About that seaside (3rd Avenue) bike route


Seaside Bike Path (By Peter Wilson, used with permission)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.

Here’s why:

    • 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:

Seaside bike route near Alma

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):

Seaside bike route near Alma

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.

Last modified: February 4, 2013

26 Responses to " About that seaside (3rd Avenue) bike route "

  1. Dave S. says:

    It’s 50% longer — where are you getting that statistic?

    Google Maps tells me that 4th & Alma to Cornwall & Burrard is 2.1 miles if you take Point Grey Rd., and 2.13 miles if you take 3rd.

  2. Anthony says:

    Dave: Not so much a statistic as a measurement. I put it at ~3.5 km along CPGR, ~5 km along the Seaside Bike Route. See https://www.kitsilano.ca/2011/12/05/should-cyclists-be-banned-from-riding-on-arterials/ for reference, in particular the map near the bottom. When that article was posted, it took me 10 mins to ride CPGR, 15 mins to ride the bike route. Hence 50% more.

  3. Alex P says:

    3rd avenue is currently a bike route in signage only. It doesn’t have the traffic calming or intersection signaling across Macdonald or Alma that should go along with that. But even with traffic calming and signaling, there are still the car canyons and the longer route to deal with – in the end, if the city were to choose to make these enhancements to the 3rd ave route, I think you would find few riders currently using CPGR who would make the switch.

  4. Derek says:

    My impression at the open house and online viewing was that the 3rd Ave route was proposed by an individual as an option to consider. I certainly hope it doesn’t go through. I ride it from MacDonald to Jericho Beach frequently and have never had issue with car traffic. However, as illustrated—it shouldn’t be considered an official bike route due to lack of space and traffic-calming measures. My hope was that Cornwall would be better conditioned as a bike route and from where it meets Pt Grey Rd heading westbound that it turn into a two-way bike lane on the north side, while the south side remains for eastbound car traffic. Removed westbound car traffic would be flushed down MacDonald (from Cornwall) and move west on W.4th where it moves quicker and freely.

  5. Kits Ride says:

    Why not make improvements to existing bike routes. Like eliminating parked cars from one side of road, traffic lights at busy streets. Doesn’t every house have a driveway? Change the route slightly. It would be must cheaper to do this. Changing Cornwall and Point grey road will just piss of a lot of drivers. Where is the cars supposed to go? Bus service will be affected too discouraging it’s use. Look at the big picture. Why does seaside route turn north at Stephens, it should continue to Cypress street to connect with Burrard bike lane. West 1 or 2 avenue might be better routes.

  6. Rosie says:

    I completely agree with the comment that 3rd ave is a ‘bike route’ in signage only.. as a cyclist who commutes from east vancouver to UBC most days, I can say i would never choose 3rd over CPGR. I take CPGR all the time. The most frustrating thing about CPGR is the fact cars do not go the 30kmh speedlimit. We have massive machines on both sides of the road telling drivers their speed, but with zero repercussions. As well, if you are to make CPGR a viable bike way, with minimal traffic, my suggestion would be to remove the westbound lane for a bike lane. Cars do park there, but i cannot understand why when all of the multi-million dollar homes on the water-side have driveways. ALL of them do. You couldnt do that from about 4 blocks before Alma, as the road is extremely narrow there… but at least its a minimal distance (in traffic, or holding up traffic … depending on your mode of transportation) before you are into the Jericho/Locarno area.

  7. Steve v. says:

    I’m a part time cyclist but when I lived on 3rd and Waterloo (4 years), I was a 100% cyclist and there were less of us.
    When I recently filled out the survey for this project I personally felt that MacDonald to Alma was fine on 3rd (but the problems were all Eest of that).

    Upon reading this article I think the case made here is a good one and maybe I had been overstating how good 3rd was,.. becasue in 1996,.. it WAS good! Even though that photo is totally the WORST part of 3rd :), it can be dicey even in the better parts Alma and Macdonlad with NO light to cross an artery,.. that is not a bike route (like 10th is), by today’s standards. I think the 50% fater estimate is probably close to true since those artery crossings and delays at every intersection would not occur.

    I usded to avoid Cornwall at all costs as a cyclist because of the speed of the cars and the constricted, but if that was addressed in some way,.. I have to say, it would trump 3rd by a mile and on many parts of it,.. there is room to widen quite a bit – not so on 3rd.

    @Kits Ride, unfortunately taking the parking from 1 side of 3rd is not feasible. Those home do not all have driveways (probably less than 25%) and even the ones that do, have not used them in decades. But you know where almost 100% of the homes do have driveways and little need for street parking? Cornwall from Macdonald to Alma.

  8. S. Morris Rose says:

    Thanks taking the time to attend the open house and report on it. There are a lot funner ways to spend time, but if we want the infrastructure needed to make bicycling a practical transportation choice, at least some of us have got to do it.

    I don’t like the bike route on W 3rd, primarily due to the grade. Clearly, from the discussion here, there is risk associated with labeling a marginally-usable route as a bike route.

