We are all for improved bicycle-path networks in cities – where they make sense. But with a proposal to close off part of a Vancouver thoroughfare to traffic and make it part of a cycling network, the city government's aggressive pedal-pushing may have gone a gear too far.
The changes would close a key gap in a 28-kilometre seaside cycling route stretching from downtown to Spanish Banks, in accordance with city plans that identify this stretch as a priority. But they will also essentially close off a 1-km stretch of Point Grey Rd. to vehicles, with traffic expected to fall from about 10,000 vehicles a day to about 400.
That will be great for cyclists and pedestrians, not to mention the mansion dwellers who live on this stretch of oceanfront road, where houses cost in the many millions and where – in an extreme example – Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, recently built a monster of a beachfront home, assessed at $35-million. These privileged few will have have far less traffic whizzing by their security gates, and, should they choose, they will have a safer way to cycle downtown, or over to the beach.
But the vehicles that now use Point Grey Rd. – maybe to get to Jericho Beach, or further west to the University of British Columbia – are going to wind up somewhere, and people who live on other arterial roads in the affluent neighbourhood can't be too happy about that.
Further, the optics of this plan are terrible. It appears to benefit not just bicyclists, but also the very privileged few on Point Grey Rd. Elsewhere in the city, including East Vancouver – where a typical house goes for only about $850,000 – cyclists routinely share bikeways with cars. And to add insult to injury, a new bike-share program – revealed the same day that the Point Grey Rd. proposal was made public, and with a $6-million contribution from the city government – will not initially extend to the East Van commuter hub of Commercial and Broadway.
Urban bicycling encourages healthy cities and citizens, as more municipalities are discovering. Vancouver has smartly embraced this, with the construction of separated bike lanes and other enhanced cycling routes. But parts of this latest plan are going down the wrong path.