of Vancouver

As part of the project, York will get separated bike lanes from Chestnut to Maple. Along York, most of the stop signs will be reversed so that people cycling on York do not have to stop at every cross street. To reduce traffic, York will be alternating one way for motor vehicles on the blocks from Vine to Maple. In response to resident concerns regarding loss of parking, the final plans do not include bike lanes From Yew to Maple. The result is that there will not really be enough space to comfortably cycle when there is oncoming traffic.

Stephens will be closed to motor vehicle traffic and a bicycle pedestrian signal will be added at Point Grey and Stephens so that cyclists can safely connect to the Seaside Greenway along Point Grey.As part of the improvements to the Burrard Cornwall intersection that council just approved, there will be a bicycle path through Seaforth Park from Burrard and Cornwall to York at Chestnut.

The majority of cycling experts who addressed council recommended separated bike lanes on Cornwall over the York Bikeway as research indicates that people tend to prefer cycling routes that are flat, scenic and direct. As the safety concerns along Cornwall have not been addressed yet, if a large number of people chose to continue to cycle on Cornwall instead of York, high numbers cycling crashes will likely remain a serious problem. Sidewalk cycling was one of the main concerns of pedestrians and transit users and needs to be monitored to determine if it remains a problem.

While York is a relatively convenient option for eastbound cyclists as no additional crossings of Cornwall are required to access Burrard Bridge, it makes little sense for westbound cyclists to wait and cross busy Cornwall twice especially if they are going to Kits Beach or the Seaside Greenway. This will take more time and crossing Cornwall may actually expose them to greater risk than just cycling along Cornwall.

Councillor Carr acknowledged these concerns and put forward a motion to delay the approval of York pending further study. This motion was not approved. However, Council did direct staff to report back one year after completion of the Seaside Greenway and York Bikeway with any recommendations necessary adjustments so hopefully any unresolved safety issues will be addressed then.

More information:

Point Grey Road – Cornwall Avenue Greenway | City of Vancouver

Separated All Ages Bike Lanes Needed on Cornwall

Pt Grey Cornwall Greenway Slam Dunk for Tourism, Businesses

The Point Grey Cornwall Greenway, by completing the Seaside Path, will open up the West Side waterfront enabling people of all ages and abilities to enjoy Vancouver’s beautiful scenery by bicycle while giving both locals and visitors access to Kits Beach, Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks.
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Further on there is the Museum of Anthropology, UBC Botanical Garden, Nitobe Memorial Garden, Wreck Beach, Pacific Spirit Park and paths along the Fraser River. Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists cycling along the Greenway will help boost business at restaurants, cafes and stores in Kits.
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Vancouver’s $3.7 billion tourism industry is critical to our economy. Vancouver’s new Tourism Plan identifies, Cycling, the Seawall & Beaches and Health/Wellness as part of its recommendation to initiate a product development strategy. The Plan also identifies Public Bike Share as part of the transportation infrastructure needed to support tourism. Cycling tourism in Oregon accounts for $400 million of the state’s $9 billion tourism industry. There is likely similar potential in B.C.

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Cafe packed with cyclists on Cornwall

Pretty much every article on what to do when visiting Vancouver, mentions getting on a bike. The most common recommendation is cycling around Stanley Park but more and more are mentioning the separated bike lanes and exploring other parts of the city by bicycle. Judging by the number of people taking photos from the Burrard Bridge and looking at maps along Pt Grey Cornwall, this part of town is getting to be a popular place for visitors to cycle to.

Vancouver, B.C., has idyllic and easy urban biking for all ages | Outdoors | The Seattle Times

Ride the Seawall, a paved route for bicyclists and pedestrians, in the heart of the city.

For adult fun, veer off the path into the trendy Yaletown neighborhood that’s packed with restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Hungry? Stop for a bite at the trendy Cactus Club, which opened this spring right on the sand at English Bay Beach.

Thinking of a cycling vacation? Ocycler Jeff Mapes has some worldly ideas for you | OregonLive.com

The city has now steadily expanded the bike network to circle the entire West End and two bisecting cycletracks now offer comfortable riding through downtown.

On another day we headed east to Commercial Drive, a lively eating-and-drinking street that reflects the city’s rich immigrant diversity.

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Vistors looking at a map at Balsam and Cornwall

Seems like everyone except the businesses that would benefit the most are noticing Vancouver’s cycling tourism potential. Even tourism operators in other city as witnessed by this article More and more travellers taking a spin on bicycle tourism in Montreal.

All the possibilities clearly have Mayer thinking of exporting the bike-tourism concept to other cities in Canada and beyond. … Vancouver is a market that clearly has his interest. “We have better climate, longer seasons,” he said of the coast city.

A recent visitor from Melbourne really said she really liked Vancouver’s bike lanes.

