This past weekend, the City released its design proposals for improvements along Cornwall Ave and Pt. Grey Road. The proposals were presented at three public meetings (the last one is today, May 27th, at the Kitsilano VPL Branch, in the basement, 4-6pm). Staff presented the designs that were considered and set aside, as well as those designs that are likely to be proposed to city council.
The corridor was broken into five sections:
1. Jericho to Alma
In this section, the proposal (pdf) is to remove parking from the north side of the street, and implement a two-way separated cycle track. Access to the sailing club and tennis club will be maintained. Overall, there are no surprises here, and nothing particularly controversial other than the loss of a few on-street parking spaces.
2. Alma to Macdonald
There are two proposals for the stretch between Alma and Macdonald.
Proposal 2a (pdf) involves preventing through-access along Pt Grey Rd by making Alma to Waterloo one-way for eastbound motorized traffic, with a two-way separated cycle track on the north side of the street. Between Waterloo and Macdonald, motorized traffic is allowed in both directions, but through-traffic is prevented by extending parks across the street. There is no separated cycle track in this section; cyclists will be expected to ride on the street. This sort of calmed, mixed-use street design works quite well on the stretch of the Central Valley Greenway between Victoria Dr and Nanaimo St. The expected motorized traffic volume under this proposal is a few hundred vehicles per day.
Proposal 2b (pdf) involves making Pt Grey Rd a one-way street, westbound. A separated cycle track is proposed for the south side of the road, and both Collingwood St and Trutch St would be blocked off. The expected motorized traffic volume in the one-way lanes is 5,000 vehicles per day.
3. Macdonald to Balsam
A two-way cycle track is proposed (pdf) for the north side of this stretch. Between Macdonald and Trafalgar, motorized traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction. East of Trafalgar, the track will continue north along Pt Grey Rd, and motorized traffic will be relatively unchanged with two lanes each way along Cornwall Ave. Under this proposal, motorized vehicle access to Pt Grey Rd at Stephens will be prevented. Where the cycle track runs up along the western edge of Kitsilano Beach Park (by the Showboat) it will be integrated with future unspecified improvements to the current Seaside Bicycle Route and on towards Vanier Park and the Burrard Bridge.
4. Stephens to Chestnut
A new traffic-calmed bike route is proposed (pdf) for York Ave between Stephens and Chestnut St. A hodgepodge of no changes, one-way “counterflow” bike lanes, one-way roads, two-way roads, and two-way bike tracks are proposed for this critical stretch.
The segment between Stephens and Vine St will be essentially untouched and remain two-way to all vehicles with no changes to parking. Between Vine and Yew (1 block), it will be one-way for westbound vehicles with a one-way eastbound “counterflow” bike lane on the south side. Between Yew and Arbutus (one block) it will be one-way for eastbound vehicles with a westbound counterflow bike lane on the north side. The next block between Arbutus and Maple will be one-way westbound, with an eastbound counterflow bike lane on the south side. East of Maple, it will be one-way westbound with a two-way separated cycle track on the south side of the street. It’s unclear how westbound cyclists on the south side of the road will merge with westbound motorized vehicles at Maple St, as those cyclists will have to cross from the south side to the north side, certainly creating the potential for conflict. North-south bicycle traffic on Cypress will be in separated bike lanes north of York, but not south of it.
5. Burrard/Cornwall Intersection
Some very welcome and important changes are proposed for the Burrard/Cornwall intersection. The proposal greatly simplifies the intersection and provides clear pedestrian and cyclist access to the different corners. It also closes off Chestnut St to the north of Cornwall, a source of many cyclist/motorized vehicle conflicts. The proposed design will not affect traffic volumes and will make it much safer for everyone involved.
Overall, there seems to be considerable public support for changes along these two roads. There is significant local support to reduce traffic volume along the stretch of Pt Grey Road west of Macdonald, and proposal 2a seems to address this support directly. There has been resistance by the Cornwall businesses to a cycle track along Cornwall (despite several studies, including a recent one from New York City, showing a significant increase in business for those along cycle tracks) and proposal 4 seems to address that resistance directly.
Personally, these changes are all welcome, and improve on the current state considerably.
In my opinion, the 2a proposal is much better than the 2b proposal. The 2b proposal doesn’t satisfy me at all. For one, cyclists heading from Jericho have to divert from a north-side cycle track to a south-side cycle track at Alma, and then back to the north side east of Macdonald. This doesn’t make any sense, and has the potential for cyclist-motorist conflicts at the transition points. Further, the 5,000 motorized vehicles per day cut through this neighbourhood like an angry river, dividing the north-side from the south-side, doing nothing to alleviate the concern on residents who currently feel unsafe crossing the street. Also, studies have shown that the mere presence of traffic intimidates cyclists, even those who are physically separated from that traffic by barriers. New and novice cyclists will not feel safe with that volume of traffic (despite statistics that show that they actually are safer). On the other hand, based on my experiences riding the Central Valley Greenway east of Victoria Dr, I think the 2a proposal works well for everyone.
The proposal for Cornwall is deeply unsatisfying. It does not meet the goals of a “AAA” cycling route. New and novice cyclists will not feel comfortable at all with the mixture of traffic, sometimes two-way, sometimes coming at you, sometimes going with you, sometimes separated, often not. Further, this proposal keeps cyclists away from destinations in the neighbourhood: Kits Beach and the Cornwall businesses. Cyclists coming from the east off of Burrard Bridge will be expected to divert north to the Seaside Bike Route, or cross Cornwall at Cypress to get to York. Westbound cyclists will be expected to divert south to York at Stephens or divert north to Seaside at the edge of Kits Beach.
The city staff has explained that the road width along Cornwall is very limited and it was not possible to put separated cycling facilities along it. While I recognize that Cornwall provides some significant design challenges, I think that the proposal fails to meet the design goals and predisposes the effort in that stretch to be viewed as a failure. It’s designed to move cycling traffic away from where it wants to be, is an indirect route for through-cyclists who will just travel the direct route regardless, and the mish-mash of improvements to York do nothing to encourage cycling for “All Ages and Abilities”. Interestingly Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s director of transportation, gave the staff presentation Saturday morning at Bayview Elementary and noted that the proposals aren’t intended for current cycle commuters, “…they’re already riding and will continue to do so.” If this stretch isn’t intended for current cyclists, and doesn’t seem to do much for new or novice cyclists, I’m not really sure who it’s targeting.
By not including any changes to Cornwall itself along this stretch, city staff is essentially endorsing the status quo, for cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians alike. I cannot see many cyclists who currently travel along this stretch changing their habits: those who feel comfortable will still cycle along Cornwall, and those who don’t will divert north to Seaside as they currently do. New and novice cyclists will still view the situation as a huge unsafe mess.
This is the city’s chance to make a change in this area, and the current proposal is an opportunity lost.
Proposal 3 seems to be common-sense. Proposal 1 also seems reasonable, but given the current volume of traffic on this stretch, might not really be necessary. Proposal 5 should be accepted regardless what happens west of Burrard, in the name of safety for everyone.
The City of Vancouver wants to hear from you! Review the design proposals here, and then take the feedback survey here. Staff will collect feedback for the next month or so, and may make revisions to the proposals based on that feedback. It’s anticipated that staff will make their presentation to City Council in July.
Last modified: May 27, 2013