I attended one of the city’s open houses this past week about changes to Pt. Grey Road / Cornwall Avenue. It was an interesting experience. I’d already familiarized myself with the materials that were presented (click here to look at them yourself) so I didn’t learn much that I didn’t already know, but it was interesting to eavesdrop on the conversations that were happening around me.
At the open house I went to, there were about 40 people in the room representing quite a cross section of the community. There were people who lived in down in that area, others from other parts of Kits, and others from further afield. There were also quite a mix of older people and younger people, some with kids in tow. There were a few obvious cyclists (helmets, panniers, etc) but not many.
As I said, the conversations were interesting to listen to. They were much the same conversations that any cycling advocate will have heard, had, and will have again. One of the recurring positions was “There’s already a bike route on 3rd Ave, why does anything need to be changed?”
This is a valid point. There are, of course, a myriad of reasons why people think a change is necessary (safety, convenience, active lifestyle promotion, etc) but I want to focus on one of the other reasons: the 3rd Ave bike route (actually the Seaside Bike Route) is AWFUL. It’s a bike route in name only.
- It’s indirect. If you’re riding from Burrard to Alma, or vice versa, the route is 50% longer than riding along Cornwall/Pt. Grey Rd (CPGR from here on in).
- It’s hilly. Particularly east of Macdonald.
- It’s too narrow, with what I call car canyons. For the most part, the entire route is 3 car-widths across. For the most part, two of these widths are taken up with parked cars. This leaves one car width for two-way car, bike, and occasional truck traffic. Dealing with any sort of oncoming traffic is awful, visibility due to the parked cars is horrible, it’s difficult to know when any given car is going to suddenly pull out from its parking spot, and there are occasional driveways where people may be pulling out of. And doors. Every experienced cyclist knows not to ride in the door zones, or at some point someone’s going to fling open a door without looking and you’re going to have a broken collarbone or worse. In these car canyons, the only safe place is right in the middle of the road.
- There are too many intersections. Yes, I know Vancouver has a grid road system so there’s an intersection every block or so, but take a look at CPGR. Not so many intersections there.
- Unsignalled crossings at Macdonald and Alma. Anyone who has tried to cross these roads during the morning or evening rush knows how frustrating and dangerous it can be, particularly in the dark.
As an illustration on just how narrow the route is, here are some photos I took on Sunday.
This is what 3rd Ave looks like near Alma, looking west:
It might look like plenty of room in the above photo, but here’s what the same space looks like with a car there (looking east this time):
With a car driving down the road, there’s no room at all for cyclists or any other vehicle for that matter.
So, why take a longer, hillier, systemically more dangerous route when a flat, direct alternative exists? If 3rd Ave is such a great alternative, why don’t more cars drive that way instead of CPGR? Yes, exactly. The truth is, and this is what the city is trying to deal with,
some many cyclists do use CPGR despite its associated problems (road width, traffic speeds, traffic volume). Many choose to avoid the area altogether, though. In the community with the largest number of bike commuters in the city, this is a shameful thing. The seawall/foreshore/beach area of Kits could have thousands of daily cyclists of all ages and abilities comfortably enjoying themselves, visiting the parks, visiting the local businesses, but the current road and cycling infrastructure is inhibiting that potential.
The next steps in this process are for the city to take the public feedback from these past open houses and come up with a firm proposal for the area. Once the proposal is finalized, a second round of public consultation will occur. After further refinements, a report will be made to City Council, who will have the final decision.
Visit http://vancouver.ca/pointgreycornwall to keep up to date on the project.