    I liked the idea of building a seawall along there, but apparently that’s a dead one. We’ve got to do something because the status quo ain’t good enough.

  9. Phil Johnston says:

    Thanks for the update Anthony.
    For those traveling a fair distance and wanting an alternative to 3rd or Point Grey I suggest heading up to 10th. After 3 years riding in Vancouver I think it’s one of the safest bike routes in the city even without a dedicated lane, and it will take you from Commercial to MacDonald (transfer to 8th).

  10. Sully says:

    Question: does the city “need” to do this (CPGR) bike lane? Probably not. Would it it be useful? Probably. Can the city and the citizens afford the cost? No. The city is broke and they are still on a spending spree. They are still raising property taxes and we’re in a recession in this province. Should the city pave over the kitsilano foreshore beach as a bike path option for people to enjoy the view and use it as a gateway to travel cyclists. No. People ride too fast on the seawall around Vancouver as it is and the guys who train on weekends on road bikes should be on the road. This is coming from someone who cycles and uses transit and I drive for work. The other reason is the environment damage of paving over the beach and the costs of building the seawall, something again the city cannot afford. Not to mention it completely infringes on the citizens of point grey road and their property. They have rights too and don’t think for a second that they won’t rally together and tie this city up in costly litigation for years.

    So yeah, could they do a one way street going west from Alma to MacDonald with a 2-way bike lane on the north side of the street, and then a two way bike lane taking a single lane from MacDonald to Burrard with a 24 hour parking restriction on Cornwall? Sure. Should they. No. It’s costly and we’re getting by. Sometimes the idea of progress is not progress. It’s not necessarily broken, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be fixed.

    There are bigger fish to fry.

  11. Claire deLune says:

    Currently 3rd and York are better than nothing but not ideal and not for every type of cycling. Point Grey and Cornwall are okay as well but need some improvements.
    In my opinion there needs to be both, and more. Neighbourhood streets, arterials and shopping destinations/routes. Routes to school, etc.

    There’s only a short strip of Cornwall with shopping so some cycle lanes at least on the North side would help with shopping by bike. The types of places there are already bike oriented; the bagel place, coffee shops, burger place, dry cleaners, etc. All are types of places that cycling to is a good choice. They will benefit from a cycle path.

    I don’t think that the suggestions from this first open houses are exclusive of each other. Let’s have both Cornwall and York, both Point Grey Road and 3rd. I overheard someone from the City reply to a question about why 3rd was chosen. They said only because it’s presently a cycle route and if there are other suggestions please tell them. This is the time to question everything and figure it out so things are better in the future. There’s a stretch of 1st west of Trutch that’s pretty good to cycle on now. Maybe that could be incorporated. If there’s a road closure/parkette at Trutch then a cycle path from east of there on Point Grey Road could then curve over to 1st.

    And to respond to “Kits Ride”, I think to not progress and not improve streets in order to avoid “pissing off drivers” is short sighted. Driving has many many more options than cycling and is the main reason for doing all this in the first place. I’ve been to places in Europe where cycling infrastructure is on almost every street and even with all that you can still drive everywhere. This will not be a problem for driving. If someone is accustomed to driving down Cornwall they still will be able to if there are cycle lanes on the side. If they have to park on a side street and not on Cornwall they will and they’ll be fine.

  12. Kate says:

    I’m a cyclist who lives beside the 3rd ave bike route, and I strongly agree with all the points that Anthony makes, including the occasionally steep grade on 3rd, the longer cycle time, and the dangerous car canyons (even more dangerous if you are zooming down the hill, where quick braking becomes a challenge for open car doors and multiple stop signs).

    I’d also like to add another reason to consider the switch from 3rd to CPGR: it is just generally more pleasant! There are lovely little parkettes regularly spaced between the houses that offer views of the ocean, the downtown, and the north shore mountains. Slowing down the traffic along this road and creating a bike lane means that more people get to enjoy the wonderful views that make this city such a great place to live, be they drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.

  13. Bill Barilko says:

    I don’t care what they do as long as Chip can be talked into paying for it(!)

  14. Kal Holsti says:

    closing Point Grey Road is a classic win for a few, lose for many. Forcing motorists to take 4th Ave, full of stop lights, will lead to massive congestion and increased pollution. Solution? Slightly widen sidewalk on south side of Point Grey Rd, dedicate it to cyclists, north sidewalk for pedestrians, and two lanes for cars. Some minor problems, but nothing as severe as closing off PG to vehicles.

  15. Greg says:

    Kal Holsti has hit the nail on the head, and proposed a decent compromise.

    The City’s proposals are a knee-jerk reaction to a non-existent “problem” identified by the cycle lobbyists and certain local residents along P.G. Road West of MacDonald. Blocking P.G. Road or turning it into a one-way street are both ridiculous ideas.

    In case anyone’s forgotten, it rains here 9 months a year!