I was dreading the trip through the city but the separated bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge and along Hornby made this part of the trip most enjoyable and I felt safe. Judging by the number of people we saw on bikes poring over a map, this is becoming a popular tourist activity. What a wonderful way to see Vancouver and get some exercise.

Great for Business
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Given the economic importance of tourism, it is rather surprising that Pt Grey Cornwall Greenway is not more strongly supported by the Kits Chamber of Commerce and some of the local business that stand the most to gain from more visitors and locals cycling by. Instead of worrying about losing a few parking spaces on Cornwall (which is not even in the current proposal), they should be really upset that the city is attempting to divert all these stomachs on wheels up York away from their businesses.

This is perhaps not entirely unexpected as the City has yet to integrate tourism into its bicycle route planning. In this case, tourism is not featured anywhere in the City’s materials on Cornwall Point Grey.

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Businesses Are Taking Advantage of Bike Lanes

When the separated bike lanes come, some businesses look to take advantage of the full advantage opportunity. Jeweliette Jewellery (love the name), on Hornby between Nelson and Helmcken has a pink bike parked in front with flowers in the basket. Owner Madalena Corsi loves having bike lanes in the neighbourhood and says many customers arrive by bicycle.

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Musette Caffè is a bicycle friendly cafe that ironically is in the middle of an auto lot on the alley between Hornby and Burrard north of Drake. They serve great coffee and baked goods and are a popular meeting spot for people on bikes.

Bike rental shops are also popping around the Convention Centre up at the north end of the separated bike lanes. Once the Pt Grey Cornwall Greenway is complete, businesses will likely take advantage of that opportunity as well.

Which Way to the Beach?

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Jam packed bike racks by Kits Pool

Unfortunately, it does not appear as if tourists, many local recreational cyclists or beach goers have yet been really considered in the planning process. It is not apparent how people will cycle from Burrard Bridge to Kits Beach and back again. I suspect most will just ride on Cornwall battling the traffic or ride on the sidewalk. Detouring up to York for just two blocks crossing busy Cornwall twice doesn’t seem likely.

Direct Obvious Routes for Visitors

Having got really lost cycling around Paris a couple of times, I can attest to the importances of obvious direct bicycle routes when visiting a city. Signage and maps are great but they are no substitute for obvious. York It is not very likely that tourists will use or even find York. They will also want to grab a snack or have a drink at the businesses along Cornwall.

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Crowded bike racks at Wreck Beach

Burrard Bridge Popular with Visitors and Beach Goers

There are great views of the city, mountains and ocean from Burrard Bridge. It is quite common to see people taking photos from the Bridge sidewalks. Burrard Bridge is a much faster route from hotels downtown to the beaches. The bicycle traffic levels on Burrard also peaks in July and August at almost 6,000 trips per day while Hornby and Dunsmuir are fairly steady from June through September indicating that a lot of beach and recreational trips are made on Burrard. Many sure look like they are going to the beach.

Seaside Path Needs a Lot of Work

The Seaside Path around False Creek from Sunset Beach to Kits Beach also needs tens of millions of dollars in improvements to address safety and capacity issues including creating separate bicycle and pedestrian paths in many sections. Not really a great idea to encourage more people to use these sections until improvements are made. Meanwhile, the Hornby and Burrard Bridge separated bike lanes have plenty of capacity, are separated from pedestrians and with the exception of Burrard and Pacific, have relatively few cycling collisions. Providing a direct cycling connection along Cornwall to Point Grey seems like the least expensive short term solution for cycling tourists.

In Barcelona, shared bikes are a very popular way to get to the beaches. From Granville Station, Kits Beach is a nice quick ride away via Dunsmuir, Hornby, Burrard Bridge.

Bike Sharing Big for Bikes and Businesses

Bike sharing, which will be going in early next year, should prove to be a game changer for bikes and businesses. In other cities, businesses have clamoured to get a station near by. A University of Minnesota study found that bike share users in the Twin Cities make more trips to and spend more money at nearby businesses including restaurants, coffee shops, bars, nightclubs, and grocery stores. When bike sharing does finally appear later this year, businesses, including those along Cornwall, might indeed be wishing they had separated bike lanes in front of them to encourage bicycles, shared and otherwise, to deliver customers to their doors.

Take Action

So, please encourage the City of Vancouver to build the Point Grey Cornwall Greenway now and speed up the implementation of other badly needed all ages and abilities cycling and walking improvements. Lets realize the health, safety, environmental, social and economic benefits of as soon as possible! Tell them the problems that you have experienced along Point Grey & Cornwall and let them know what the Point Grey Cornwall Greenway would mean to you, your family and community.

More on Point Grey Cornwall

Photos around UBC and along the Fraser

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