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A man takes a stroll in Stanley Park. The $5.4-million greenway will ultimately connect False Creek with Stanley Park.

Vancouver has taken another step toward its long-term goal of creating a less car-dependent community with council's passing of a $5.4-million greenway that will ultimately connect False Creek with Stanley Park.

City council unanimously approved development of the first section of the Comox-Helmcken greenway on Wednesday after hearing from speakers and city staff. This first section is about two kilometres long and will connect Stanley Park to Hornby Street.

Councillor Heather Deal called the new greenway a "much needed piece in our safe cycling and pedestrian modes throughout the city." She pushed, and received full support, for a report from city staff by June 13 on the second section, which will run from Hornby Street to False Creek.

The greenway is the first major project under the city's ambitious Transportation 2040 plan, which is intended to "guide transportation and land use decisions and public investments for the years ahead," according to a city report. Specific goals include getting Vancouver residents to make two-thirds of trips by foot, bicycle or public transit – up from the current 44 per cent – and moving toward zero-traffic-related fatalities by 2040.

The plan supersedes and resets priorities of past city initiatives, including the 1995 Greenways plan, the 1999 Bicycle plan and the 2002 Downtown Transportation project. Many elements of these plans – such as the Ridgeway, Ontario and Central Valley greenways – have already been completed, said Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver's director of transportation. He noted the evolving nature of the plans may eventually call for the greenways to be renamed "active transportation corridors" – paths that are intended to boost both walking and cycling.

Of the Comox-Helmcken greenway's $5.4-million price tag for section 1, $1.4-million will go to new and upgraded traffic signals, according to an administrative report sent to the city's planning, transportation and environment standing committee. About $1-million will go to street paving, concrete medians and curb bulges, catch basins and paint and signs. Improved sidewalks will cost an estimated $986,000; lighting $867,000; and public amenities such as seating and water fountains $357,000, according to the report. The total also includes $819,000 in contingency funds.

Construction is expected to begin in January.

This fall, the city took the unusual step of commissioning a before-and-after study of downtown neighbourhoods to see what effect the greenway will have on residents' travel patterns, physical activity and social interaction. Principal investigator Larry Frank said it was "very unique" for a city to study the connection between policy decisions and changes in the behaviour of residents.