    The anti-car crusade continues apace…

  16. Anthony says:

    @greg I’m not sure why you point out Vancouver’s rain problem. Either you were suggesting that no one cycles when it’s raining, or that people who do cycle in the rain don’t deserve a safe place to do it, or that people shouldn’t be cycling in the rain. Statistics, however, prove you wrong: Cycling drops off only by about 50% in the rain. See http://thedependent.ca/life-and-culture/vancouver-cyclists-vancouver-weather/ for example. With safe and adequate routes, this percentage might be higher.

  17. Phil says:

    Great discussion here.

    I bike everyday, and have for 10 years. I do not own a car, and I agree with Sully, Kal, and Greg. There are alternative routes (yes they’re hilly, you will get stronger! 🙂 for cyclists to take and our current numbers don’t justify the very expensive costs of altering CRPG.
    As a taxpayer, I want my money being used for something more important than making the cycle commute for a small group of people safer and more comfortable. Hell, throw my money at that damn Olympic debt for example. Improving upon the existing cycling infrastructure in Vancouver, with respect to it’s costs, is pedaling in the wrong direction to increase ridership IMHO. I’m a fan of finding new ways of communicating the benefits (physical, mental, economic) of cycling to Driver’s who are “on the fence” – I know HUB is actively pursuing this route which I think is super-duper-awesome.

  18. Matthew says:

    I have been following this development with interest.

    Seeing the comments where people are concerned about making the change as it only affects a few people makes me sad.

    Keeping that supposedly smaller group of people safe seems like exactly something that the city should be spending money on.

    Also, if safe routes exist, more people will use them. Waiting for a supposedly large enough group of people to be using the unsafe and difficults routes before making them safe or useful is a terrible way of thinking.

  19. stephen says:

    @KitsRide, the parking on both sides of those streets only came about less than 15 years ago in response to increased multi-family housing builds. If you notice, all those spots get used. What do you think would happen to the property values if these people had to give up parking on the street? It’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
    @claire delune, why don’t you ask the drycleaner how many of his customers pick up the week’s drycleaning on their road bikes? And customers should park on the side street? Sorry girl, it’s ‘permit only’ for the large part.

  20. Sunny Kits says:

    @stephen If the parking was reduced, they will find somewhere else to park. All new developments have underground parking. No need to park on streets. Every house has their garage with entrance from alley. Look at W10th by community centre. No stopping beside is allowed beside the park.

    @Rosie 10th and 8th avenue is better bike route from E.V. to UBC.

    This propose bike route is a waste of money. Better to spend money on extending the train to UBC. That is really needed. More bike lanes not needed.

  21. greg says:

    Anthony – my point (and I assume you’re being facetious in claiming not to understand) is that Vancouver’s weather will ALWAYS weigh against cycling as a mode of commuter transport.

    Very few Vancouverites will EVER become regular commuter cyclists, regardless on how many tax dollars are thrown at bike routes, or how much motorists, pedestrians and transit users are inconvenienced by the City’s greenest City/anti-car policies.

    Here’s a helpful quote from the website you referred me to, which may be of assistance:

    “With an average of 1,200 trips on days with five millimetres of rain or more, and assuming each cyclist completes a round-trip, it seems a reasonable estimate that there are about 600 people using the Burrard Street Bridge bike lane, rain or shine.”

    600 people (not all of which turn West or commute along CPGR)?

    Are we being serious here? Please, bigger fish to fry?

    Yes there are. Much bigger.


  22. Alex P says:

    Greg –
    Plenty more people will do it if we provide safe infrastructural. Other coastal and hence rainy cities do it. The provision of safe infrastructure such as sidewalks, cycle lanes, cross walks, etc, shouldn’t just be considered “inconveniences” to be avoided to maximize car throughput.

  23. Everyone Wins says:

    See following link for a Point Grey – Cornwall solution that works for everyone!


  24. Macdonald says:

    @steve v.

    Look at satellite image on google maps, it looks like almost every house on w3 has a driveway and garage in the alley. Your statement is incorrect.

  25. Arno S says:

    Great analysis of the 3rd Ave “bike route”.

    Some posters claim that spending money on improved cycling infrastructure is not a wise way for the city to spend tax dollars. Nothing could be further from the truth. Already over 10% of trips in Kitsilano/Pt Grey are made by bike. Improving conditions on Pt Grey/Cornwall will only increase this number. Spending on cycling is by far the most cost effective way of providing mobility. So far, 0.5% of streets are dedicated exclusively to cycling despite cycling mode share in Vancouver being over 4%. More people riding bikes means less people driving cars. This means more space on roadways for those who must drive. This is a win-win for everyone. Car drivers should be especially supportive of measures to improve cycling infrastructure.

  26. Bill Barilko says:

    ” it looks like almost every house on W 3rd has a driveway and garage in the alley”

    Tell me-have you ever travelled those same back lanes on your bicycle?

    Because I have and what you’re seeing are not driveways at all just patches of bare ground not large enough for vehicles.

    Ditto those so called ‘garages’-they aren’t large enough for modern vehicles.


    “10% of trips in Kitsilano/Pt Grey are made by bike”


    Thanks for the howler!